Los Angeles Times
In the lead all at once
‘Everything Everywhere’ scores a guild trifecta. Oscars, here it comes
Between winning the top honors at the Directors Guild Awards last weekend and the Producers and Screen Actors Guild awards over the weekend, the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” crew met at NeueHouse Hollywood on Saturday for one last Los Angeles academy screening of their trippy, sci-fi family drama.
The film’s star, Michelle Yeoh, slumped on a sofa in the lobby, having just arrived from London. Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan embraced, trading stories about the freakishly cold L.A. weather. And the indefatigable Jamie Lee Curtis walked right up to me, squeezed my hand and, not letting go, introduced herself as a “weapon of mass promotion” and then spent the next hour backing up her boast with charming — and almost alarming — force.
“It’s a movie for a generation,” Curtis told the audience during the post-screening Q&A, comparing the response to “Everything Ev
erywhere All at Once” to how her era felt about “The Graduate.” “It’s literally the best movie for a generation.” The room eats this up. “The more times you say the word best — best, best, best, best — is a good thing to be saying at this moment in time.”
Curtis isn’t the only one saying it. Over the weekend, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” became the 10th movie to sweep the producers, directors and Screen Actors Guild awards, establishing it as the overwhelming favorite to win the best picture Oscar on March 12. Of the nine previous films to hit that awards season trifecta — a list that includes “Birdman,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Argo,” only one, “Apollo 13,” failed to go on to win the Oscar.
The movie’s dominance with these key precursor guilds wasn’t anticipated, even after “Everything Everywhere All at Once” scored a leading 11 Oscar nominations last month. Some reacted just as codirector Daniel Kwan’s mom did. “Don’t you think 11 is too much?” she told him on the phone. It seemed reasonable to think “Everything Everywhere” would win the SAG Awards’ cast prize, while a more traditional studio film like “Top Gun: Maverick” would prevail with the producers (it did save the theatrical industry!) and a more established filmmaker, say Steven Spielberg, would find favor with the Directors Guild.
But awards seasons that appear wide-open when the calendar turns often have a way of coming into an irrevocable focus just as Oscar voting is about to begin. And that’s not just the case with the best picture race. The SAG Awards, as they often do, crystallized the four acting categories, including, of course, Quan, who has been locked since audiences saw his multiverse-jumping turn in “Everything Everywhere” and heard him share his comeback story, which detailed his return to acting after quitting for decades due to a lack of opportunity.
Quan’s co-star, Curtis, pulled off a bit of a surprise, prevailing for supporting actress, a category that Angela Bassett had been favored to win for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Both women are legends deserving a great Oscar moment. A general fatigue — and a little snobbery — that some voters feel toward Marvel movies could tip the scales for Curtis.
Brendan Fraser had been an early favorite in the actor category, following the breathlessly timed standing ovations he received at fall film festivals for his affecting turn in “The Whale.” And, like Quan, he possesses a career revival story. Austin Butler delivers a showier (and deeper) performance in “Elvis,” a much better movie. He could still win the Oscar, but Fraser is now the favorite.
Cate Blanchett had won nearly every lead actress award this season for playing the monstrous maestro in “Tár,” a performance so commanding that Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel suggested that Lydia Tár succeed him as the group’s next music director. But SAG-AFTRA voters went with Yeoh, who had a long-overdue showcase in “Everything Everywhere,” allowing her to dip a toe into a sumptuous Wong Kar-wai romance and play a frazzled mom trying to transcend the mundane, among a few other things.
When the Oscars finally roll out the red carpet outside the Dolby Theatre in a couple of weeks, it will be a year and a day since “Everything Everywhere All at Once” premiered at South by Southwest. (“I watched last year’s Oscars in a hotel bar while promoting this movie,” Daniel Scheinert tells me before the Q&A, laughing.) Save for a summer break that extended into the early fall, the film’s core group has been reuniting for screenings and events on a regular basis. What are they going to do after the Oscars?
“It’s going to be weird, like leaving summer camp — that’s always hard,” Kwan says.
“This is the biggest, most intense bonding we’ve ever done with a cast,” Scheinert adds. “We have known these actors as long as I knew my friends in college. It’s been a four-year adventure.”
Quan wanders over. “I’m still talking with my friends from ‘The Goonies,’ and that was 40 years ago!” he says.
“Forty years from now, do you think we’ll all be doing that?” Kwan asks him.
“And which one of us is going to be the ass— you don’t want to see?” Scheinert replies. “That’s a leading question. It’s gonna be me.”
After the lengthy Q&A, which left everyone, especially the actors, in tears (this is a group very much in touch with their emotions), the ensemble entered a conference room to take a couple of photos. High on a bookshelf, Curtis spotted an art print. To a neutral observer, it looked like concentric circles. For Curtis, it was most definitely a bagel, a key symbol in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
“That’s a sign!” she shouts. “That’s a sign!”
After this weekend’s clean sweep and its complete dominance at the SAG Awards, the movie doesn’t really need much in the way of luck. But until the Oscar is in hand, Curtis will accept each and every good omen the universe has to offer.