Will ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ make history as first sci-fi film to win Best Picture Oscar?

Everything Everywhere All at Oncewon the Gotham Award for Best Feature against potential Oscar rivals “TAR” and “Aftersun.” And it cleaned up in the nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards. These prizes are strictly focused on low-budget filmmaking, but the film is nevertheless emerging as an early Oscar-season favorite. A decade ago I would’ve assumed it couldn’t win Best Picture due to its outlandish style and genre, but the times they are a-changin’, so now I think it’s possible that the film will make history as the first sci-fi Best Picture ever.

The Oscars have been notoriously stingy to sci-fi, generally preferring gritty realism to what they might consider flights of fancy. Occasionally a sci-fi film will earn major nominations, but it always loses Best Picture to something more grounded in the real world. “Star Wars” lost to “Annie Hall” (1977). “E.T.” lost to “Gandhi” (1982). “Avatar” and “District 9” lost to “The Hurt Locker” (2009). “Inception” lost to “The King’s Speech” (2010). “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Martian” lost to “Spotlight” (2015). “Arrival” lost to “Moonlight” (2016). “Black Panther” lost to “Green Book” (2018). And “Dune” just lost to “CODA” (2021).

But there have been more sci-fi films gaining recognition, especially since the Oscars expanded the Best Picture category in 2009. And as the academy has expanded in recent years to diversify its membership, we’ve seen them make quirkier choices. Could a fishy fairy tale like “The Shape of Water” (which itself could arguably be considered sci-fi) have won 20 years ago? Could a bloody Korean-language satire with horror elements like “Parasite” have won?

And voters have been opening their collective minds for longer than that. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) busted down the doors for genre films, winning Best Picture as a full-blown epic fantasy. And “Birdman” (2014), though set in the real world, had magical-realist elements. So why not “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” where a mother (Michelle Yeoh) goes on an action-packed interdimensional journey to save her daughter (Stephanie Hsu)?

It would be one of the most unusual films ever to win Best Picture, but we’ve seen from its initial awards results that it stands up to scrutiny. It could follow “Parasite’s” path as an offbeat selection with a passionate industry response and a strong rooting factor. Its unabashed, glorious weirdness has the potential to be divisive, which could hurt it on the Oscars’ preferential ballot — it does include a butt plug as a significant story element, for instance — but it also has that little-movie-that-could vibe that so helped “CODA” last year.

Steven Spielberg‘s very grounded, very traditionally Oscar-friendly “The Fabelmans” has had the lead in our Oscar odds for a while now, but don’t be surprised if the momentum starts to shift as the awards season progresses.

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