I hope everyone realizes the profound impact of the film ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once.’ And I’m not just talking about Michelle Yeoh’s historic win as an Asian woman or Ke Huy Quan’s unlikely comeback as an actor after being a popular child actor and then not getting work for over 20 years.
What I’m actually talking about has more to do with Jamie Lee Curtis’s win, and more specifically, one thing she said during her acceptance speech. If you remember, she said, “I have been doing genre films my entire life, and now I have an Oscar for it.”
THAT is the point I am making.
Picture most past Best Picture films, and what kind of films they were. “CODA, Nomadland, The Green Book, Moonlight, Spotlight, 12 Years a Slave, The King’s Speech, Schindler’s List, Forest Gump, Rocky, The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, Gandhi, Crash, etc. What is the common thread between all these films?
They are all DRAMA films with a topical social message (Schindler’s List, Spotlight, Forest Gump, etc.), or an underdog story of a person overcoming obstacles to succeed in their life / jobs (12 Years a Slave, Rocky, Green Book, CODA, Godfather, etc.) The closest thing to a comedy might be Forest Gump. But that’s about it.
However, in 2019, we had a small ripple in the Force. The film ‘Parasite’ won, and that was historic, because it was 1) a foreign film AND 2) a psychological thriller with a social message. Two years earlier, ‘Get Out’ was nominated for Best Picture, and that was a HORROR movie.
But last night, a SCI-FI movie won Best Picture, and that is groundbreaking for those of us that love shows and films like Star Trek and Star Wars.
Star Trek especially relates, as it is a space opera set in an egalitarian universe where exploration and friendship trump currency, power, and violence. Creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned a future in which skin color, religious differences, gender, etc. did NOT matter, and where empathy and camaraderie prevail. That’s not to say there aren’t “bad guys” or “evil” in the universe, but only that humankind has overcome such petty and skin-deep differences to embrace each other and even all the alien species of the universe.
Whether you liked or hated ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once,’ you have to at least respect it for being an absolute game changer.
The story is about an unsatisfied Chinese woman who runs a laundromat with her optimistic, weak, and ineffectual husband. She also has a lesbian daughter who she rejects and who craves her affection. It is a mundane life she leads, and she is unhappy, and that comes out in waves against friends, family, and strangers alike. She is stuck. And bitter.
Interestingly, through a rip in the time-space continuum, she is projected into a multiverse, where EVERY possible version of herself exists, and she is forced to cycle through them. It’s just like Star Trek’s ‘Mirror Universe’ episodes, which are in nearly every one of the series. What would another version of ourselves look like? Would we be meaner? Nicer? More beautiful? More attentive? Etc, etc.
Not only is this an interesting premise, but it contemplates what each of our lives would be like if we made changes and had made different decisions. We each lead lives like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book, and as Robert Frost wrote:
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.’
What monumental decision did you make that change the trajectory of your entire life?￼
What if we looked at the world as a place of infinite possibilities, where we were not the slaves of our own circumstances, upbringing, skin color, weight, etc? And what if our natural default were optimism and the ability to see silver linings where there might not obviously be one? What if we chose love? And empathy? And understanding? And tolerance?
THIS is ostensibly what this movie is about.
‘Friday Night Lights’ is not a movie/ tv show about football, it’s about relationships. ‘The Last of Us’ is not a video game/ show about zombies, it is about how we will act towards one another when everything is taken away from us and we are forced to coexist in unbearably brutal conditions.
And ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ is not a weird and quirky Science Fiction film about multiverse time travel. That is simply the vessel to tell a much larger story. It is a human story about what it means to forgive, see the best in others, and choose your own happiness and destiny. THAT is what that film was about.
The Daniels brothers just kicked open the door, and what will follow? More science fiction Oscar winners? How about comedies, horror films, action films, superhero movies, romantic comedies, and other genre films?
Jamie Lee Curtis was right. She’s made a career in genre films, and FINALLY one of them actually won the top prize.
The historic snobbery around eligibility is transparently prejudicial, and often racist, sexist, and out-of-reach for most directors and producers. When money corrupts, it corrupts absolutely, and true art suffers.
But as we grow into a more educated and refined people, the naysayers will ultimately die off through attrition, and you will look like a visionary. Because, like any great idea, there are bumps in the road, and people who are inclined to ￼hate something they don’t understand. All I ask is that you keep an open mind.
I have a good feeling about this film, and the future of cinema. We may not be packing the theaters anymore, but we ARE still reaching people where they’re at, everywhere, and all at once. I’m convinced that the future looks bright, my friends, and you should definitely be apart of it.
What side of history will you be on?