A reflection on the 2023 Oscar awards

This year too has come oscars night, highlight for movie buffs hoping to see their favorite candidate squeeze the coveted statuette among glittering Hollywood stars. Despite the variety of films nominated, this edition had one big winner who dominated the entire awards season, even beating The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King as the most awarded film ever. We are talking, of course, about Everything Everywhere all at once, which since its release on US soil has become a highly acclaimed cult by audiences and critics, winning 7 awards out of 11 nominations. But does it really deserve all the success it’s having and the awards it has won?

The “political” awards of the Oscars

Perhaps it makes little sense to talk about merit in this context: the Academy Awards, like all awards, are political awards and, as such, they fit every year in the wake of current trends. In fact, the term “Oscar bait” is often used to describe those films in which the subject matter and the great technical efforts seem to have been specifically designed to win the famous prizes. The winning of the same, moreover, also depends on various extra-filmic factors, starting from the commitment to the for your consideration, i.e. the advertising campaign implemented by the production to ensure that its film is nominated. This does not mean that all the wins are always in some way piloted and undeserved: it can happen that the main prize is won by mediocre and forgettable films, such as CODA last year, but also by films with great artistic value capable of gathering acclaim , as Parasites in 2019.

A reflection on Everything Everywhere all at once at the 2023 Oscars

Thinking about Everything Everywhere all at once, it doesn’t seem to us that it’s a matter of “issues” or of that politically correctness that is shouted so much by the more stubbornly conservative parts of the discourse. What the victory and popularity of the film by the Daniels (pseudonym of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) seems to tell us is how the popular gaze, lazy in the face of standardized forms of representation, responds very positively when placed in front of a flash of uniqueness and originality able to actively stimulate the senses and have strong emotional appeal. In our opinion, EEAAO is not a masterpiece but a good quality product which, in the hypertrophic and hyperactive accumulation of images and contents, reaches a point of saturation in which the state of power soon becomes tedium that never seems to end. Having said that, in a perspective whereby the winning film determines the perspective and progress of the
annual film production, perhaps it is better that this film won rather than something less interesting and more problematic like Nothing new on the western front by Edward Berger, which won 4 awards out of 9 total nominations, including Best International Film.

The other awards of the oscars 2023

In fact, the new adaptation of the 1929 novel of the same name, under the guise of a film
anti-war, it shows a hyper-realistic war bordering on splatter, with an aestheticised and extreme violence but always carefully dirty to make everyone happy and flatten the discourse. Our favorites, however, are two others: Tar by Todd Field but above all The Fabelmans by Steven Spielberg, nominated respectively for 6 and 7 statuettes and (predictably) left empty-handed. The first is an ambiguous and complex film in which Cate Blanchett masterfully plays a great conductor who finds herself having to deal with some obsessions and ghosts that haunt her; more current than ever, Tar shows a multifaceted portrait going beyond genres and highlighting the problems concerning the great public figures and the so-called cancel culture. The second (which we have already talked about) is Steven Spielberg’s most personal film, which brings
on the screen the story of his family and his passion for cinema in what is not only an auto-biopic, but also a profound reflection on the importance of images and their creative power. Both would have deserved the best director award – even if we don’t complain too much about the Daniels’ win.

The already “written” awards of the Oscars 2023

The screenplay awards seemed already written – the original screenplay went to EEAAO and the non-original one to Women Talking by Sarah Polley – while the technical ones went partly to EEAAO (editing), Nothing new on the Western front (photography, scenography and soundtrack), Top Gun: Maverick by Joseph Kosinski (sound), The Whale by Darren Aronofsky (makeup), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever by Ryan Coogler (costumes) e Avatar – The way of water by James Cameron (special effects). The awards to the actors, on the other hand, have been much more fought over since the previous months. In the category of best actress, EEAAO’s Michelle Yeoh was an almost obvious win, but there was hope for a final revenge from Cate Blanchett; even if the most deserved award would be that of her to Ana De Armas for her poignant performance in Blonde by Andrew Dominik. In the men’s category, however, the challenge was more tense. The top three candidates were Austin Butler for Elvis by Baz Luhrmann, Colin Farrell for The Island Spirits by Martin McDonagh e
Brendan Fraser for The whale by Darren Aronofsky: all the nominees gave their best with intense acting tests in different ways but all memorable, and in the end Brendan Fraser rightly triumphed at the height of his Hollywood renaissance. Even the awards for supporting actors were no less: Ke Huy Quan for EEAAO was definitely the favorite but also Barry Keoghan from The spirits of the island it was not to be underestimated; otherwise, Jamie Lee Curtis’ victory for EEAAO may have come as a surprise to some compared to the other favorite, Angela Basset of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The forgotten of the Oscars 2023

However, there were many who were largely excluded, including those who received a few insignificant nominations and those who didn’t even get there. For example Blonde by Andrew Dominik, undoubtedly one of the best films of last year, received only one nomination, that for Ana de Armas; we are well aware of the controversies that the film has caused since its presentation in Venice, so much so that it recently won the Razzie as worst film of the year, but in our opinion it is a short-sighted and superficial attitude, which does not do justice to a such an important and poignant work. Also Babylon by Damien Chazelle remained in the shadows: three nominations in technical categories are not representative of the stature of the project, a cinematic epic with a great aesthetic reach. Among non-English-language films, however, the biggest shutout is definitely Decision to leave by Park Chan-wook, a metamorphic film that moves between thriller and melodrama in a continuous reversal of perspectives and intertwining of gazes, which reached the shortlist but without receiving a nomination. In short, it went like this again this year: although there is no reason to make the Academy Awards coincide with the apparent or actual artistic qualities of the nominated and awarded films, we will continue to watch the great Hollywood show, between high hopes and deep disappointments, but without ever ceasing to question and problematize its meaning and choices.

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