LOS ANGELES — It was chaotic, messy, wild, creative, big-hearted and utterly unique. If it were a bagel, it would most certainly have been the “everything” kind.
But “Everything Everywhere All At Once” was a movie, not a bagel, and it ruled Sunday's Oscar ceremony, making for one feel-good moment after another — and making history, too, on a huge night for Asians and Asian Americans in Hollywood.
And as for The Slap? Well, this Oscar night felt more like a big hug, its heartwarming speeches a potent antidote to the uneasy memory of last year’s Will Smith saga. They kept coming: There was Ke Huy Quan, bounding up the stairs to accept the supporting actor trophy, his teary joy infectious as he referred to his remarkable life story. From the same film there was Jamie Lee Curtis, speaking eloquently about acting as a collaborative endeavor, and the directing duo the Daniels, thanking public school teachers and the family members who nurtured their creativity.
Then there was leading lady Michelle Yeoh, putting an overdue cherry on top of her amazing career as she became the first Asian best actress winner. She spoke of many things, but perhaps most eloquently about mothers, whom she called “superheroes.” And on this Oscar night in particular, many winners joined her in thanking their mothers poignantly, none more so than costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who saluted her 101-year-old mother, who she said had just died.
Also thanked, of course, were were children, fathers, husbands and wives. “I am your son, and I love you,” Guillermo del Toro, winning for best animated film, said to his late parents. And perhaps the four most heart-rending words of the night came from a wife to a husband: “Stay strong, my love,” said Yulia Navalnaya to her imprisoned husband, Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader.
Some of the evening’s top moments:
SO, ABOUT LAST YEAR ...
Serving once again as host, Jimmy Kimmel was clearly going to have to bring up The Slap, as it shall forever be known. It took about seven minutes into his monologue before he did — a sarcastic crack about the bizarrely passive reaction last year to the moment Will Smith slapped Chris Rock over a joke directed at his wife. “We have strict policies in place,” Kimmel said. “If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point in this show, you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute long speech.” Later, he made a reference to Smith’s performance as Hitch, and at another point referenced one of his songs — all without mentioning his name.
QUAN GETS TEARS FLOWING EARLY, AND OFTEN
Emotions were running high from the second award, as the ebullient Quan won his supporting actor trophy — an outcome that was expected but no less exciting in the moment. In fact, presenter Ariana DeBose could barely utter his name — she was already crying.
“My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp,” said Quan, 51, who is of Vietnamese descent. “Somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This — THIS — is the American dream.” He also thanked — of course — his mother, age 84, watching at home.
CURTIS: “I AM HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE”
Winning immediately after Quan, Curtis stepped onstage and made yet another terrific awards-season speech about collaborating in the industry. “I know it looks like I am standing up here myself, but I am not,” she said. “I am hundreds of people.”
She spoke to all the fans and colleagues who “supported the genre movies I have made all these years, the hundreds and thousands of people: We. Just. Won. An. Oscar. Together!” And Curtis, too, shouted out to her famous late parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, whom she noted had been nominated in different categories. “I just won an Oscar!” she told them.
STAY STRONG, MY LOVE
Navalny sits in solitary confinement in Russia. So it was left to his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, to speak for him — and to him, as well — when the documentary “Navalny” won an Oscar. “My husband is in prison just for telling the truth. My husband is in prison just for defending democracy,” Navalnaya said. “Alexei, I am dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love.”
Director Daniel Roher dedicated his Oscar to Navalny and all political prisoners around the world. “Alexei, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all: We must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever it rears its head.”
GAGA GOES MINIMAL
No one knows how to step into the glamour better than Lady Gaga, and she appeared on the Oscar red (well, champagne-colored) carpet in dramatic makeup and a fabulous Versace gown from the designer’s recent collection. But when she appeared onstage — in a surprise appearance — to sing a powerful rendition of “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick,” the glamorous outfit was gone, replaced by a T-shirt and ripped jeans and a makeup-free face. It was yet another compelling Oscar performance for Gaga, who never fails to innovate and surprise.
CARTER MAKES HISTORY, AGAIN
Four years ago, Carter took her first historic statuette, becoming the first Black woman to win for costume design for “Black Panther.” On Sunday she again made history when she won the award for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” becoming the first Black woman to win two Oscars. She dedicated the award to Mabel Carter, her mother, who she said died this past week at age 101. “This film prepared me for this moment,” she said. “Chadwick, please take care of Mom” — referring to Chadwick Boseman, the beloved late star of the original film.
THE DANIELS THANK THE TEACHERS – AND THE MOMMIES!
The Daniels — Scheinert and Kwan — had a number of opportunities to ascend the stage, collecting awards for best original screenplay and best director on the way to a best picture win for “Everything Everywhere.” The first time, Scheinert quipped he was going to name all the teachers who put him and his brother in detention — then instead thanked the teachers, by name, who “educated me and inspired me and taught me to be less of a butthead.”
Kwan thanked “my Mom who protected me as a child, protected my inner storyteller.” Winning best director, they came back to thank, in Scheinert’s words, “the mommies of the world .... specifically my mom and dad, thank you for not squashing my creativity when I was making really disturbing horror films or really perverted comedy films or dressing in drag as a kid, which is a threat to nobody!” The audience cheered.
YEOH IS TAKING IT HOME TO MALAYSIA – AND MOM!
In “Everything Everywhere,” one of Yeoh’s most memorable scenes is a reconciliation of sorts with her young adult daughter (Stephanie Hsu ), a scene that speaks to the very essence of parenthood, in all its trials and rewards.
So it was fitting that Yeoh, accepting her best actress award, would focus on motherhood as well. “I have to dedicate this to my mom, all the moms in the world because they are really the superheroes," she said, “and without them none of us would be here tonight.” She added that her mom was watching in Malaysia with her family. “She’s 84, and I’m taking this home to her.” Yeoh, 60, also earned cheers for her plug for women as they age in Hollywood, telling them: “Don't let anybody tell you you're past your prime!"