A movie where characters have hot dogs for fingers won 7 Oscars. Even weirder, it was completely heartwarming and may have just saved the Academy from dying of its own elitism and creeping irrelevance.
Yes, I’m talking about the legendary Oscar sweep of Everything Everywhere All At Once.
The Academy Awards have a lot of baggage. Last year, Will Smith literally slapped Chris Rock over a bad joke. This year was different, though – drama-free, respectable, watchable, and even funny. When was the last time anyone said that about the Oscars?
Jimmy Kimmel was wrangled into hosting again, which turned out to be a great choice (despite how much online hate he gets). He ran the show like a well-oiled machine. Jokes were funny but not pushing the boundaries. Acceptance speeches kept to their allotted 45 seconds. Basically, everyone was on their best behavior, and it was absolutely refreshing.
I would have been happy with just a well-run awards show where I got to watch people be recognized for their hard work. What I was not expecting was an award show with a lot of heart. And you can’t talk about how heartfelt the awards were this year without talking about Everything Everywhere All At Once.
The marketing power of A24 made it possible for art like Everything Everywhere All At Once to get the credit it deserves
Everything Everywhere went in with 11 nominations and walked away with 7 wins. Despite the cast being made up of veteran actors, it still felt like a band of misfits. A lot of the major actors are older (Ke Huy Quan is 51, Michelle Yeoh is 60, and Jamie Lee Curtis is 64), but none of them had ever won an Oscar before. The movie had been out for an entire year and, honestly, the plot of Everything Everywhere is absolutely bonkers. But despite all that, they won, and their sincere acceptance speeches actually had me tearing up.
But I also noticed one common theme about the acceptance speeches of Everything Everywhere that stuck out to me. They kept mentioning A24, the independent entertainment company that funded, produced, and distributed the movie.
Then it occurred to me – the heartwarming Best Picture victory of Everything Everywhere is a testament to A24’s marketing skills. They’ve built a great brand and have consistently made top-notch films. This, in turn, has inspired deep emotional connections between the audience and their movies. And now that has finally resulted in great screenwriters, directors, and long-overlooked, underappreciated actors getting much-deserved praise for their art.
So let’s talk about how good marketing set the stage for good art, and then ultimately, some really heartwarming moments at the Academy Awards.
Skip here if you know what the Academy Awards are and are familiar with the plot of Everything Everywhere All At Once.
How do the Academy Awards work?
Unless you live under a rock, you know what the Academy Awards are. You’ve probably know that it’s called “The Oscars.”
But who is Oscar? Well, that is still up to debate.
More to the point – we need to talk about how the Academy Awards works.
Who makes up The Academy?
When actors say, “I’d like to thank the Academy,” they are talking about the professionals that make up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This “academy” is composed of professionals from various disciplines within the film industry. Members include actors, directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, editors, and experts in fields such as visual effects, sound, costume design, makeup, and more.
Add everyone up and you have a total of 9,000 members. No wonder the actors just want to lump them all together and refer to them as “The Academy!” Even listing the branches alone would cue the “get off the stage” music!
But how does one become a member? Invitation only.
Candidates are typically sponsored by two existing members from the same branch as the candidate. Not only that, but an individual’s body of work, contributions to the field of filmmaking, and overall professional achievements are all taken into consideration during the selection process.
Only after they have been invited, vetted, approved, and inducted can they have the privilege of voting on nominees and winners for the annual Academy Awards.
On the one hand, this ensures that nominated movies are actually solid pieces of work. On the other hand, this cloak-and-dagger, invitation-only system for choosing “the Academy” plays a huge role in why people think of it as elitist and insular.
How does the Academy pick the nominees and winners?
Now that we have our 9,000+ voters, let’s look at the actual voting process. First up, we have to choose the nominees. These people and works must be nominated by an Academy member before they can receive votes. Then there are 2 rounds of voting.
The first round takes the massive pool of creative works and narrows it down to the “short list.” But then there is another round of votes where the entire Academy votes on just the short list based on their field of work. Winners are determined by a majority vote.
Then on the magical night of the Oscars ceremony, the film community gathers together for the red carpet event where winners are announced.
What you need to know about Everything Everywhere All At Once
For the 95th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, there were a few films that stood out among their peers. And as we all know, Everything Everywhere All At Once was definitely one of those films. In case you haven’t seen the movie yet, below is a spoiler-free synopsis of the movie! (It doesn’t do the movie justice because there’s just…so much movie to talk about).
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a mind-bending, genre-defying film that explores the concept of the multiverse and the limitless possibilities it presents. The story follows Evelyn Wang, a Chinese-American immigrant weighed down by the pressures of running a laundromat and dealing with a tax audit. While dealing with that, she suddenly discovers that she has the ability to access the experiences and skills of her alternate selves in countless parallel universes.
As she grapples with her newfound powers, Evelyn is thrust into an interdimensional adventure that forces her to confront the challenges and complexities of her own existence. Along the way, she encounters a colorful cast of characters and must come to terms with her own choices and the impact they have on not just her life, but the lives of those around her.
Blending elements of science fiction, comedy, and drama, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a visually stunning and thought-provoking film that challenges viewers to question the nature of reality and the infinite potential within us all.
But again – this is barely scratching the surface. You have to see it to get it.
What is A24 and where do they come into the picture?
Can I tell you a secret? I actually didn’t know what A24 was before writing this article.
But once I went down the rabbit hole of research, I realized just how much production companies like A24 do for their movies. Previously, I thought production companies merely acted as financial backers and had some say in the creative process, but otherwise that was that. Evidently, they do a lot more than that.
What is A24?
As previously mentioned, A24 is an American independent entertainment company established in 2012. They’ve made a huge impact on the film and television landscape.
Founded by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges, the New York City-based company is known for its innovative and unique marketing strategies for its films. They often focus on creating engaging content, including trailers, posters, and social media campaigns that emphasize the film’s themes, visual style, and key elements without revealing too much about the plot. Which is refreshing considering I feel like I watch a preview or even a commercial and it gives away the entire movie.
You might recognize some of A24’s more notable releases, such as Best Picture winner Moonlight (2016); Lady Bird (2017), The Florida Project (2017), Hereditary (2018), Eighth Grade (2018), Midsommar (2019), and The Lighthouse (2019). Big fan of the TV show Euphoria or Ramy? You can thank A24 for those too.
How A24 used marketing to fill the great moviemakers’ bookshelves with Oscars
A huge testament to A24’s belief in Everything Everywhere is that they kept the movie in conversation for an entire year from when it first debuted at SXSW on March 11, 2022 to Oscar night on March 12, 2023. Keeping a movie on the minds of the entire Academy for 12 months is a huge deal.
The last time a movie went a year between debut and winning an Oscar was Silence of the Lambs back in 1991. Point is – Everything Everywhere is a great movie, but a year-long wait is a huge obstacle to overcome if you want to show up at the Academy Awards.
Check out the debut dates for the other nominees for Best Picture:
- Top Gun: Maverick: May 27, 2022
- Elvis: June 24, 2022
- Triangle of Sadness: September 13, 2022
- Tar: October 7, 2022
- All Quiet on the Western Front: October 14, 2022
- The Banshees of Inisherin: October 21, 2022
- The Fabelmans: November 11, 2022
- Avatar: Way of Water: December 16, 2022
- Women Talking: December 23, 2022
Now are you seeing why this is such a big deal?
Let’s break down how A24 has demonstrated the power of consistent branding, emotional storytelling, and investment in quality content, resulting in massive wins and broken records.
1. Consistency is the bedrock of good marketing and A24 is very consistent.
One of the key factors in A24’s success is their unwavering commitment to consistency. From the films they produce to their marketing campaigns, A24 has established a clear brand identity that resonates with audiences and industry professionals alike. This consistency has allowed them to cultivate a loyal fan base that eagerly anticipates their next release.
Just take a look at the movies on A24’s website. If you didn’t know you were looking at a specific film studio’s output, you could be forgiven for thinking you were on the Criterion Collection’s website.
2. A24 has a well-established brand of being artsy and innovative in promotion, not just products.
A24’s branding goes beyond just the films they produce. The company has consistently demonstrated a keen understanding of the power of visual identity. For Everything Everywhere, A24 created eye-catching posters, trailers, and social media content that showcased the movie’s unique blend of genres and visual style, without giving away too much of the plot. Just look at these posters and tell me you’re not a little intrigued.
But the marketing for this movie was relatively tame too. Consider their strategy for marketing Ex Machina in 2015:
A24 used the dating app Tinder to market to unwitting festival visitors. When Tinder users clicked on an attractive woman named Ava, she would engage and eventually invite them to check out her Instagram. When potential daters visited her Insta page, it featured only a trailer for Ex Machina. …The film ended up being received very positively at the festival and went on to become a hit at the box office, grossing $35 million on a $15-million production budget.The Age of Ideas, PODCAST #23: THE STORY OF A24. WHY TRUST IS CRITICAL TO BUILDING A MODERN BRAND.
At another time, during the COVID-19 pandemic, A24 got permission to turn some billboards into outdoor movie screens so people could watch movies at socially-distanced gatherings. The point is – they are relentlessly experimental, and have a knack for figuring out what is going to get the maximum amount of attention on the movies they carefully choose to back.
3. A24 movies are very diverse – but they all have one thing in common. They will make you have ALL the emotions.
One of the defining characteristics of A24’s films is their ability to evoke a wide range of emotions in their audiences. Everything Everywhere All At Once is no exception, exploring themes of love, loss, identity, and the complexities of human existence in a way that is both engaging and thought-provoking.
Everything Everywhere is fundamentally a story about a mom trying to reconnect with her daughter. The Florida Project is a slice of life about a girl growing up in poverty. Ex Machina is basically a Frankenstein story. The details of each of these movies – and everything A24 backs – are incredibly complex. But at their core, they have deeply emotional roots that screenwriters know work. That plays a huge role in why so many of their movies succeed.
4. A24 never publishes bad movies. Never.
A24’s commitment to investing in quality content has been a driving factor in their success. The company has consistently demonstrated a willingness to take risks on unconventional projects and innovative storytelling techniques, resulting in a diverse and impressive body of work.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a prime example of A24’s commitment to quality. The film’s unique narrative structure, ambitious visual style, and complex themes could have easily resulted in a disjointed and confusing final product. However, A24’s investment in talented filmmakers and their dedication to nurturing creative visions allowed the film to become a cohesive and engaging experience for viewers.
But if you go through the long list of A24 movies on IMDb, you just don’t see many works with a rating below 6.5.
How Everything Everywhere Made the 95th Annual Academy Awards Wholesome
I’ve talked about why Everything Everywhere is great and how A24’s marketing operations paved the way for the movie to succeed in the first place. Now I want to talk about how the effort of everyone involved in the movie and the production company led to the impossible – an Academy Awards Show worth watching.
Everything Everywhere gave us the first Asian American to win Best Actress
First up, we have the 60-year-old queen, Michelle Yeoh. She will go down in the history books as the first Asian-American to ever win Best Actress at the Academy Awards. It’s long overdue because her resume is a pretty impressive one.
I’ll admit – I only knew her from her role in Crazy Rich Asians. But she has apparently been a favorite of mine since she rose to international fame as Wai Lin in the 1997 Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies (my all time favorite). Other major hits include Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Sunshine (2007), and The Lady (2011). Did I mention she is also a Trekkie? She has made several appearances in Star Trek: Discovery.
So NOW the fact that this absolute diamond of an actress is only now winning her first Best Actress Oscar is a welcomed joy to many. If you missed her acceptance speech, you can check it out below:
And ladies – don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up.Michelle Yeoh, age 60 brandishing her beacon of hope the Oscar Statuette
Everything Everywhere finally gave Jamie Lee Curtis a long-overdue award
Next, let’s celebrate horror flick, yogurt-eating, comedian extraordinaire, Jamie Lee Curtis. I love her. And not just for her yogurt commercials.
Jamie Lee Curtis has always just been there, a smile on her face, a joke in her pocket, a ray of sunshine in the murky waters of Hollywood. Born to Hollywood stars Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis got her start early in horror films in the 70s and 80s (including John Carpenter’s groundbreaking Halloween in 1978). Some other notable film credits include Trading Places (1983), A Fish Called Wanda (1988), True Lies (1994), Freaky Friday (2003), and Knives Out (2019).
Jamie Lee Curtis’ acceptance speech was full of all the people she wanted to thank, as is customary when accepting an award. But what made her speech wholesome was that she would list these people and then say “WE” just won an Oscar.
Showcasing how the movies, and any great project, is made up of large teams of people who work together to create magic. Also, I definitely teared up when she mentioned her parents, who were nominated for Oscars during their own careers but never had the honor of having their names called.
Everything Everywhere put Ke Huy Quan, the living embodiment of wholesomeness, back in the spotlight
Did you actually think that I was going to write this entire post and NOT mention the tear-jerking acceptance speech by none other than Short Round/Data?
I’m sure you all know, but I’m going to say it anyway. Actor Ke Huy Quan starred in two of my favorite childhood movies: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (now realizing I shouldn’t have watched that at that age…) and The Goonies (much more age appropriate).
After these two films (and a few smaller roles), Ke Huy Quan actually stepped out of the limelight for the next twenty years and instead worked behind the scenes, learned more about film in general, got a degree in film, worked on stunts and choreography. Basically to us regular peeps – he just sort of disappeared. Until it was announced that he was returning to the Silver Screen in Everything Everywhere.
If you are to only watch one video – you need to watch his. His excitement…his enthusiasm…his rapid speech…feels like he’s a kid again.
Even the directors and writers got recognized for their work
Next up on the record-breaking block are The Daniels. They’re the third ever co-directors to win the Best Director category. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are an American directing duo who have been directing together ever since strutting across the college graduation stage. This time they crossed a stage together again, but rather than a diploma – they received an Oscar.
Before The Daniels with Everything Everywhere, there have only been two other co-director teams that have won an Oscar for Best Director. The Coen Brothers brought home the trophies for No Country for Old Men in 2007. Before them, we have to go all the way back to 1962 with Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story.
When the Daniels went up for their speech, they each shared such a relatable moment that it put the biggest smile on my face. Daniel Scheinert thanked his teachers from childhood for all that they taught him, including how to not be “a butthead”. And Daniel Kwan’s throwaway comment of “my imposter syndrome is at an all time high” was such a refreshing reminder that these guys are just people riding the high of the ultimate recognition in their field.
Oh yea, as an aside, The Daniels also won Best Original Screenplay. Because yea, they also wrote the whole dang movie too.
Another sweet moment was when Paul Rogers won Best Film Editing for Everything Everywhere. Why is this particularly sweet? Because it is only his second ever feature film to edit.
Another fun fact? He met The Daniels at Daniel Scheinert’s birthday party. Think about that the next time you want to bail on a social gathering!
A wonderful coming together moment when Best Picture was announced
What has become quite possibly the most heart wrenching (in a good way) moment of the Oscars for me, was when Harrison Ford announced that Everything Everything won Best Picture, and Ke Huy Quan kept hugging Ford and screaming with glee. The artwork that talented artists have been flooding the internet with capturing this moment…it is quite possibly my favorite Oscar moment ever. Topping when Jennifer Lawrence tripped up the stairs (we’ve all been there).
The speech was nice, the whole team was so excited and happy to be up there (obviously), but I cannot and will not ever get over the sheer joy and sweetness of Ke Hy Quan and Harrison Ford, sharing Hollywood’s biggest stage.
Thank you A24. You saw our weirdness and supported us for a year. That’s incredible, Thank you.-Jonathan Wang, Producer
A24 saw the magical potential of this movie and they took a bet on it. They invested in quality cast and crew members. They wholeheartedly accepted the film’s brand of weirdness and ran with it. They let the strangely emotional storytelling of the movie do its thing. And finally they consistently marketed this movie for an entire year to make sure it stayed relevant come time for awards season. I think it worked, considering Everything Everywhere tied with Gravity for the most ever Oscar wins of a sci-fi flick at seven statuettes.
The artful but practical approach that A24 takes to filmmaking offers valuable lessons for aspiring creators regardless of niche. A24 is very deliberate about the kind of movies they produce, which is why they have such a strong brand identity and such a unique niche. That’s how they can take completely bizarre sci-fi movies to the Oscars and make film nerds scour the internet for any news on their latest movies.
Everything Everywhere All At Once and its success at the 95th Academy Awards serve as a testament to what can happen when a powerful company in the arts operates on thoughtful principles. Between the older actors, lesser-known directors, and a truly bizarre plot, Everything Everywhere was the ultimate underdog. And yet the emotional depth of the film spilled over its boundaries and ended up at the Academy Awards too. And so, the Oscars ended up being as wholesome as the Oscar-winning movie.