A Tale Of Victory: Celebrating Asian Representation At The Oscars

Film still from Everything Everywhere All at Once. Photo by Allyson Riggs

Film still from Everything Everywhere All at Once. Photo by Allyson Riggs

Ready for history-making wins in the upcoming Academy Awards, the cast of Oscar-nominated Everything Everywhere All At Once set the stage for Asian representation and celebration.

This year’s Academy Awards marks a milestone for Asian representation in the arts. For the first time in the Oscars’ 95-year history, four Asian actors have been nominated for their acting performances, while Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), co-written and directed by Daniel Kwan, holds 11 nominations in total, making it the most nominated film of the year. 

The achievements of these Asian creatives are worth celebrating, not only at the Oscars but also every day. Stories that reflect our realities to us validate our human experiences that are either ignored in mainstream discourse or misrepresented in harmful ways. Authentic representation encourages positive self-perception, boosts self-esteem, and also creates a space for creatives like Daniel Kwan and Domee Shi to depict the Asian experience—whether it be pain or joy—on our own terms.

Acclaimed Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, whose status as a bona fide movie star was cemented decades ago with her roles in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and Tai Chi Master (1993), is the first Asian-identifying actress to be nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role. 

Ahead of the Oscars, Yeoh was awarded the Screen Actors Guild Award for Female Actor in a Leading Role at the 29th SAG Awards, making her the first Asian actress to win the award. In her emotional acceptance speech, Yeoh said, “this is for every little girl that looks like me…we want to be seen, we want to be heard.”

Everything Everywhere All At Once tells the story of the Wangs, a working-class Chinese-American family, through a surreal lens. The multi-genre film explores complex family dynamics and illustrates how the characters navigate a rupture in the multiverse that threatens to destroy the world. 

In her portrayal of Evelyn Quan Wang, a complex and layered character that undergoes a number of tribulations throughout the film, Yeoh shows off her incredible range. As Evelyn, she performs impressive action stunts and delivers nuanced depictions of mother-daughter relationships and financial troubles. Also nominated for their roles in the film are Stephanie Hsu for Best Supporting Actress and Ke Huy Quan for Best Supporting Actor.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hsu talked about representation and how much this film means to her. She points out that James Hong, who plays her grandfather, “started acting at a time when people wouldn’t even say his name, they would literally just call him ‘Chinaman’ and say ‘Get on your mark’.” Speaking to Law Sharma for CinemaBlend, Hsu described the film as “one of the most honest portrayals of an Asian family that I’ve ever seen.” 

The film’s entire cast was also recently awarded “Best Ensemble” at the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards. During their acceptance speech, James Hong received a standing ovation from the crowd after exclaiming, “the leading role was played by these guys with their eyes taped up like this, and they “talk like this” (*Hong imitates a stereotypical caricature of an Asian accent*) because the producer said the Asians were not good enough and they are not box office…but look at us now!”

Notably, Turning Red (2022) by Domee Shi has also been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. Shi, who won an Oscar in 2018 for her short animated film Bao, brings another Asian story to life in a tender coming-of-age film that follows the adventures of Meilin Lee, a thirteen-year-old Chinese-Canadian. 

Other Asian creatives breaking barriers with their nominations this year include:

  • Jonathan Wang and Daniel Kwan for Best Picture, “Everything Everywhere All At Once”
  • Daniel Kwan for Best Original Screenplay, “Everything Everywhere All At Once”
  • Hong Chau for Best Supporting Actress in “The Whale” (2022)
  • Shirley Kurata for Best Costume Design in “Everything Everywhere All At Once”
  • Shaunak Sen and Aman Mann for Best Documentary Feature Film, “All That Breathes” (2022)
  • Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga for Best Documentary Short Film, “The Elephant Whisperers” (2022)
  • Judy Chin for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, “The Whale”
  • Son Lux for Best Original Score, “Everything Everywhere All At Once”
  • M.M. Keeravaani and Chandrabose for Best Original Song, “Naatu Naatu” in “RRR” (2022)
  • Mitski for Best Original Song, “This Is a Life”  in “Everything Everywhere All At Once”
  • Kazuo Ishiguro for Best Adapted Screenplay in “Living” (2022)

The Academy Awards ceremony will take place on March 12th, 8pm (EST)/ March 13th, 8am (PHT).

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