A Reflection on the 95th Academy Awards

Road lined with palm trees at sunset
Ben Nathan

Another year, another awards season has come and gone. The Academy Awards took place on March 12th, 2023, in Los Angeles. Multiple awards went Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won the most awards at seven, All Quiet on the Western Front with four, and The Whale with two. Most notably, Everything Everywhere All at Once became the third film in history to receive three acting awards. Following his article discussing the nominations for the 95th Academy Awards, Ben Nathan discusses the winners of the major categories.

Best Picture – Everything Everywhere All at Once

In the couple of weeks running up to the Awards, there really seemed no question as to which film would take the nights highest honour. Everything Everywhere All at Once became the fifth film to achieve a clean sweep at the guild awards. Its strength was so undeniable that it was considered no other film could even challenge it. However, it’s worth looking at some other competition it had. The Banshees of Inisherin and The Fabelmans initially seemed most likely to be the films that could upset Everything Everywhere All at Onces win, but interestingly, and somewhat unexpectedly, All Quiet on the Western Front became its biggest competitor on the night. It seemed if there was anything that could possibly surprise for best picture, it was All Quiet on the Western Front. Despite this, I don’t think anyone really thought it would pose a major threat, and Everything Everywhere All at Once carried its massive momentum to a best picture win, and subsequently became the most awarded movie of all time.

Their DGA win was the nail in the coffin for a potential path for Spielberg to win, essentially securing an Oscar win for the Daniels

Best Director – Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

The Daniels may have seemed unlikely winners in this category in the company of veteran directors Steven Spielberg and Todd Field, especially since they lost the Golden Globe and BAFTA, but made themselves the absolute shoo-in following their clean sweep at Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Producers Guild of America (PGA). Their DGA win was the nail in the coffin for a potential path for Spielberg to win, essentially securing an Oscar win for the Daniels. Furthermore, they became the third duo to win the directing Oscar, following Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for West Side Story (1961), and the Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men (2007).

Best Actor – Brendan Fraser (The Whale)

This category became a two-horse race between Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser, and it was a nail biter. The two split awards very evenly when it came to the industry awards; Butler won Golden Globe and BAFTA whilst Fraser took SAG and Critics Choice, so it really seemed 50/50. This even splitting led me eventually leaning towards predicting Butler due to him being in a best picture nominee whereas Fraser wasn’t, as well as Elvis’ general support with its eight nominations. However, Fraser’s win was tremendously deserved. The Whale also won the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling, making Fraser’s win slightly more predictable, as this has become more frequent in recent years. For example, Jessica Chastain won best actress last year whilst her film, The Eyes of Tammy Faye won makeup and hairstyling, its only two nominations. I maintain that Colin Farrell was my personal choice, but it’s clear that support for Fraser never dwindled.

Halle Berry, the first woman of colour to win the Best Actress award at the 74th ceremony, presented Yeoh with this honour, something that was so apt and fitting to watch

Best Actress – Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

As I spoke about in my predictions, this race was between Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh. Following a Critics Choice, Golden Globe and BAFTA win, a third Oscar for Blanchett seemed locked up, but things took a turn. Michelle Yeoh ultimately became the first Asian woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, as well as the second woman of colour overall. These tiny numbers are an embarrassing and shameful burden the Academy carries, but nonetheless, it suggests efforts for diversity is slowly moving in the right direction. Halle Berry, the first woman of colour to win the Best Actress award at the 74th ceremony, presented Yeoh with this honour, something that was so apt and fitting to watch. Michelle Yeoh is a wonderful actor, her performance in the film was absolutely spellbinding, and its equally as wonderful to call her an Academy Award winner now.

Best Supporting Actor – Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

A prolific child actor with roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and The Goonies (1985), he decided to walk away from acting in 2002. He returned to acting in 2022 with his first role back in Everything Everywhere All at Once. I can only describe his journey to leave acting due to difficulty finding roles, to then winning an Oscar for his first movie back, as a boss move. Despite a slight bump in the road following Barry Keoghan’s BAFTA win, there truly was no question as to who the Oscar would go to. Ke Huy Quan won every other major award this season, and also won the most critics awards throughout the year. This was his time, and the Academy seemed to understand it.

Best Supporting Actress – Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

This seemed like an award Angela Bassett couldn’t lose, as well as one to acknowledge her career overall, and whilst it certainly was a career award, it was for Jamie Lee Curtis instead. Personally, I thought this decision was a disaster, and it’s the single award of the night that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Jamie Lee Curtis is a great actress, but she was nothing more than simply fine in this movie, and was most likely an award to celebrate her entire career, rather than this single performance. As subjective as awards are, I maintain that her fellow nominees, Bassett, Hong Chau, Kerry Condon, and Stephanie Hsu gave better performances in their films, and any one of them would’ve been a deserving winner. This award began as Bassett’s for the taking following her Golden Globe and Critics Choice wins, but she evidently began to lose steam when she lost BAFTA to Condon and SAG to Curtis. This is important because the latter two awards bodies have voter overlap with the Academy whereas the bodies that awarded Bassett, do not. It led me to eventually predicting either Condon or Curtis on Oscars night, but I was strongly convinced Kerry Condon would take this. It is nice that we can finally call Curtis an Oscar winner but for me, this is not the role we should be saying it for.

Best Original Screenplay – Everything Everywhere All at Once

With this win, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert were able to complete the Oscars trifecta – picture, directing and screenplay – a feat that is quite rare to achieve. Martin McDonagh won the Golden Globe and BAFTA for his work on The Banshees of Inisherin, setting him up for a big potential win, as these are typically a winning combination. It seemed this competition never seeped out beyond these two films, but it’s not surprising the best picture front-runner and eventual winner took home the screenplay award as well.

Best Adapted Screenplay – Women Talking

Being one of my favourite films of 2022, Women Talking was shockingly (and undeservedly) beaten down this whole awards season, severely underperforming at most major awards bodies. After All Quiet on the Western Front cleaning up at the BAFTAs including adapted screenplay, and its clear respect it had at the Oscars, it was unclear if Women Talking had enough momentum to carry it over the line for this award. Its eventual win here was most likely chalked down to significant respect from female members of the Academy, due to it representing the only film directed by a woman in the best picture category. But the sheer strength and top quality of its writing was probably too difficult to deny, and in a fairly weak category overall, it ran away with the award after winning WGA. Its journey was a rollercoaster. From being considered the frontrunner for adapted screenplay from its festival debut in September 2022, to potentially missing a nomination, only for pundits to be proven right in the end after it finally won adapted screenplay. And what a win it is.

Ben Nathan

Featured image courtesy of Jake Blucker via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article video courtesy of A24 via YouTube.com. No changes were made to this video.

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