Landmark Asian night at Oscars 2023

Michelle Yeoh, winner of the Best Actress in a Leading Role award for “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, poses in the press room during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on 12 March 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The 95th Academy Awards, which unreeled Sunday night at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California, saw Asian talent finally taking center stage as three of the biggest awards of the evening went to Asian artists.

Michelle Yeoh, long a star in her home country in Malaysia and in Hong Kong but who became well-known in mainstream Hollywood only recently through the martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, won the Best Actress Award for her performance in the genre-bending film Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Yeoh’s victory earned her a spot in the history books — she is the first Asian to bag the lead actress prize in the 96-year history of the Academy Awards, winning over the likes of Cate Blanchett (Tar), Ana de Armas (Blonde), Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), and Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie).

“Sunday’s statuette for the Malaysian actress comes at the end of a very successful awards season, with wins at the Golden Globes, the Spirit Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards,” reported Agence France Presse.

“The lack of Asian representation at Hollywood’s highest levels had been a constant in her interviews on the road to the Oscars.

“‘I feel a little sad because I know there have been amazing actresses from Asia that come before me, and I stand on their shoulders,’ she told the New York Times. ‘I hope this will shatter that frigging glass ceiling to no end, that this will continue, and we will see more of our faces up there.’”

Yeoh shattered the glass ceiling not only for Asian women, but also for women of her age, winning Hollywood’s top honor at 60 years old. “Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up,” she said in her speech.

Vietnam-born Ke Huy Quan wins Best Supporting Actor for “Everything Everywhere All at Once”.


American dream
Ke Huy Quan represented another landmark Asian win at this year’s Oscars.

The Vietnam-born former child actor who starred with Harrison Ford in the 1984 action-adventure classic Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had struggled for decades to get regular work in Hollywood.

But at 51 years old, with his acclaimed appearance in Everything Everywhere All at Once” Quan saw himself picking trophy after trophy in the long awards season leading up to the Oscars, and finally getting to the podium of the Dolby Theater to raucous cheers as this year’s Oscar Best Supporting Actor winner.

(angela weiss/agence france-presse) DANIEL Kwan holds the Oscar trophies for Best Director which he won with Daniel Scheinert.

“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, this, is the American Dream,” said an emotional Quan in his speech.

“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,” he added.

‘Products of our context’
Meanwhile, the independent film that Yeoh and Quan appeared in, “the bizarre, beloved Everything Everywhere All at Once,” as AFP described it, featured a mostly Asian cast and was this year’s improbable box-office juggernaut ($107.4 million so far). It ended up with seven wins out of 11 nominations, including the coveted Best Picture, Best Director for the directing pair of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and Best Screenplay (also by the Daniels).

In his speech, Kwan gave a shoutout to his Chinese immigrant parents — to his father “who fell in love with movies because he needed to escape the world and thus passed that love of movies on to me,” and to his mother “who is a creative soul who wanted to be a dancer, actor and singer, but cannot afford the luxury of that life path.”

“We are all products of our context,” added Kwan. “We are all descendants of something and someone and I want to acknowledge my context.”

Both Kwan and Everything Everywhere All at Once producer Jonathan Wang have parents who immigrated to the US from Taiwan.

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