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The Oscars’ Multilayered Emphasis on Family

Hollywood’s Dolby Theater hosted the 95th Academy Awards last night. And in one sense, there weren’t many surprises. In another way, though, I found myself quite surprised at several things—and pleasantly so, I might add.

As expected, the genre-busting phenomenon Everything Everywhere All at Once walked away with Oscars in seven categories, including the big ones for Best Picture, Best Director(s) (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing. Three of its stars earned Oscar trophies to raucous applause: Michelle Yeoh (Best Actress), Jamie Lee Curtis (Best Supporting Actress) and Ke Huy Quan (Best Supporting Actor), the latter of whom was previously best known for his ‘80s roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies.

Note: The R-rated Everything Everywhere All at Once has some considerable content problems to navigate, as our reviewer Kennedy Unthank pointed out. So before you consider watching it, you’ll want to check out our full review.

The Oscars’ biggest winner this year isn’t an easy film to watch, either in terms of its content (violence, profanity and suggestive LBGT themes) or its madcap pace. Top Gun: Maverick it ain’t. The core story follows a deeply discontented woman who learns that she’s the key to saving not just the universe, but the multiverse. The movie’s antagonist believes there’s no meaning to be found in any dimension. Our hero, Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) must find it by tapping into different versions of herself throughout the multiverse.

That meaning, it turns out, is buried in complex, overlapping and often disappointing relationships: with her daughter, her husband, her father, even the cantankerous woman doing her taxes. And the key to rescuing the universe doesn’t involve killing, say, Thanos, but rather learning to love those closest to her in small, concrete but powerful ways.

I like that—even if there’s a lot about the content in this film I wish could’ve been dialed back.

Everything Everywhere All at Once’s triumph wasn’t a surprise. But some of the other things that happened during the broadcast were.

Not in huge ways, mind you. But more than most years there was an earnest tenderness among so many of the winners that felt sincere and winsome. The gathered attendees roared their approval at the wins of both Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. And both of them talked about the roles their parents played, and the sacrifices their parents made, on their behalf.

Indeed, moms and dads (but mostly moms) got more shout-outs than I can ever remember at the Oscars. And with each thank you to parents who believed in their children’s potential, who believed in their children’s creativity and passion, I couldn’t help but get a bit misty.

I don’t think anyone would say that Hollywood, collectively, has been a bastion of family values recently. But here, on Tinseltown’s biggest stage, we heard story after story about the difference parents made by loving, serving and believing in their kids. It was a powerful reminder of the bedrock principle that parents matter, that their love matters. Families are the crucibles that shape our hearts and imaginations, that plant seeds of stories that may not fully germinate until many years, or decades, later.

One my favorite moments came when a particular recipient—honestly, I can’t remember which one—said something like, “My mom’s here somewhere. Mom, where are you at?” That was followed by a yell from somewhere way up in the balcony, the kind of yells that parents at soccer games, swim meets, plays and band recitals give every day the world over. And I couldn’t help but smile.

Hollywood’s not perfect. I’m not trying to suggest it is. Nor was this broadcast. But as Oscars broadcasts go, I’ll take it. This year was a nice, even poignant reminder that moms and dads matter, that all of us in those roles have the opportunity to shape the stories of our children—and maybe even some of the stories they eventually share.

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

2 Responses

  1. -As far as Oscar presentations go, I thought it was a pretty good broadcast. No major drama, a few surprises, that great “Naatu Naatu” dance number, and a lot of stunning fashion. TWO WORDS: Angele Bassett.

  2. -I adored that movie (my #2 for the year) but wanted Top Gun: Maverick (my #1, and experiencing that film in 4DX motion-simulation is like nothing I’ve ever seen) to take top honors. The former took a lot of risks to a grand payoff, but while the latter did nothing original, it did everything right. Both films have definitely held up on repeat home viewings.

    I didn’t mind “Everything, Everywhere’s” adult content, but considering how juvenile its genre too often tends to feel, that content makes the film unnecessarily difficult to recommend to the kinds of audiences I think could benefit most from seeing it (teenagers being sold a blockbuster-industrial complex, and while the individual films aren’t necessarily bad or even immoral, the story arcs feel like they’re more about propagating endless chains of villains to fight than about solving actual problems for the better). It was welcome to see a superpower story where the fight scenes feel like they provide context for the more important human dramas instead of the other way around, to say nothing of how gorgeous the film looked (except for the photosensitive late-film montage).

    I was torn on Angela Bassett—I think she had a phenomenal performance in her own film (itself I would categorize as “pretty good”), probably the one thing I really considered distinctive about it other than a vastly improved first-half pacing from its predecessor IMO—but I did think that Jamie Lee Curtis had an excellent performance in a beautiful story.