In this universe, everything revolves around “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
To the surprise of no one, A24’s innovative sensation from The Daniels led the Critics Choice Awards nominations with 14 nods, after a strong showing at the Golden Globes where it picked up six nominations. That followed its Gotham Awards win for best feature.
Anyone who keeps up with the prediction charts on Variety (I hope you all do every Thursday) has seen the dramedy fluctuate between the #2 and #6 spot in the best picture category for much of the tracking season. The film has been a top-tier contender for several reasons — there’s its box office success (highest-grossing film in A24 history), the adoration from critics (95% on Rotten Tomatoes) and the expected support it will receive from the various Oscar branches, particularly the actors, which is the largest voting bloc of the Academy.
If you dabble in Film Twitter discourse, you’ll find a vocal group of awards enthusiasts that see the 95th Oscars ceremony in March culminating with a TBA Hollywood veteran presenter opening an envelope to intone, “and the Oscar for best picture goes to… Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Are they right? Some spiked the ball prematurely after the Gothams gave the sci-fi fable its top prize, an award determined by only five people. While I agree there’s a pathway to victory for the indie flick, there are five obstacles it needs to overcome to have producers Daniel Kwan, Mike Larocca, Daniel Scheinert and Jonathan Wang racing toward the Dolby Theatre stage on March 12.
It needs a hefty amount of Oscar noms. But how many of them does it need to win?
One of the mysteries to gauging the success of “Everything Everywhere” has been tracking its probable nomination morning, which on its worst possible day feels like four nods (best picture, actress for Michelle Yeoh, supporting actor for Quan and original screenplay). That’s a worst-case scenario where everything came apart, which at the moment, seems highly unlikely.
The “best case scenario,” believe it or not, involves a record-setting 15 nominations, surpassing the 14-nods reaped by “All About Eve” (1950), “Titanic” (1997) and “La La Land” (2016). That massive haul would include the four aforementioned directing, two supporting actress mentions for Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu, and all nine technical categories, including score and song. Is that likely? Honestly, I don’t know. The Academy can surprise us every now and again, and this would be a jaw-dropper in its history (in a good way).
The love for the film is there, but getting Oscar noms is always a numbers game. Does it have enough support from each branch to be in the top five? And then there’s the moment where the entire nearly 10,000-person membership of the Academy votes. That’s a different game.
There are various scenarios where the movie comes up short and mimics “Network” (1975), winning three acting prizes and original screenplay. Perhaps it’s a beloved technical sweeper and goes down the road of “The English Patient” (1996). Or maybe it’s something that looks like nothing else, which “CODA” was last year when it won best picture despite only scoring three nominations.
The preferential ballot giveth and it can taketh away.
Since the Academy instituted the preferential voting method for final ballots in 2009, you can point to it as reasons why films like “Moonlight” (2016) and “Parasite” (2019) are winners today. But less popular winners like “The King’s Speech” (2010) and “Green Book” (2018) benefited from the same system.
The ones who love “Everything” are passionate, but the film that has typically won isn’t the “most loved” but rather what’s the “most liked.” You can look to “Argo” (2012), “Spotlight” (2015) and “CODA” (2021) over competitors such as “Lincoln,” “The Revenant” and “The Power of the Dog,” which inspired more passionate support, but also sparked intense hatred.
Is the Academy “cool” enough to make such a selection?
There are concerns “Everything” may not resonate with older voters. A film that features people throwing dildos, characters inserting office objects up their butts, and a tender scene involving hot dog fingers may be a bridge too far for conservative voting members. While the Academy has expanded its membership over the last few years, the majority are still older white men.
The Daniels road to the best director nomination.
“Everything” landing noms for its visionary helmers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known by “Daniels”) has always been the obstacle it must overcome. The directors’ branch has shown itself to be more hesitant to embrace quirky filmmakers.
The directors’ branch also hasn’t embraced many filmmaking duos unless you’re brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. There are only four times where a duo received noms – the Coens ( repeat contenders for “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit”), Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (“West Side Story”) and Warren Beatty and Buck Henry (“Heaven Can Wait”).
In fairness, few directing teams have been contending for noms recently. Still, even a beloved comedy like “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), which won industry prizes like SAG ensemble and the Producers Guild of America, even considered the runner-up for best picture (“The Departed” won) wasn’t able to land a much-deserved nom for husband-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
It’s also no secret the Academy has faced challenges embracing comedies throughout its history. Must the film get a directing nom to win? We’ve seen “Argo” (2012) “Green Book” (2018) and “CODA” (2021) take the top prize without it, but the nom would certainly help.
It’s worth noting that even when you think a movie is too far-fetched for the Academy, those voters can surprise you. Look at how they embraced big trucks driving in the desert (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) or got behind a topical horror flick like “Get Out” (2017).
Since the Oscars have expanded the best picture field to 10 nominees, the winner has walked away with an average of three statuettes, with no single category being a common denominator. Nevertheless, the eventual winner did win either best director or screenplay (original or adapted). If the Daniels are too whimsical for a directing statuette, the film will likely need to win original screenplay, at minimum (similar to “Spotlight”).
No one likes to be number one. It puts a target on your back.
I’m reminded of the awards season of “Sideways” (2004), which won the most precursors of its respective season. At one point, it looked like a serious possibility that it would beat either of the more “baity” frontrunners “The Aviator” and eventual winner, “Million Dollar Baby.”
It also consisted of a cast of actors mounting comebacks after many years in Hollywood (Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen) alongside a long-beloved character actor in the lead role (Paul Giamatti). Sound familiar? But when it came to Oscar noms, the film only field five. In the end, Giamatti was famously (and egregiously) snubbed after many believed him to be the main challenger to Jamie Foxx (“Ray”), both supporting players lost to industry veterans (Morgan Freeman and Cate Blanchett) and it came up short for noms in categories such as editing or score. I pray that “Everything Everywhere” doesn’t suffer the same fate.
So can the “internet’s choice” actually win the best picture?
The short answer is yes. But a lot of things have to break the right way and we still have three more months to go.