The 2023 Academy Awards: An Emotional Night of Comebacks and History-Making

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After last year’s #SlapGate left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, the 95th Academy Awards brushed those memories aside for an evening filled with warmth, heartfelt speeches and a few surprising but welcome wins, including Best Actor for Brendan Fraser’s heartbreaking work in The Whale and Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh's genre-bending performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Everything won an additional six awards. German-language war film All Quiet On the Western Front was the next big winner with four.

Ke Huy Quan’s Best Supporting Actor early win for Everything Everywhere All At Oncereally set the tone for the rest of the night, making history as the first Vietnam-born actor to win an Academy Award, and only the second actor of Asian descent to win in this category. "My journey started on a boat," he said during his acceptance speech. "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." Quan has won the category at every major awards ceremony this year, including the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes.

Jamie Lee Curtis had one of the more surprising wins of the evening, as she was alongside Angela Bassett, Hong Chau, Kerry Condon and her co-star Stephanie Hsu. Visibly shocked and inaudibly saying "Oh shut up!" when presenter Ariana DeBose said her name, Curtis took the stage to deliver the second of many emotional speeches of the night. "To all of the people who have supported the genre movies that I have made all these years, the thousands of people, we just won an Oscar together!" she declared. She also thanked her parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, both of whom were nominated for Oscars in their careers, but did not win. "We just won an Oscar!" she said, looking toward heaven.

Ruth E. Carter previously made history in 2018 as the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. She picked up her second Oscar last night for the film’s sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. "Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is the Black woman," she said to a roar of cheers. "She endures, she loves, she overcomes, she is every woman in this film." With her win, Carter also became the first Black woman to win multiple Oscars. Carter’s mother, Mabel Carter, had passed away the week before. She explained that Wakanda Forever had prepared her for that loss. "Chadwick, please take care of mom," she movingly said.

Everything Everywhere All At Once writers/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known collectively as "The Daniels," enjoyed multiple wins for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. Kwan made history as the first writer of Chinese descent to win an Oscar in the Best Original Screenplay category. Scheinert made a point to thank the "teachers that changed my life, most of them public school teachers. You educated me, you inspired me, and taught me to be less of a butthead."

He also 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!" -- earning waves of applause from the audience.

"We are all products of our context," Kwan added. "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 passed that love of movies onto me." Kwan also thanked his mother who could not afford to pursue a creative career and instead bestowed it onto him.

Telugu-language Indian film RRR once again won Best Original Song after several wins throughout awards season. It was an esepcially well-deserved win after the high-octane performance by the cast of the film earlier in the ceremony. Composer M.M. Keeravaani and lyricist Chandrabose took the stage to accept the award, the former sharing, "I grew up listening to the Carpenters, now here I am at the Oscars." Their song "Naatu Naatu" is the first non-English song to win the award in fourteen years, the last being "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire.

Another welcome win and major comeback story this year was that of Brendan Fraser, who also won the Critics Choice Award in January for his role in The Whale. "Only whales can swim at the depth of the talent of Hong Chau," he gushed about his co-star, who was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category. I must say she was a standout in last year’s off-kilter thriller The Menuand very well could have been nominated twice. Fraser was, surprisingly, the first Canadian actor to win in that category.

In her impassioned speech, Best Actress winner Michelle Yeoh she began by saying, "To all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof to dream big and dreams do come true. And ladies don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime. Never give up." Yeoh made history as the first Southeast Asian actress to win an Oscar for her role as Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once. "I have to dedicate this to my mom and all the moms in the world because they are really the superheroes and without them, none of us would be here tonight."

Harrison Ford took the stage to present Best Picture, which went to Everything Everywhere All At Once, briefly reuniting him with his Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doomco-star Ke Huy Quan. Executive Producer Jonathan Wang accepted the award, thanking his wife and quoting one of my favorite lines from the film: "If all this shiny stuff and tuxedos goes away, I would love to just do taxes and laundry with you for the rest of my life."

"This is for my dad, who like so many immigrant parents died young," Wang said. "He is so proud of me, not because of this, but because we made this movie with what he taught me to do, that no person is more important than profits, and no person is more important than anyone else."

In every respect, the 95th Academy Awards was truly one for the history books.

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