The fall season has typically been the time of year that Oscar favors when selecting its Best Picture winners. Even in the age of streaming, the Academy suffers from “recency bias,” the phenomenon that favors recent movies over ones released earlier in the year.
“Everything Everywhere All At Once” has broken that spell, in addition to several other Oscar accomplishments. The fantasy-comedy is the first film since 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs” to win Best Picture nearly a full year after premiering in theaters. “EEAAO” was released by distributor A24 on March 25, 2022, eleven-and-a-half months before this year’s Oscar ceremony.
And we are talking about when it was released for the public to see, not its film festival premiere, which the error-prone IMDb often lists as a film’s official release date. Incidentally, “EEAAO” debuted at the South By Southwest Film Fest on March 11, 2022, making it the first SXSW world premiere to win Best Picture.
“The Silence of the Lambs,” another film in an under-embraced genre that triumphed at the Academy Awards, was released on February 14, 1991 — more than 13 months before it won Best Picture on March 30, 1992. The film had been such a sensation that “Lambs” stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins presented Best Screenplay together at the previous Oscars, in 1991.
In terms of Oscar history, this particular achievement by “EEAAO” is not unprecedented. After all, classics such as 1972’s “The Godfather,” 1977’s “Annie Hall” and 1969’s “Midnight Cowboy” were released in March, April, and May, respectively, of the years before they won Best Picture.
But those examples are exceptions to Oscar’s unwritten rule. By an overwhelming degree, Best Picture is given to a fall release. Just limiting the list to Best Pictures winners since “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1992, the number of films premiering in the last three months of the year is massive: “Schindler’s List,” “The English Patient,” “Titanic,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Chicago,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Departed,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Kings Speech,” “The Artist,” “Argo,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman,” “Spotlight,” “Moonlight,” “The Shape of Water,” “Green Book,” “Parasite,” and “Nomadland.” That’s a 71 percent success rate for fall (and often late fall) movie releases winning Best Picture.
Last year’s Best Picture winner, “CODA,” the first film from a streaming service (AppleTV+) to win the top prize, was given a limited theatrical release in August 2021.
In this year’s ten-film Best Picture lineup, “EEAAO” was joined by two other movies that came out in the spring or summer (“Top Gun: Maverick” and “Elvis”), but it is the multiverse saga that has made history. And it has proved that, even in the age of streaming, Oscar voters do have long memories when it matters.