TV + Movies

Oscars 2023: Everything Everywhere All At Once Makes Queer History

While there are movies that are based on queer themes that the 95th Academy Awards overlooked, with the historic win for Everything Everywhere All At Once, things seem hopeful to open a new door for filmmakers and artists from diverse backgrounds, following up the precedent set up by Parasite a few years ago.

Leading the 2023 Oscars with a phenomenal 7 wins – the most awarded film in history – is the multiverse adventure around family, acceptance and queerness – Everything Everywhere All At Once.The film not only boasts a queer storyline and characters, but also a rare nomination of a queer actor (Stephanie Hsu) playing a queer character (before this, Sir Ian McKellen received a best Oscar nod for playing the role of horror director James Whale and Angelina Jolie for her award winning performance in Girl, Interrupted).

The multiversal adventure picked up the trophies for Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan, Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, a historic Best Actress in a Leading Role win for Michelle Yeoh, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director for the duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and the most definitive award, Best Picture. Yeoh, a feminist trailblazer and the first Asian to win that category, in her acceptance speech said, “This is history in the making,” while her co-star Hsu was visibly tear eyed.

Being the second woman of color to win the award, Yeoh proudly proclaimed, “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that…dream big and dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anybody ever tell you that you are past your prime.” The movie is one of the most crucial LGBTQIA+ themed to claim this honor, also becoming a rare movie with an explicitly queer female character in the lead to take home the coveted trophy. 

Co-director Daniel Scheinert thanked his parents for “not squashing my creativity” when he was doing things like “dressing in drag as a kid,” which he emphasized was “a threat to nobody”. The film has been widely analyzed for emphasizing on themes of existentialism, nihilism, absurdism, neurodivergence, depression, generational trauma, and Asian-American identity. From a queer perspective, the emphasis on queer joy and how queerness isn’t a choice and a mother’s journey to come to terms with it in an almost failing family is phenomenal. In the midst of this, the movie is an ode to the struggle of queer people and how we find love, and joy. The character of Joy and her struggle, brilliantly portrayed by Stephanie Hsu, is a testament to the power of the movie.

James Somerton has done phenomenal work in his video essay The Queer Joy of Everything Everything All At Once where he discusses how in a movie that is all about choice, queerness is not presented as a choice. There has been significant spillover outside the screen also. For instance, the studio A24 also auctioned all the props from the movie for a trans rights organization. And not to forget that a scene involving two rocks sitting at the edge of a cliff being the most heart-wrenching and thought-provoking scene from the whole year. And it does help that the movie gave us this epic romantic quote, “In another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry…and taxes with you.”

Erstwhile, the Cate Blanchett starrer, Tár, was leading the second place with six nominations. Her role this time differed a lot from the lesbian character she played in Carol. Brendan Fraser won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role on The Whale where he plays an obese, gay man dealing with depression. The movie also won Best Makeup and Hairstyling although there has been some divisive reviews to the stigmatising, woeful tale it presents. Even though eyes were on Angela Bassett to win for her role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it ended up going to Curtis, even though Hsu was also nominated.

Close from Belgium was up for Best International Feature – the film follows the queer lives of two young boys. Unfortunately, this is the same category where the phenomenal Joyland from Pakistan failed to get a nomination and the war drama  All Quiet On The Western Front ended up taking the award, along with three others trophies. The sequel to Knives Out, Knives Out: A Glass Onion Mystery, with the charm of Daniel Craig’s gay (and married to Hugh Grant!) detective Benoit Blanc was vying for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Sarah Polley’s Women Talking (which also features well fleshed out queer characters) took home the trophy for Best Adapted Screenplay and deservingly so, as it focuses on complex themes of feminism, womanhood, violence on women, gender identity, and gender equality that the film addresses through a very simple space of women who were not taught to read or write engaging in conversations about their lives with each other.

Queer Icon Lady Gaga performed her song Hold My Hand written for Top Gun: Maverick and Rihanna performed Lift Me Up from the soundtrack of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The award for the Best Original Song went to the electric banger Naatu Naatu from RRR. Erstwhile from India, The Elephant Whisperers won Best Documentary Short, a major feat in directing-producing from India. Adding to this, Kartiki Gonsalves dedicated her speech to indigenous communities. Further adding to the glory, this is Guneet Monga’s second Oscar after winning for Period. End of Sentence. Unfortunately, All That Breathes lost the award to Navalny.

While there are movies that are based on queer themes that the 95th Academy Awards overlooked (Crimes of the Future, Bones and All, Corsage, The Inspection, Benediction, Nope, Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul, Fire Island, Please Baby Please, and You Won’t be Alone), with the historic win for Everything Everywhere All At Once, things seem hopeful to open a new door for filmmakers and artists from diverse backgrounds, following up the precedent set up by Parasite a few years ago. The Academy Awards are known for certain types of movies going in and winning everything or being mostly white again and again. In the middle of this, for an absurd movie which actually tackles everything about human beings, family and queerness is just amazing and definitely history in the making.

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Rajeev completed their under graduation in Political Science Hons. from Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi in 2020. They graduated with Masters in Women’s Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in 2022 and were a participant at the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute, University of Iowa for the 2021-22 session. They have been the recipient of Mavelinadu Collective’s grant for non-fiction for the first issue of Debrahminising Gender. Their work can be found in EPW, Women’s Link Journal, Shuddhashar, Gaysi Family, Feminism in India and Hindu College Gazette among others. Their research interests include queer experiences, feminist ethics of care, and masculinities.

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