Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win best actress, as Everything Everywhere All at Once dominated at the Oscars.
The creative multiverse adventure won seven awards including best picture, director and original screenplay.
Accepting her statuette, Yeoh said: “For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities.
“And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you that you are ever past your prime.”
Yeoh’s co-stars Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis triumphed in the supporting actor and actress categories. In the history of the Oscars, no other film has ever won the best picture, the best director and three acting prizes.
In Everything Everywhere All at Once, Yeoh plays a Chinese-American laundrette owner who is mired in a tax audit, stuck in a crumbling marriage and struggling to connect with her daughter Joy.
But when she discovers different versions of herself in the multiverse, she must tap into their skills in order to save the world.
“This is proof that dreams do come true,” Yeoh said in her speech. “I have to dedicate this to all the moms in the world because they are the superheroes, and without them, none of us would be here tonight.”
The 60-year-old enjoyed a late surge in momentum in this year’s Oscars race, ultimately overtaking the early frontrunner Cate Blanchett.
Yeoh is only the second woman of colour to win best leading actress, following Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball more than two decades ago.
Best leading actress has historically been far less diverse than the supporting actress category, where Ariana DeBose, Yuh-jung Youn, Regina King, Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o and Octavia Spencer have won in the past decade.
Brendan Fraser caps comeback
Elsewhere, Brendan Fraser capped his extraordinary comeback after years away from the Hollywood spotlight by winning best actor for his performance in The Whale.
Thanking the film’s director, the 54-year-old said: “I’m grateful to Darren Aronofsky for throwing me a creative lifeline.”
“I just wanted to say thank you for this acknowledgement,” he said.
Addressing his fellow nominees, he said: “You laid your whale-sized hearts so we could see into your souls, like no one else could do, and it is my honour to be named alongside you in this category.”
Fraser was a huge film star at the turn of the millennium, starring in films such as George of the Jungle and The Mummy.
But he spent years out of the spotlight as he struggled to recapture his earlier success, mostly taking on smaller roles.
That changed when he was cast in The Whale as an overweight professor trying to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter.
Fraser transformed his appearance for the film, which also won best make-up and hairstyling.
Ke Huy Quan’s emotional speech
Much like Fraser, best supporting actor winner Quan has enjoyed a comeback narrative this awards season. The actor catapulted back into the spotlight thanks to his role in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
He told the audience: “Dreams are something you have to believe in – I almost gave up on mine.”
The 51-year-old took an extended break from acting after rising to fame as a child star in films such as The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
In an emotional speech, the Vietnamese-American actor said: “They say stories like this only happen in the movies – I cannot believe it is happening to me. This is the American dream.
“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… Thank you so much for welcoming me back.”
Curtis won the first Oscar of her 45-year acting career by scoring best supporting actress – one of the tightest categories of the night.
“I know it looks like I’m standing up here by myself but I am not, I am hundreds of people,” Curtis said in her acceptance speech. “The entire group of artists who made this movie – we just won an Oscar.”
Everything Everywhere also won best editing, best original screenplay and best directing for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – jointly known as Daniels.
Accepting best picture, Kwan said “I realised growing up that one of the things we can do for each other is shelter each other from the chaos of this crazy world that we live in. Thank you to the storytellers who did that for me.”
All Quiet on the Western Front, Netflix’s German-language World War One epic, finished the night in second place with four awards – best international feature, original score, production design and cinematography.
Its success at the Oscars follows a string of technical wins at the Baftas, but the film failed to replicate its British victory in the top category.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio was named best animated feature. The Mexican filmmaker said: “Animation is cinema, animation is not a genre and animation is ready to be taken to the next step.”
Wakanda Forever’s Ruth E Carter repeated the best costume design victory she scored with the original Black Panther. She dedicated the prize to her mother, who died aged 101 last week.
There was a British win for The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse. The adaptation of the illustrated Charlie Mackesy book, which aired on BBC One over Christmas, won best animated short.
The award for best documentary feature went to Navalny, about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the events related to his 2020 poisoning.
In his speech, director Daniel Roher dedicated the award to Navalny, who has been imprisoned for two years, saying: “Alexei, the world has not forgotten your vital message to the world.”
Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, added: “Alexei, I am dreaming of the day you will be free and our country will be free, stay strong my love.”
There was a win in the best sound category for Top Gun: Maverick – one of the biggest box office hits of the past year – while Naatu Naatu from RRR won best original song.
Elsewhere at the ceremony, a dressed-down Lady Gaga sang a stripped-back rendition of Hold My Hand (from Top Gun: Maverick) while Rihanna sang Lift Me Up (from Wakanda Forever).
Jimmy Kimmel’s best Oscars jokes
The 95th Academy Awards ceremony was hosted by US chat show host Jimmy Kimmel, who opened with a monologue which reflected on the past 12 months in the film industry.
“They say Hollywood is running out of ideas. I mean, poor Steven Spielberg had to make a movie about Steven Spielberg,” he joked, referring to the director’s autobiographical best picture nominee The Fabelmans.
He also made jokes about the cancelled Batgirl film – commenting that the character was “the first superhero to be defeated by the accounting department”.
The US comic described Avatar: The Way of Water as “another opportunity for James Cameron to do what he loves doing more than anything else – drowning Kate Winslet” (the actress also appeared in Cameron’s Titanic).
“It was a big year for diversity and inclusion,” Kimmel continued, “we have nominees from every corner of Dublin.” The Banshees of Inisherin had four acting nominations, including Colin Farrell and Kerry Condon.
“Five Irish actors are nominated tonight which means the odds of another fight on stage just went way up.”
Finally, Kimmel referenced the event that overshadowed last year’s ceremony: Will Smith slapping Chris Rock.
“If anyone here commits an act of violence during the show, you will be awarded best actor,” Kimmel said, to much laughter, “and permitted to give a 19-minute speech”.
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