The Oscars in Context: How One Night Changes (or Doesn’t Change) History

The Oscars in Context: How One Night Changes (or Doesn’t Change) History  

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The road to Oscar glory starts the day after.

For many movie lovers, the Academy Awards is a year-long thing. The minute one ceremony ends, obsessives (myself include) reset their alarms and begin to speculate about next year’s ceremony. Dozens of factors shape the race as early as now, with film festivals (such as the ongoing SXSW Film Festival) already premiering possible contenders for next season. Nevertheless, I believe it’s important to discuss the latest crop of winners and nominees before moving on. Their names are now forever engraved in cinematic history, and will be discussed by future pundits trying to look for patterns. In an effort to understand what happened at the 95th Academy Awards, we’ve compiled a list of important moments, snubs, and surprises, that may or may not change history. 

A win in Asian representation  

No year in Academy Awards history has had a tremendous number of Asian nominees and winners as the 95th ceremony. 2019 was close (the year Parasite won Best Picture) with 16 nominees. However, the 2022 Oscars edged it out with a strong list of 17 nominees, which included various cast and crew members from Everything Everywhere All at Once, actress Hong Chau, Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro, RRR song writers M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose, and Indian director Kartiki Gonsalves, among others. Collectively, this group took home Oscars in six categories. With this upward trend, things may be looking up for artists of Asian descent in the entertainment industry. 

Everything Everywhere All at Once sweeps the acting categories 

Michelle Yeoh’s Best Actress win is historical. The cinematic icon is the first Asian woman and second woman of color to win this prize. In addition, the victories of Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis in the supporting categories enters Everything Everywhere All at Once into a very exclusive club. Only two other films have won three acting Oscars in a single night: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Network (1976).  

Jamie Lee Curtis surprises in Best Supporting Actress

In our Oscar predictions, we called the Supporting Actress category a three-horse race. However, we thought Banshees of Inisherin actress Kerry Condon would prevail as the victor due to a strong statistic tied with the BAFTAs. Seven of the last ten Supporting Actress winners also won honors at the BAFTAs. Curtis was considered an underdog for the Oscar, with only one major precursor under her belt (SAG). Numerous pundits put their weight behind Condon or Wakanda Forever’s Angela Bassett. Alas, Curtis’ memorable 17-minute performance had enough good will to get her across the golden finish line.  

Two directors take the gold

Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Best Director win for Everything Everywhere All at Once is significant for more than one reason. Kwan has become only the fourth Asian director to win this award after Ang Lee (who has two for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi), Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite), and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland). Together, the two make history as the first pair to share this prize in 61 years. The last time this happened in 2007 when No Country for Old Men garnered Joel and Ethan Coen a win

No BAFTA alignment this year

This is the first year since 1997 where the Academy Awards and BAFTA did not align in any of their acting winners. Austin Butler (Elvis), Cate Blanchett (Tár), Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon (both from The Banshees of Inisherin) all lost in their respective categories. This is a highly unusual occurrence during awards season, as BAFTA is often looked at as the major precursor that calls tight races. 

Elvis goes home empty handed 

With eight Oscar nominations under its belt (including Best Picture), Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was expected to be a big player. For months it led the race in Best Actor for Austin Butler), Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Production Design. Pundits also predicted a possible surprise win for Mandy Walker in Cinematography, making her the first female winner in that category. However, the tide unknowingly shifted last minute for the buzzy musical biopic, which eventually went home empty handed. On a final note, the Academy continues its notorious trend of not awarding younger performers in the Best Actor category. From last ten winners, only Eddie Redmayne and Rami Malek have won in the 30s. Austin Butler does not join them after his defeat. Brendan Fraser (who surprisingly won for The Whale) fits the profile of previous winners, being in his mid-50s. 

All Quiet on the Western Front dominates the tech awards 

All Quiet on the Western Front hauled in a total of four Oscars, when most pundits predicted it would only win two: for Best International Feature and Best Cinematography. The film garnered two surprise statues for Best Production Design and Best Original Score. While BAFTA did not predict any of the acting winners, it did a much better job in the under-the-line categories. All Quiet swept the tech awards at the BAFTAs in late February. 

Ruth E. Carter makes history 

When iconic costume designer Ruth E. Carter won Best Costume Design in 2018 for her work in the first Black Panther movie, she became the first African-American to win in that category. Today, she makes history once again. For her winning work in Wakanda Forever, Carter is the first black woman to win two Academy Awards. In addition, she becomes the first designer to win gold for both a sequel and its original film. 

Babylon loses its presumed gold 

Despite Babylon’s disappointing critical reception and box office failure, it was poised to win at least one Oscar: Best Production Design. It hit all the right precursors, taking home statues from BAFTA, the Art Directors Guild, and the Critic’s Choice Awards. In the end, it just didn’t have the support that All Quiet on the Western Front had. The German anti-war film took home Production Design, as well as Original Score—another category in which Babylon was predicted to win. What does this teach us? Films nominated for Best Picture always has the upper hand when competing against a film with no above-the-line nominations. 

The Film Editing-Sound stat is officially broken

Historically speaking, Best Picture winners have almost always won Best Film Editing at the Oscars. However, that statistic changed in 2013 when Gravity took home the statue but lost the top prize to 12 Years a Slave. Since then, the Editing Oscar went to non-Best Picture winners, and often paired with the victors of the Sound category. Recent winners of both awards include: Dune (2021), Sound of Metal (2020), Ford v Ferrari (2019), and Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Today, this stat was officially broken once again when Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once won Best Film Editing.   

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