A Historic Oscars Night of Milestones, Firsts and Ceilings Shattered
The 95th Academy Awards, held at the Dolby Theatre, was a historic evening, especially for Asian talents.
A number of the winners, led by Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and The Daniels (directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) of the absurdist comedy-drama Everything Everywhere All at Once, made history and broke ceilings. Even India’s RRR movie original song “Naatu Naatu” set a historic milestone.
Golden Globe winner Yeoh, who won Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance as Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once became the first Asian woman and first Malaysian to take home this award. It was her first Oscar nomination.
In her acceptance speech, the 60-year-old actress said, “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching at home, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anybody ever tell you that you are past your prime.”
The former Miss Malaysia dedicated her historic win to her 84-year-old mom. She said, “I have to dedicate this to my mom, all the moms in the world because they are really the superheroes and without them, none of us would be here tonight. She is 84 and I am taking this home to her.”
Yeoh was only the second Asian woman to be nominated in this category. Merle Oberon, who earned a nod in 1935, passed herself as white and concealed the truth for the rest of her life. Yeoh is the first openly Asian woman to receive the honor.
It took 21 years (since Halle Berry’s milestone triumph) for the second woman of color to win Best Actress and 95 years for the first Asian woman to get the Oscar statuette.
The other actor who made history is Golden Globe winner Ke Huy Quan who won Best Actor in a Supporting Role in his first Oscar nomination for portraying Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once. He is the first Vietnam native to receive the honor and only the second Asian since Haing S. Ngor to triumph in the category for The Killing Fields almost 40 years ago.
The 51-year-old actor, who appeared in The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, also dedicated his award to his 84-year-old mom. “She’s at home watching,” he said in his acceptance speech. “Mom, I just won an Oscar!”
He continued, “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. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American dream.”
The tearful Quan added, “I owe everything to the love of my life, my wife, Echo, who month after month, year after year, for 20 years, told me that one day my time will come. Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine.
“To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
Yeoh and Quan’s victory marked the first time in the Oscars’ history that two Asian actors, and for the same movie, triumphed in a single year. It’s also unprecedented that they won for portraying Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese fluent parts.
Jamie Lee Curtis, who won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Deirdre Beaubeirdra in Everything Everywhere All at Once, thanked her castmates and moviegoers who have supported her all these years. It was also her first Oscar nod.
She said in her acceptance speech, “To all of the people who have supported the genre movies that I have made for all of these years, the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people, we just won an Oscar together.”
“My mother and my father were both nominated for Oscars in different categories. I just won an Oscar.”
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as The Daniels, won Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay in their first Oscar nominations in all the categories.
Scheinert thanked his parents “for not squashing my creativity when I was making really disturbing horror films or really perverted comedy films or dressing in drag as a kid, which is a threat to nobody.”
Kwan, who became the third winner of Asian descent to win a Best Director award after Chloé Zhao and Bong Joon Ho, said, “Scheinert is my confidence. He is the person who told me I was a storyteller before I believed it.” Kwan is also the first of Chinese descent to win (with Scheinert) the Best Original Screenplay.
Kwan said in his acceptance speech for Best Director, “We are all products of our context; we are all descendants of something or someone. I want to acknowledge my context – my immigrant parents – my father, who fell in love with movies because he needed to escape the world and thus passed that love of movies onto me. My mother, who is a creative soul who wanted to be a dancer, actor, and singer but could not afford the luxury of that life path and then gave it to me.”
He said when he accepted the Oscar for Best Picture, “This is for my dad, who like so many immigrant parents died young. And he is so proud of me not because of this (the Oscar statuette) but because we made this movie with what he taught me to do, which is…no one is more important than anyone else. And these weirdos right here (pointed at his beaming cast and fellow creatives) supported me in doing that. Wang Da Zhang, memory eternal.”
And then there was RRR movie’s “Naatu Naatu” song from India which won Best Original Song and became the first song from an Indian film to win in this category. The song, which also won a Golden Globe, was composed by M.M. Keeravaani and lyricist Chandrabose.
Only Cocaine Bear and Jenny the Donkey made special appearances.