In the end, its victory was utterly predictable and yet still totally implausible.
Everything Everywhere All at Once—a wacky sci-fi featuring hot dog fingers, sex toys, bagels, and talking rocks—on Monday, March 13 (Philippine time) became surely the most absurd film ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
With its unique blend of action, humor, and existential angst, the adventure of a Chinese American laundromat owner battling a multiverse-hopping supervillain entered the Academy Awards as the clear favorite.
It had dominated nearly every Hollywood awards ceremony in the buildup to the Oscars, and led the nominations for the night's gala with 11.
It ultimately fended off rivals such as Steven Spielberg's intimate memoir The Fabelmans, Tom Cruise's blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, and acclaimed tragicomedy The Banshees of Inisherin to claim Tinseltown's most coveted prize.
"If our movie has greatness and genius, it's only because they have greatness and genius flowing through their hearts and souls and minds," co-director Daniel Kwan said of his cast and crew.
Overall, the film won seven prizes: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, and both the Best Supporting Actor and Actress prizes.
A joyful tour-de-force in which dildos are used as nunchucks and an everything bagel represents a black hole of nihilism, Everything Everywhere could hardly be further from the classic Oscar canon.
Yet the modestly budgeted independent film not only found success with Hollywood and film industry voters, but with mainstream audiences, earning a whopping $100 million (over P5 billion) at the global box office.
It chronicles the unlikely odyssey of Evelyn Wang (played by Michelle Yeoh), an immigrant businesswoman who is overwhelmed by strained family relations and financial woes.
During a tax audit, the existence of parallel universes is suddenly revealed to her by forces who insist she holds the key to saving the entire multiverse from an evil force.
This shadowy threat turns out to be none other than the alter ego of her depressed lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu).
She must harness the wide-ranging powers of other Evelyns living vastly different lives in their own distant but inter-connected universes, from martial arts to opera singing.
In witnessing the myriad paths she did not take, this ordinary mother questions whether her life could have been more meaningful—and whether she and her family would have been happier.
'Bulldozed by the emotion'
While it is packed with pop culture references and bizarre conceits—not least a universe in which human fingers have been replaced by hot dogs—Everything Everywhere has deeply emotional, heartfelt messages at its core.
Audiences and voters "gave our movie a chance" and "got past the kind of things that were going to be 'too edgy' for them," producer Jonathan Wang recently told AFP.
"And then they were bulldozed by the emotion of it."
Yeoh has said "the one thing that stays with you is the emotion of love."
With its focus on a mother-daughter relationship, its use of the multiverse concept popularized by superhero movies, and the discussion of how modern life is oversaturated with information, Everything Everywhere has the clear feel of a movie made by and for a younger generation.
Co-director Daniel Scheinert has discussed how he and Kwan, both 35, set out to make "an empathetic story about how hard it is for our parents' generation to understand our generation."
"This film is almost a way for us to say, 'We see you in this chaos. (...) Maybe we can find a way to exist in all this noise,'" Kwan told The Verge.
'Look at us now!'
The film was originally written for Jackie Chan, but its lead role was reworked for his fellow martial arts superstar Yeoh, giving the movie a feminist tone and allowing the Malaysian actress to showcase her formidable range of talents.
The movie is also multicultural. It transforms an ordinary family of Chinese immigrants into superheroes, with characters alternating mid-sentence between English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
It revitalized the career of Vietnam-born actor Ke Huy Quan, who plays Evelyn's gentle husband Waymond.
Quan was a major child star with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, but had disappeared from acting due to a lack of roles.
As co-star James Hong, 94, commented after the film's Screen Actors Guild win last month, Hollywood has long marginalized Asian actors.
"But look at us now!" he concluded. (AFP)