March 25, 2023


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‘Everything Everywhere’ could be a surprise on Oscar night

5 min read

There’s a film in the Oscar best picture race that has young Academy voters and a new generation of film critics excited, while both camps have more of what one might call their older peers excited.

It’s a fairly neat generational divide. The film’s anarchic spirit and unconventional mix of genre filmmaking and biting social commentary are seen by its younger fans as bold and refreshing, while its older detractors scratch their heads at the odd tonal shift, from comic to serious and reflective one minute. Next, spoofing shifts from genre tropes to questions of social norms.

The year is 1968 and the film is “Bonnie and Clyde” by Arthur Penn.

But you’d be forgiven if you found the paragraphs above apt descriptions of “Everything Everywhere All at One,” this year’s Producers Guild Award winner for best feature.

Just as “Bonnie” was a landmark film in Academy history, it largely gnashed its teeth on its original value and meaning as a watershed both in its graphic ultra-violence and standard-issue cops-and-robbers picture. As Hollywood has been producing regularly for decades, skeptics wonder how “everything” like Magic Bagel Portal and Hot Dog Fingers got into the Oscar race in the first place.

With “Clyde,” it was an off-kilter mix of antique banjo-orchestrated car chases that movie buffs saw as meta before it was meta. Detractors saw it as cornpone cartoon buffoonery suited to TV’s low-brow comedy hit, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

The dismissal cost the New York Times’ longtime chief film critic, Bosley Crowther, his perch at the top of the critical pecking order.

For the record, diversity was just as suspenseful, if not more so, and our critic wrote a pretty harsh pan, noting “Conceptually, the film leaves a lot to be desired, as the backdrop of murder and despair is hardly something to laugh at… David Newman -Robert Benton The screenplay depicts the Parker-Barrow gang as clowns and good-natured buffoons for the most part, even when they’re holding something back. The characters, in the main, are inconsistent and confusing.”

Which brings us to the present moment.

There were no PGA Awards in 1968, and “Everything”‘s win with that team might signal better fortunes than “Clyde’s” on Oscar night. Up for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, “Clyde” was up for Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actress, and ranks in the pantheon of modern Hollywood entertainment that has hit the box office and wowed critics.

With over $100 million at the global box office, “Everything” ticks the hit peak box nicely. But would a new, smaller, larger, more international academy give its top prize to a proposal so divisive and unconventional?

The road to the Oscars is littered with pictures that were embraced by critics and passed over by Oscar voters for less critically celebrated fare. Think “The Social Network” vs. “The King’s Speech” and “Brokeback Mountain” vs. “Crash” and you have two shining examples of this century.

So, if “everything” becomes a little too much for too many voters, which film could become 2023’s equivalent of the solid, well-meaning, well-made “In the Heat of the Night.” 55 years ago that Oscar night triumphed over the success of Arthur Penn.

First, let’s look at the five nominees, with the understanding that today’s competitive set of 10 makes comparisons to 1968 an absurd exercise. But it’s too fun to resist.

To continue the analogy, “Bonnie and Clyde” is “everything everything at all.” Everyone knows it’s a game changer, but the Academy votes for features that make the Academy look serious and smart. In other words, it may be a case of a hot dog finger too far.

I see the big colorful Hollywood scene from 1967, “Dr. Doolittle,” to James Cameron’s big colorful Hollywood spectacle “Avatar: Waterway.” The list of fantasy films that have won Best Picture over nearly a century is short indeed. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” however, proved that it not impossible

Academy with its smart, agile, sophisticated, urbane, highbrow entry and Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “All About Eve” loved winning 70 years ago. But in 1968, like the Warren Beatty film “Clyde,” the fun hipster Mike Nichols’ social satire “The Graduate” changed the course of Hollywood filmmaking but failed to make Best Picture. This year’s straight-out New Yorker entry, “Tár,” will have a tough time translating critical acclaim into a Best Picture win.

In 1968, Hollywood needed a social parable that was perhaps overly obvious and a bit heavy-handed, and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” served the purpose of putting the city on the right side of the civil rights revolution. Unfortunately, “Hit of the Night” did all that and shared the same black superstar of the era, Sidney Poitier, but it was dramatic and hard-hitting where “Guess” treated race relations with a gentler touch.

There’s nothing gentle about “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but as the war in Ukraine approaches its one-year anniversary, the film gets a nod thanks to its anti-war sentiment disguised as the story of two Irishmen. Not with.

Of course, this year, the anti-war film that just won a BAFTA award, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” is a strong update on the benefits and material of being a real war film that already won the Best Picture Oscar.

Which could mean the films that could slip that statue from the hands of “Everything” are big, grand, classically crafted war epics and Hollywood arthouse private chats with an old Academy favorite, Steven Spielberg, with his “The Fablemen.” ”

It’s an old joke now, the Academy’s love of movies. But just as Hollywood moviemaking’s valentine, “The Artist,” came out of left field to strike gold in 2012, “Fablemans” has the added benefit of a domestic drama and a coming-of-age story. The central figure is perhaps the central figure of modern Hollywood.

Contenders for the top prize in 1979 included “All That Jazz,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Breaking Away” and “Norma Rae.” They are, respectively, a dazzling creative backstage tour de force, a breathtakingly ambitious anti-war allegory, a moving and effective sports story, and a modern classic about labor relations in America. But which picture won best picture? It was the drama, “Kramer v. Kramer,” about a family going through divorce and the impact of family trauma on a young boy caught between warring parents.

Even the young thesp who played the boy, Justin Henry, made history by becoming the youngest Oscar nominee. He didn’t win, but the film took home five Oscars: in addition to best picture, it captured director, screenplay, actor and co-star.

Can any Oscar history lessons prepare us for the awards night ahead? There’s always a surprise on Oscar night — and usually only one surprise on Oscar night. The “Moonlight” vs. “La La Land” mixup at the 2017 ceremony and last year’s Will Smith-Chris Rock moment should remind us, sometimes one is enough.

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