A long awards season ended with a long but satisfying Academy Awards show. Along the way, stars were born, careers were revived and legends fell by the wayside to make room for upstarts.
The season, of course, was dominated by “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which slowly turned from a potential nominee to a dominant frontrunner, and then to a record-setting winner with more above-the-line Oscars (picture, director, acting and writing) than any film in history.
So of necessity, this timeline of 10 moments that defined the season will include “Everything” almost everywhere.
May 17-28, 2022: “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Elvis” hit the Croisette in Cannes
The Cannes Film Festival is always a rich source for entries in the Oscars Best International Feature Film category, and the 2022 festival was no exception. A dozen of its films were submitted by their home countries to the Academy, and two, “EO” and “Close,” were nominated. Plus an English-language film by a Swedish director, Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.
But Cannes was also the launching pad for a pair of mainstream movies that would be in the thick of the awards race: “Top Gun: Maverick,” which had a splashy premiere with fighter jets buzzing the Croisette, and “Elvis,” which returned Baz Luhrmann to the festival where he’d premiered “Moulin Rouge!” Both films were immediately flagged as awards contenders, with particular attention to “Elvis” star Austin Butler, and the focus on early-year contenders also caused awards-watchers to start considering the SXSW indie “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which had been in theaters since March.
Sept. 4: “The Whale” gets a six-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, and Brendan Fraser cries
Several presumed awards movies didn’t recover from the lackluster receptions they received at the Venice International Film Festival, among them Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise,” Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde” and Florian Zeller’s “The Son.” Others, including Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” and Olivier Hermanus’ “Living,” entered the awards conversations to stay.
But in some ways, the biggest Venice premiere was for Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” which marked the return of Brendan Fraser to a high-profile role after years away from Hollywood. The film famously got a lengthy standing ovation, Fraser was bewildered and then teary over the reception, and it turned him into the Best Actor frontrunner.
Sept. 18: “The Fabelmans” wins the audience award in Toronto
Steven Spielberg had never premiered a film at the Toronto International Film Festival until he brought “The Fabelmans” to TIFF last year – and the deeply personal coming-of-age story not only drew a rapturous reception, it won the People’s Choice award that had previously gone to Oscar winners “Nomadland,” “Green Book,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” among others.
It made “The Fabelmans” the early frontrunner for Best Picture – but as Spielberg knew well, that’s a hard position to maintain for an entire awards season. (His “Saving Private Ryan” and “Lincoln” had been frontrunners, too.) With Spielberg’s film up as the apparent favorite, the pressure was off other dark-horse candidates – including “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – for a couple more months.
Sept. 30, 2022 and Jan. 9, 2023: “RRR” blows away the Chinese Theatre
S.S. Rajamouli’s over-the-top musical action epic “RRR” is three-plus hours of wild action interspersed with songs; the Telugu-language film is the kind of movie that never gets recognized by the Academy. But inspired by raves for its initial theatrical release, the filmmakers launched an awards campaign for the film and for its song “Naatu Naatu,” the soundtrack for the year’s most deliriously entertaining dance sequence.
The highlights of the campaign were a pair of screenings at the huge TCL Chinese Theatre at which the audience shouted, stomped, cheered for the intermission card and danced in the aisles and at the base of the screen for “Naatu Naatu.” It only got “RRR” one nomination, for “Naatu Naatu,” but the song won the Oscar after the show staged a fun — if much smaller — version of the number on the Kodak stage.
Nov. 28: Ke Huy Quan wins the Gotham Award
At the first major awards show of the season, the Gotham Independent Film Awards, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won the first of the many awards it would pick up over the next four months. But just as importantly, comeback kid Ke Huy Quan, barely seen in Hollywood since he acted in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies” in the 1980s, won his first major award in a gender-neutral supporting performance category that also included Jessie Buckley and Ben Whishaw in “Women Talking,” Hong Chau in “The Whale,” Brian Tyree Henry in “Causeway” and Nina Hoss and Noemie Merlant in “Tar.”
Just as important as the award was Quan’s exuberant acceptance speech, which instantly turned him into the winner whose speeches would be a highlight of every subsequent show.
Oscars 2023 Fashion Details (Photos)
Dec. 21: “Good Night Oppy” doesn’t make the documentary shortlist
In the Oscars documentary category, Ryan White’s Mars rover doc “Good Night Oppy” had been considered a likely nominee since its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September. Not only that, it fit the bill to be a winner like “My Octopus Teacher” – a feel-good movie that would win over the weightier, more serious films that make up most of the category.
But when the shortlists were announced in 10 Oscar categories in December, “Good Night Oppy” was the most shocking omission. Could the members of the Oscars Documentary Branch have been worried that a lighter film would win? “That’s my branch,” one doc filmmaker later said. “They knew the best way to stop it from winning was to keep it off the shortlist.”
Jan. 19 and Feb. 19: BAFTA goes for “All Quiet on the Western Front”
When it premiered in Toronto, Edward Berger’s harrowing German-language version of “All Quiet on the Western Front” was well received, and the film was clearly a major contender in the Oscars Best International Feature Film category. But the major Hollywood guilds – the Directors Guild, Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild – hadn’t nominated it for anything when the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) announced its EE British Academy Film Awards nominations on Jan. 19, with the 14 noms for “All Quiet” leading all films.
BAFTA helped make “All Quiet” Netflix’s leading Best Picture contender. And a month later, when the film won seven awards, including Best Film, the idea that it could actually be a possible Oscar winner took hold as well.
Jan. 24: Andrea Riseborough gets a nomination and stirs things up
Even in an era in which some Oscar-nominated films barely get theatrical releases, “To Leslie” was tiny. An indie drama that made a paltry $27,000 at the box office, it seemed wildly unlikely to land an Oscar nomination for lead actress Andrea Riseborough. But spurred by the film’s director, Michael Morris, and his wife, Mary McCormack, notables like Edward Norton and Gwyneth Paltrow began tweeting about Riseborough and hosting screenings in early January – until against all odds, this well-organized “grassroots campaign” succeeded and Riseborough received a nomination that was expected to go to Viola Davis for “The Woman King” or Danielle Deadwyler for “Till.”
But the nomination – and the fact that it seemingly came at the expense of two Black actresses – subjected the campaign to scrutiny and made it clear that some of the Academy’s overly-vague campaign rules had been violated. AMPAS investigated and determined that Riseborough shouldn’t have her nomination rescinded, but they also said they’d deal privately with the rules violations and would reconsider and clarify their own rules. And that will probably make Riseborough the only one of this year’s nominees whose nomination will result in a change in Oscar rules.
Feb. 25: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” wins the Producers Guild Awards
For much of awards season, the Achilles Heel for “Everything Everywhere” was thought to be that it was divisive: Lots of people loved it, but others – particularly the older voters that are prevalent in the Academy – didn’t like it or didn’t get it, and would rank it low on their ballots under the ranked-choice voting system used in the Oscars Best Picture category.
But the Producers Guild uses that system, too – and on Feb. 25, “Everything Everywhere” beat “Top Gun: Maverick,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “The Fabelmans” and most of its leading contenders for the PGA Award. The message was clear: If a small, eccentric indie film can beat a blockbuster like “Top Gun” under ranked-choice voting when the voters are movie producers, it can win the Oscar, too.
Feb. 26: The SAG Awards go for “Everything” almost everywhere
Going into the Screen Actors Guild Awards, “Everything Everything All at Once” was the clear favorite in the supporting actor category with Ke Huy Quan, and a potential winner for ensemble cast as well. But the voters didn’t stop there: Michelle Yeoh, who had been in a tight race that Cate Blanchett usually won, took the best-actress award, and Jamie Lee Curtis scored a shocking win in a category whose nominees were identical to the Oscars’ Best Supporting actress lineup: Oscar favorites Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) and Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), plus Hong Chau from “The Whale” and Curtis’ “Everything Everywhere” co-star Stephanie Hsu.
When her name was announced, Curtis said, “Oh, shut up!” But that surprise win not only helped reinforce the strength of “Everything Everywhere,” it put Curtis at the top of her category just four days before Oscar voting began.
Then the last two weeks passed in a flurry of final awards shows (seven in one weekend alone) and a lot more wins for “Everything Everywhere.”
And now, SXSW is going on, Cannes is a little more than two months away and for all we know, next year’s awards season has already begun.