Despite all the controversies and differences, the golden statuette hasn’t lost its glimmer across the globe and with multiple comebacks, multiverses, and a rather fine Cate Blanchett, there was much to look forward to for this year's event. With Ke Huy Quan and Brendan Fraser as the top favourites, along with the Irish duo of Paul Mescal and Colin Farell, the Best Actor race was heated. Plus, how about Cate Blanchett vs. Michelle Yeoh? Lot's to unpack, so here is my deep dive into the 95th Oscars.
Hassle and Will Smith Free
Last year, the mismanaged live telecast of Oscars ceremony and the infamous Will Smith slap were unfortunately the talk-of-the-town. To be more relevant, the event was cut short and over eight categories including Best Sound, Best Film Editing etc. weren’t part of the live telecast at the 2022 Oscars, which received a lot of backlash. USA Today quotes "It was equal parts boring and terrifying, cringe-worthy and interminable."
This year, the Academy wiped it clean. They even have a crisis team, which host Jimmy Kimmel acknowledged jokingly. This year's six-hour ceremony was more old-school, simple yet grand in its staging.
“The Quiet Western Front” made great noises:
After the historic sweep in BAFTA Awards, directed by Edward Berger the German anti-war epic “All Quiet on the Western Front” based on the classic novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque made the noise at the 95th Oscars. The gut-wrenching masterpiece bagged four golden statuettes which include Best Original Score (Volker Bertelmann), Best Production Design (Christian M. Goldbeck and Ernestine Hipper), Best Cinematography (James Friend) and Best International Feature Film beating out top favourite “Argentina 1985”.
The 2022 German film has become the third non-English Language film to lead most of the nominations in Oscars and taking home the prize. The interesting fact is that the 1930 American film adaptation of “All Quiet on the Western Front” novel clinched the best picture and after 93 years the German film adaptation of the same novel won the “Best International feature” making this one of the rarest achievements for the Novel and Adaptations in the Oscars.
“Everything Everywhere All At Once” takes home everything:
Two days before the Oscars, according to an IGN Report, the A24 production “Everything Everywhere All at Once” became the most-awarded film in history racking up 158 accolades on its sleeves. Out of 11 nominations, the absurdist grand multiversal Sci-fi Drama took home 7 golden statuettes which includes Best Editing, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress in a lead role, Best Actress in a supporting role, Best Actor in a supporting role and the top prize, the Best picture which was pretty much a cherry on the cake for the film in this awards season. Kee Huy Quan in his accepatance speech for the Oscar gleefully and emotionally announced to his mom on-live that “Mom, I won an Oscar” which truly was one of the most wholesome moments of the ceremony.
Another wholesome moment from EEAAO’s cast was Michelle Yeoh’s acceptance speech where she put forth honest words that “Don’t let anybody tell you that you’re past your prime” making us feel that what it means to make a great comeback in front of the haters. Editor Paul Rogers who made the film an acid-trip humbly acknowledged in his acceptance speech that “It’s wild that I’m getting this award as this is my second film”. Paul Rogers edited the whole film during the pandemic with just Premiere pro makes this fascinating and there’s a video in YouTube in Adobe Video & Motion channel demonstrating his editing process for the film. With a mid-budget of $14.3 million dollars, the film truly is path-breaking and as the Daniels quote in their WIRED interview “staying more grounded” in its filmmaking methods and storytelling. The Daniels truly have come a long way from making the most absurd comedy “The Swiss Army Man” featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a dead corpse to winning the best picture today. This victory means a lot to mid-budget films that’s been dwindling in Hollywood in recent years.
Not Salsa, Not Flamenco, my brother!
From the inclusion of “Naatu Naatu” into the Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue, the ceremony cemented the fact that India has truly made the stage at the Oscars this year. Presenter Deepika Padukone presenting and singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala performing the “Naatu Naatu” song along with the dancers was such a grace to watch with both eyes.
Dedicating the Golden Knight “to the Motherland, India”, Producer Guneet Monga and Director Kartiki Gonslaves won the Oscar for “The Elephant Whisperers” in the Documentary-short subject category. The documentary is based on the lives of the Kattunayakar Tribe couple Bomman and Belli who are assigned as caretakers for the estranged Elephant Calves Raghu and Ammu. The Netflix-Sikhya Entertainment joint venture explore the importance of symbiosis with the environment and this win enkindles the importance of narrating ecological stories of India throwing light on to the conservation of wild animal and the protection of Indigenous Tribes.
Shaunak Sen documentary feature directorial “All that Breathes” which is based on the attempts of two brothers to protect the decreasing population of Black Kites in Delhi was nominated in the “Best Documentary Feature Film” category. While the documentary, clinched the biggest prizes in the documentary film circuit like the Sundance Grand jury prize and Cannes Golden Eye Award, it narrowly missed the top prize with Daniel Roher’s directorial “Navalny” beating it. Still, the documentary truly was a paradigm shift in Indian Documentary spaces which even Shaunak Sen acknowledges that “we have to be cautiously optimistic because there is still quite a long way to go in terms of the dissemination infrastructure for non-fiction”. The common thread between these two documentaries is the need for Ecological conservation in this alarming climate change situation.
After an extensive and expensive Oscar campaign by SS Rajamouli and Dylan Marchetti, the president of Variance Films (American Distributor of RRR), the Telugu blockbuster “RRR: Rise, Revolt and Roar” landed only one nod from the Academy in “Best Original Song” category for the electrifying and groovy “Naatu Naatu” song. From a personal standpoint, the film not making the final cut at nominees mainly in Best VFX, Best Costume Design, Best production design, Best Sound and Best Editing was pure snobeRRRy, as famous American Media houses like “Variety” and “The Hollywood Reporter” predicted that “Naatu Naatu” will bag the award in the category, the song truly bagged the award tonight making it the first ever song from an Asian film to bag the Golden Knight in 100 years.
With RRR and “The Elephant Whisperers” winning the prize this is an historic milestone that two Indian productions have won the Oscars. The legendary composer MM Keeravani in his acceptance speech shared his love for “The Carpenters” and sang his acceptance speech giving a tribute to The Carpenters’ song “Top of the World”.
First timers and surprises:
After the 1930s, 95th Oscars has got 16 first time Oscar Nominees in four acting categories which includes Michelle Yeoh, Kee Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu, Paul Mescal, Hong Chau, Brendan Fraser etc. Actor Brendan Fraser, Actress Michelle Yeoh, Actor Kee Huy Quan and Actress Jamie Lee Curtis won their first Oscars in their respective categories. For Brendan Fraser it is truly a fitting comeback after 13 years of being shunned and abused by Hollywood. disappearing from mainstream cinema.
Women Talking won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but Martin McDonaugh’s “Banshees of Inisherin” was left empty handed at the Oscars tonight, losing out to EEAAO in the Best Original Screenplay Category.. The most anticipated Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film “The Fabelmans”, Todd Field’s comeback venture “Tar” won zero awards, and Matt Reeves haunting reimagining of the Caped Crusader “The Batman” which definitely deserved a nomination for Best Cinematography, was not even nominated.
Movies that saved the Movies:
Jimmy Kimmel in his opening monologue said that how Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun Maverick” saved the movies and theatre business in USA. It’s truly elating to see that the Academy has nominated mainstream blockbusters mostly in the nominations list regaining its relevancy in modern pop culture. With “Top Gun Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” minting $1 Billion box-office collections, the films also managed to make their mark as Best Picture nominees. After “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”, EEAAO winning the top prize will surely boost the sci-fi genre. This also breaks the notion that blockbuster mainstream films can truly bridge the gap between artistic vision and popcorn entertainment. “Top Gun Maverick” winning the Best Sound Design and the sequel of Avatar winning the Best VFX Oscar acknowledges this revolution in cinematic endeavours.
No Oscars for Worthy Men:
While this year’s Oscars stayed with relevancy like every other year it too had its fair share of misses. “The Batman” received nomination for best makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound and Best VFX, but it was snubbed from best production design, Best Original Score and Best Cinematography. Legendary Cinematographer Roger Deakins said that it shouldn't have been snubbed.
Jordan Peele’s “Nope” which truly enamoured audience and critics alike, didn't recieve a single nomination. It’s weird that a film that talks about the erasure of Blacks in cinema history has gone unnoticed by the Academy. Romain Gavras’s French political action drama “Athena” and Park-Chan Wook’s romantic procedural crime drama “Decision to Leave” were some of the favourites in the Film Festival Circuit but received no love from the Oscars.
From being an award that was exclusive to American Cinema to now crowning a woman of colour as its lead actress, Oscars have truly come a long way. This year’s Oscars was truly about hope and comebacks. It was a hopeful one.