Suddenly, everywhere, all at once, the zany sci-fi adventure Everything Everywhere All at Once has pushed itself into front-running contention to win the Oscar best-picture race. The only question now is whether it can become the third movie in history to take home three acting awards as well.
Over the weekend, the film won a record four awards at the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) ceremony, including ensemble in a motion picture (which is effectively the equivalent of best picture). It was widely expected to pick up that prize, and Ke Huy Quan was always tipped to win best supporting actor, making him the first male Asian actor to win a SAG award for a performance in a film by an individual.
But Jamie Lee Curtis also took home the best-supporting-actress award, which had long been expected to have Angela Bassett’s name on it, for her performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And Michelle Yeoh also upset the odds, triumphing in the best-actress category over favorite Cate Blanchett, whose performance in Todd Field’s dark drama Tár has won her multiple statuettes, including the BAFTA.
With Brendan Fraser winning the best-actor award for The Whale, taking the prize from under the nose of fellow frontrunners Austin Butler, who last week also won a BAFTA for his impersonation of Elvis, and Colin Farrell, who swept up at earlier awards ceremonies for The Banshees of Inisherin, there is actually a sense of jeopardy in the acting categories ahead of Oscar night on March 12.
And Everything Everywhere All at Once is now in a position where it could possibly match A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Network (1976) and take three acting awards. (As a small fact in passing, the really astonishing thing about Streetcar is that Marlon Brando was the actor who didn’t win—he was beaten in the best-actor category by Humphrey Bogart for The African Queen.)
The significance of the SAG Awards as a predictor of Oscar success is all about math. Not all 160,000 members of the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA are also members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but the vast majority of the 1,302 actors who are voting members of the academy are members of the union. Last year, the first signs that the feel-good drama CODA, about a hearing girl in a deaf family, was about to do well at the Oscars, upsetting the front-running The Power of the Dog, sprang from its triumph at the SAG Awards.
Its multiverse-spanning comic madness makes Everything Everywhere All at Once an entirely different movie, a philosophical family drama about a stressed Chinese-American immigrant as well as a surreal jaunt about her need to save the universe. But the two films do have some qualities in common. Directed and written by “the Daniels”—Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert—it has been seen as the plucky little outsider ever since it premiered in March 2022.
It is also full of heartwarming off-screen stories such as the comeback for Ke Huy Quan, who had given up acting after his success as the child star of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies had begun to fade, and for Michelle Yeoh, a much-admired and much-undervalued actress who is superb in the central role. The love for Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, who has been so visibly thrilled by the success of her co-stars, was revealed at the SAG ceremony by the applause that overwhelmed her before she even started speaking. “I know you look at me and think ‘nepo baby’ and that’s why she’s there, and I totally get it. But the truth of the matter is that I’m 64 years old and this is just amazing.”
The film and its popularity also represents a major step forward for the representation of Asian actors in Hollywood. The responsibility for accepting the award for best cast in a motion picture landed on James Hong, the 94-year-old veteran who plays Yeoh’s father in the film. He told the audience that his first movie was with Clark Gable. “Back in those days, the leading roles were played by guys with their eyes taped up. And the producer said that Asians were not good enough, and they are not box office. But, look at us now, huh?”
That sense of representing change for the good may well sweep Everything Everywhere All at Once to huge success at the Oscars. It has also won the Producers Guild award for best picture and best director at the Directors Guild awards. It leads the field with 11 nominations, and although it will face tough competition on the night from movies such as the multiple BAFTA-winners All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin, which both have nine nominations, and Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which can never be truly discounted simply because it is by Spielberg, it is now very much the one to beat.
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One final thought: The screenplay awards are now also open, as Oscar voters begin to file their ballots on March 2. It was a bad night for Banshees at the SAG Awards, and Martin McDonagh now faces a strong challenge in the best-original-screenplay category from the buzz around Everything Everywhere. In best adapted screenplay, meanwhile, Sarah Polley’s Women Talking finds itself up against Kazuo Ishiguro’s elegant Living and the juggernaut of All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted by Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, and Ian Stokell.
Women Talking is, for me, the great overlooked masterpiece of this awards season—an extraordinary, sophisticated, and powerful film that has failed to gain any traction with voters, perhaps precisely because it is so utterly itself. There was a slim outside chance it might take the cast award at the SAGs; now it has one last shot at glory when the Writers Guild announce their prizes on March 5. It would be a fine moment if writer and director Sarah Polley took that prize and it might just put her in contention at the Oscars.