Last year’s Academy Awards ceremony will always be remembered for a single defining moment, one that needs only two words to summon its memory: The Slap. This year’s ceremony, by contrast, will be remembered for the many, and often historic, wins by Everything Everywhere All at Once, the unexpected hit that debuted a year ago at SXSW and just kept building, like some kind of cosmic everything bagel drawing all around it into its orbit.
That fact alone—the night being notable for an excellent and unusual film winning lots of awards, rather than an unexpected outburst derailing the ceremony—made the 95th Academy Awards a much better night than last year’s. And it wasn’t just chaos that the event, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, managed to avoid: The planners also jettisoned some of the disastrous attempts to shorten the event’s running time and pander to viewers via segments like a (possibly gamed) “most cheer-worthy moment” poll. It was a back-to-basics affair that handed out trophies to a lot of worthy winners. When Kimmel ended the night with a gag in which he added a “1” to a sign reading “Number of Oscars Telecast Without Incident,” he captured the sense of relief no doubt shared by many in the audience.
Still, Kimmel didn’t didn’t hold back in his opening monologue. “If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during the show,” he said, “you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a nineteen-minute-long speech.” It was the first of several jokes referencing Smith that landed well and, in the process, resolved another issue: Would the Oscars be able to address last year’s most notable embarrassment without embarrassing itself again? Letting Kimmel handle it turned out to be a smart choice.
In fact, Kimmel’s third Oscars-hosting stint confirmed that he’s the most assured emcee since the heyday of Billy Crystal. Kimmel even opened with a Crystal-like moment, “arriving” at the event via some footage from Top Gun: Maverick, a pair of jets buzzing the Dolby Theater, and a prop parachute. He opened with some mostly friendly shots at Hollywood (though “L. Ron Hubba-Hubba” probably didn’t go over too well in some quarters, and the jab at Babylon felt a bit like punching down) and got down to business.
Ke Huy Quan’s deeply emotional acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor prize for Everything Everywhere All at Once, where he touched on his childhood as a refugee and career decline after his work as a child star in ’80s blockbusters, set the tone for the night in two respects: it would be an evening of free-flowing tears in which Everything Everywhere All at Once took home a lot of gold.
Each win would be memorable in its own way: Jamie Lee Curtis won Best Supporting Actress after decades of delivering strong work, a good portion of it in the sort of genre films that awards tend to overlook (which Curtis took a moment to mention). Daniels, the writing and directing team of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, won the Best Original Screenplay and Best Director prizes, beating out a field of veterans in both. They were rightfully giddy to be recognized for their second collaborative feature, to which they brought skills honed in the laboratory of music video work. Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win the Best Actress prize, capping a career resurgence of recent years (or maybe just kicking it into a new phase). A year ago, EEAAO’s awards performance would have seemed highly unlikely. By the time Harrison Ford revealed it as the year’s Best Picture winner—shortly before an onstage reunion with Quan, his Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom co-star—it almost seemed unnecessary to even read the name.
The A24 film won seven of the eleven categories in which it was nominated, a feat not accomplished by any film since Silence of the Lambs in 2022. Best Actor, the only major award in which EEAAO was not represented, went to Brendan Fraser for another A24 release, The Whale. It was the biggest moment in Fraser’s long comeback after years of personal setbacks. The actor was visibly moved as he delivered his acceptance, providing a tearful bookend to Quan’s emotional speech earlier in the night. (John Travolta was similarly overcome with emotion introducing the In Memoriam reel, which opened with his friend and co-star Olivia Newton-John.)
Several new chapters to ongoing Hollywood stories were written last night. Kimmel paused to mention Till and The Woman King, two films directed by Black women and led by Black stars that did not receive nominations that once seemed likely. Sarah Polley won Best Adapted Screenplay for Women Talking, but did not receive a directing nomination. Everything Everywhere All at Once’s triumph brought awards to a diverse array of winners, but diversity and inclusion clearly remained unsettled issues.
Last year, two major streamers, Apple TV+ and Netflix, fought their latest awards battle. This year’s competition took on a different shape. Apple TV+’s two most likely awards candidates—The Greatest Beer Run Ever and Emancipation—never picked up any traction and were shut out of the nominations. (Apple did win a Best Animated Short prize for “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.”) Netflix fared better with its win for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinnochio and several prizes awarded to All Quiet on the Western Front, a new adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war classic, which picked up awards for Best International Feature, Cinematography, Score, and Production Design. After an under-the-radar roll-out, the film picked up substantial momentum throughout the awards season and, in the home stretch, looked like Everything Everywhere All at Once’s most likely challenger. And maybe elsewhere in the multiverse All Quiet had an even better night. But in this universe, the evening belonged to a laundromat owner putting her fractured family back together—with some help from kung fu skills and the occasional well-placed butt plug.