Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAAO), the multiverse-hopping, hotdog hand-waving, Chinese-American immigrant story that took everyone by surprise in 2022 has just become the most awarded film of all time.
Seven Academy Awards were presented to EEAAO in yesterday’s Oscars ceremony, including Best Picture, which brought its total wins this awards season to a whopping 165. That number beats out the previous title holder The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, with only (only!) 101 awards to its name. It’s also the first science-fiction film to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Michelle Yeoh, the star of the film, made history as the first Asian woman to ever win the Actress in a Lead Role Oscar. Ke Huy Quan, who once quit acting in 2002, capped off a massive comeback with an Oscar for best Actor in a Supporting Role. Jamie Lee Curtis also enjoyed her first ever Oscar win for playing Deirde Beaubeirdre, the cantankerous tax auditor.
This sweep was probably not surprising to any fans of EEAAO. But for those who’d like a deep dive into why the film was so wildly successful, here’s a breakdown of three key scenes.
The tax office fight
There are many, many epic fight scenes in Everything Everywhere All At Once – not for nothing did they cast the queen of Hong Kong action cinema, Michelle Yeoh – but the first big one is Evelyn (Yeoh) vs Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). It’s where the film fully turns from ‘immigrant mother tries to do her taxes’ to ‘woman embraces the multiverse and beats the crap out of her enemies’.
Evelyn Quan Wang, a laundromat owner who is having trouble with her IRS audit, can’t connect with her queer daughter Joy, and is losing her husband Waymond to imminent divorce, discovers suddenly that she isn’t the only version of herself out there. In fact, everyone from Waymond, to Joy, and even tax auditor Deirdre Beaubeirdre exist in multiple instances of this universe, where their personalities and abilities differ greatly.
Alpha Waymond has come from his universe into Evelyn’s to teach her the ways of multiverse-hopping and ability-grabbing, which leads to this epic fight between Evelyn and Alpha Deirdre (who wants a lot more with Evelyn than her receipts).
In the video above, the Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) break down the fight scene, and reveal that much of it was done in separate locations and then composited together in post-production. The moments in the car between Evelyn and Waymond were shot in completely different countries, with director Scheinert becoming a hand-double for Lee-Curtis.
The climax on the staircase, with Lee-Curtis leaping towards Yeoh and Quan, was done with a series of different shots encompassing the real actors, their stunt doubles, a studio set, and CGI elements.
They also explain that this scene acts as a ‘guide’ for understanding the rest of the film. Because things have been relatively ‘normal’ up to this point, audiences need to get on board with the weirdness fast. Exposition comes thick and fast in the form of Waymond showing Evelyn how to multiverse ‘jump’ by doing something statistically unlikely (eating a chapstick, giving yourself specific papercuts, saying ‘I love you’ to your auditor, etc). If you’re not convinced by this point to take a leap of faith, this film will leave you in the dust.
It’s scenes like this that really make you astonished that this entire film was shot in 40 days, with a team of five people doing the digital effects from their bedrooms during the pandemic lockdowns.
‘Just be a rock’
Show me another movie where a completely dialogue-free scene featuring two rocks can bring audiences to tears, and I’ll eat my hat.
After a dizzying journey through so many possible universes, audience’s eyes and brains need a break. Our cinematic rest-stop comes in the form of a universe where no organic material exists.
The scene isn’t CGI or Claymation as many have guessed. It’s just rocks! Yep. It’s just rocks – and they’re being puppeteered atop a desert cliff by two art department workers.
‘We just invented the most low-stimulation universe we could,’ Scheinert told Vanity Fair – in the same interview where Kwan revealed that his inspiration for the scene was a fight with an old girlfriend that culminated in her telling him that she wanted to be a rock, ‘because rocks cant feel anything’.
The Daniels initially wanted the rocks to be voiced by Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu, but it was Yeoh that advocated for the scene being totally silent, which resulted in the subtitled masterpiece we see today.
The everything bagel
One of Everything Everywhere All At Once‘s key ideas is the philosophy of the bagel vs the philosophy of the googly eye. Googly eyes are found everywhere in Evelyn’s laundromat thanks to her husband Waymond’s goofy sense of humour, but their presence actually represents a significant character trait of his: to face life’s challenges with a postive outlook. And the bagel, a favourite treat of Joy Wang’s, becomes the epitome of all multiversal possiblities when her evil alter-ego Jobu Tupaki takes everything – and that means absolutely everything – and puts it into a mystical bagel black-hole.
The image below compares both philosophies in a succinct way:
Jobu Tupaki’s outfit in the ‘bagel temple’ has become one of the most iconic looks of EEAAO, alongside her sparkly Elvis getup and preppy golfer gear. The costume was designed by New Zealand-born Claudia Li, in collaboration with head costume designer Shirley Kurata.
The designers were inspired by Elizabethan monarchs (as evidenced in the neck ruffle), sci-fi princesses (there’s more than a little Leia in there), and of course, the everything bagel itself.
The film’s hair and makeup artists, Michelle Chung and Anissa E. Salazar, told Mashable that they wanted to create looks with the specific purpose of having audiences recreate them on Halloween.
We can’t finish this article without a reference to the biggest scene stealer of EEAAO. It’s that film about the raccoon that lives under the chef’s hat and helps him make great food … you know, Raccacoonie!
Raccacoonie is 100% a puppet sitting atop the head of an actor. It’s incredibly silly, and incredibly funny.
Fun Fact: Randy Newman, of Toy Story’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’ fame, was the voice of Raccacoonie, in reference to the Pixar-animated film Ratatouille (2007). He is also a featured artist on the track ‘Now We’re Cookin’, the song that Raccaconie and his chef (Harry Shum Jr) sing together in the restaurant kitchen.
The Raccacoonie puppet recently sold at an A24 charity auction for a princely sum of $90,000 USD.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is now streaming on Binge and Prime Video.