Ray Richmond: ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ is looking like ‘Parasite’ redux

Mark your calendars, boys and girls. (Do people still keep calendars to mark?) This may well be one of those predictions I live to regret, like the time I was working for the Orange Counter Register as the paper’s TV critic in 1987 and I went out on a limb to proclaim that the public would never accept a bald-headed starship captain and thus “Star Trek: The Next Generation” would flop miserably. But this somehow feels different and, at the least, less likely to evoke a veneer of outright stupidity.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the wacky and dazzling “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is destined to follow the path forged by “Parasite” in 2020 and roll to Oscar riches. What does that mean? I’m thinking Best Picture (sorry, “The Fabelmans”) and Best Original Screenplay (again, sorry Steven Spielberg). But then I see a split verdict, with Spielberg getting Best Director as a very nice consolation prize. Gold Derby prognosticators are hot on the trail, with “EEAAO” a close second in the combined Oscar Best Picture odds behind “The Fabelmans.” In those same odds, writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka The Daniels) are tied for second for Best Director with Sarah Polley for “Women Talking” and star Michelle Yeoh is a solid second behind Cate Blanchett in the Best Actress lineup. “Everything Everywhere” is also leading in the Original Screenplay predictions.

In short, I think the Gotham Awards (handed out earlier this week) got it right in bestowing their Best Picture on “EEAAO,” which checks all the boxes as an art house feature hailed by critics for its boldness and originality. The Independent Spirit Awards also nailed it (so far) in honoring the film with a chart-topping eight noms, including Best Film, Best Director and castmates Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu. The view here is it will all lead inexorably to the predicted Best Picture triumph.

Admittedly, one has to be a little bit nuts to make this kind of declaration more than three months out from the Academy Awards. We’re not even close to knowing the nominees yet. But I feel like I’ve seen this movie before, and by “movie” I mean scenario. Mind you, I’m not making a judgment based entirely on quality or personal preference, simply an assessment of how the chips appear to be falling. Though for what it’s worth, it feels perfectly justified.

Let’s examine the similarities between “Parasite” and “Everything Everywhere.” Both have Asian roots. Both carry the imprimatur of being unique and thought-provoking in their approach. Both essentially reinvented their genres, though in the case of “EEAAO,” it’s more like a genre hyphenate: a black-comedy-science fiction-fantasy-martial arts extravaganza. Also, neither film was seen as a serious Best Picture contender when they dropped but hit the ground running and became word-of-mouth behemoths.

Now, there are also key differences here between the two films, perhaps chiefly the fact that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was released in March, so just short of a full year will have passed by the time the Academy Awards rolls around. “Parasite” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May, had an October release in the United States, and coasted through awards season, building momentum and gaining critical traction as it went. This is not a small thing, of course. But “Everything Everywhere” has already begun the process of establishing its own acceleration by winning one lead-up to the biggest prize, and it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the movie and its writer-directors and cast will be a major factor, if not outright dominate, the Golden Globes and Critics Choice (and possibly SAGs, DGAs and WGAs) lineups.

Now, would it be unconventional for the film academy to choose a movie so offbeat and far outside the mainstream for Best Picture? Of course it would. But so was “CODA” earlier this year. And “Nomadland” in 2021. And “Parasite” in 2020. And “The Shape of Water” in 2018. And “Moonlight” in 2017 despite the best efforts of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to give it to “La La Land.” And “Birdman” in 2015. In truth, it would be a far bigger surprise next year to honor something considerably more conventional like “The Fabelmans” or “Top Gun: Maverick” or even “Elvis” or “Glass Onion.”

Much as was the case with “Parasite,” the fact that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has a largely Asian cast is a big plus these days in Oscarland. It’s important to academy voters to manifest and promote diversity. In a few key ways, however, “EEAAO” is such a pure adrenaline thrill-ride of a movie that it stands alone, defying easy comparison to anything that came before. If you’ve just screened “Fabelmans” and “EEAAO” back to back, it’s tough to imagine that you’ll opt to honor the far more more safe and traditional choice no matter its considerable quality rather than one that’s wildly original in depicting inter-dimensional travel and the multiverse.

I emerged from watching “Everything Everywhere” with my head spinning, my heart racing, and my reality turned upside-down. That’s what a Best Picture victor should do to you, but that’s not the way it usually works. There are several other films I’ve seen that would also be worthy Oscar champs, including “She Said,” “The Whale” and, yes, “The Fabelmans” too. But the smart money is on “Everything Everywhere” to grow into an awards season juggernaut. The wheels of the bandwagon are already starting to spin.

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