Surreal sci-fi film "Everything Everywhere All at Once" dominated the Oscars, winning best picture, Hollywood's most coveted prize. With 11 nominations, it was the favourite to win big. It did just that, picking up seven trophies. The film, about a laundromat owner who must unlock the secrets of the multiverse while also finding a way to reach out to her daughter, was a lot of things—in its own words, an “everything bagel”. But as an eccentric fantasy sci-fi action comedy, it was far from a typical Oscar nominee.
The unorthodox but popular movie—which features multiple universes, sex toys and hot dog fingers—also won best director, best actress, best original screenplay, best editing, and both the best supporting actor and actress prizes.
Two Indian films won awards too. "Naatu Naatu," the showstopper tune from SS Rajamouli's globally successful “RRR”, won the Oscar for best original song. Kartiki Gonsalves' “The Elephant Whisperers”, about an orphaned elephant and its empathetic human carers, was awarded Best Documentary Short. This is the first time Indians have won Oscars for Indian productions. Shaunak Sen's “All That Breathes”, winner at Sundance and Cannes in 2022, lost out in the Best Documentary Feature category to “Navalny”, about the imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.
Everything Everywhere star Michelle Yeoh, who is Malaysian, becomes the first ever Asian woman to win best actress, for her portrayal of an exhausted Chinese laundromat owner embroiled in battle with an inter-dimensional supervillain -- who happens to be her daughter.
"Thank you to the Academy, this is history in the making!" she said.
"Ladies, don't let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime," added the 60-year-old, whose career began decades ago with martial arts films in Hong Kong.
Brendan Fraser won best actor for playing a morbidly obese teacher in "The Whale," capping a remarkable career comeback.
Fraser was a major star in the 1990s with films like The Mummy, before largely disappearing from the public view.
"I started in this business 30 years ago, and things—they didn't come easily to me," he said. Visibly moved, he thanked director Darren Aronofsky for "throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard the good ship The Whale."
"Everything Everywhere," comfortably the night's biggest winner, is a word-of-mouth smash hit that has grossed $100 million at the global box office.
In a plot that is not easily described, Yeoh's heroine Evelyn must harness the power of her alter egos living in parallel universes, which feature hot dogs as human fingers, talking rocks and giant dildos used as weapons.
The film, which features a predominantly Asian cast, was directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert—two young filmmakers who were previously best known for an oddball comedy about a talking corpse.
Kwan thanked his "immigrant parents," while his counterpart thanked his mother for never "squashing my creativity," including when he had dressed in drag as a child. "Which is a threat to nobody," he added, to enormous cheers.
Vietnam-born Ke Huy Quan, 51, who was a major child star in the 1980s with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "The Goonies," completed a stunning comeback from decades in the Hollywood wilderness by winning best supporting actor.
"Mom, I just won an Oscar!" said a tearful Quan.
"My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood's biggest stage... this is the American Dream!"
Best supporting actress Jamie Lee Curtis paid tribute to her parents Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, both Oscar-nominated actors who never won.
"All Quiet on the Western Front," Netflix's German-language World War I, finished the night in second place with four awards.
It won best international feature and best cinematography early in Sunday's ceremony.
As the night progressed, it also gathered Oscars for best original score and best production design.
But it ultimately could not stop the "Everything Everywhere" juggernaut, and lost adapted screenplay to "Women Talking," and best sound to "Top Gun: Maverick."
Tom Cruise's "Top Gun" sequel had been seen as another potential best picture contender, having helped bring audiences back to movie theaters after the pandemic.
While Cruise did not attend Sunday's ceremony, the night began with a thunderous flyover by two US Navy jets, soaring at 345 mph over the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Host Jimmy Kimmel was then lowered onto the stage, and he quickly launched into a monologue which laid into Will Smith's infamous attack on Chris Rock at last year's Oscars.
The specter of "The Slap" has hung over the Oscars since Smith assaulted Rock on stage for cracking a joke about his wife.
Smith was allowed to stay at the gala, and accept Hollywood's top male acting prize soon after, but has since been banned from Academy events for a decade.
"If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during the show—you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor, and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech," joked Kimmel.
In the night's other prizes, "Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" won best animated film, and "Avatar: The Way of Water" won best visual effects.
Academy bosses hope that Oscars television ratings will pick up from recent years, calling in heavy hitters from the world of music to perform the other nominated songs. A dressed-down Lady Gaga sang an emotional, heartfelt rendition of her song "Hold My Hand" from "Top Gun: Maverick." And Rihanna—draped in diamonds, including over her baby bump—sang "Lift Me Up" from "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," which won for best costume design. Lenny Kravitz performed the annual "In Memoriam" segment.
(With reporting by AFP)