[Only IN Hollywood] Will it be a big night for Asian talents at the Oscars?

Ruben V. Nepales
[Only IN Hollywood] Will it be a big night for Asian talents at the Oscars?

Michelle Yeoh accepts the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role award for "Everything Everywhere All at Once" during the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 26, 2023.

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

If Michelle and Ke Huy Quan go up the stage at the Dolby Theatre, they will be the first actors to be named Oscar winners for playing Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese-speaking characters

LOS ANGELES, USA – Will Michelle Yeoh make history as the first Asian to win best actress after almost a century in the Oscars history? Will both Michelle and Ke Huy Quan, up for best supporting actor, triumph and set a record as the first time in the Academy’s history that two Asian performers – and for the same film – won in a single year?

Those are among the tantalizing prospects in the 95th Academy Awards this Sunday evening (Monday morning, Manila time), March 12, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Still from ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once.’ Courtesy of A24

In another first, the Oscars has unprecedented four Asian actors who are nominated in the same year; three for same film, Everything Everywhere All at Once: Michelle, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu (best supporting actress), and Hong Chau (best supporting actress for The Whale).

While the Academy produced a bumper crop of nods for Asian talents this year, it’s a long-overdue recognition.

According to the New York Times, “Of 1,808 acting award nominees, only 23 could be identified as Asian. Just four have won.” These are Miyoshi Umeki (1958 best supporting actress for Sayonara), Ben Kingsley (1982 best actor for Gandhi), Haing S. Ngor (1984 best supporting actor for The Killing Fields), and Yuh-Jung Youn (2021 best supporting actress for Minari).

Back to Michelle, if she triumphs over Tar’s Cate Blanchett (they have been taking turns winning the best actress honors this awards season), she will be the first Malaysian and Southeast Asian to take home the Oscars statuette in that category.

According to ActionNetwork.com, which supplied some of the data in this piece, a win by the former Miss Malaysia will be the first time that the victor played the most characters in a single film. Michelle portrays about 70 versions of her character in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

If Michelle and Ke Huy Quan go up the stage at the Dolby Theatre, they will be the first actors to be named Oscar winners for playing Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese-speaking characters.

Ke Huy Quan during the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards® after party at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. Courtesy of HFPA

If Ke Huy Quan wins, it will be a dramatic victory for the actor who put his career on hold for decades due to the lack of Asian roles. The former child actor (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies) could be the first Vietnam native to bag an Oscar acting recognition.

If his name is called, he will only be the second Asian thespian to conquer the best supporting actor category since Haing S. Ngor almost four decades ago.

In the best supporting actress race, another first in the Academy’s 95-year history – two Asian women in this category: Stephanie and Hong. If Stephanie prevails, she will be the first performer of Chinese heritage to win. If Hong goes up the stage, she will be the first Thailand-born and performer of Chinese descent to get the 8.5-pound acting trophy.

Everything Everywhere All at Once’s The Daniels – Daniel Kwan, who has Chinese heritage, and Daniel Scheinert – stand a chance of being only the third duo to bag the best director prize. If they win, they are in good company – Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise for West Side Story in 1961 and the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, for No Country for Old Men in 2007.

The Daniels are also in the running for best original screenplay. If they are victorious, Kwan will be the first writer of Chinese roots to succeed in this category.

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If Everything Everywhere… bags the evening’s plum honors, best picture, also lauded will be Jonathan Wang, a Taiwanese American who produced the film with Kwan and Scheinert.

The movie’s other Asian American nominees include Mitski, with David Byrne and Ryan Lott, for best song, “This Is a Life”); Ian Chang and Rafiq Bhatia of Son Lux (with Ryan Lott), best score; and Shirley Kurata, best costume design.

Indians M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose are also competing in the best song race for “Naatu Naatu” from RRR, the blockbuster that topbills N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan. The nomination is the first ever in the song category from an Indian film, so if “Naatu Naatu” succeeds, it’s a historic victory.

In the best adapted screenplay, 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Kazuo Ishiguro has a chance to add an Oscar statuette to his mantel if he triumphs for his Living (starring a terrific Billy Nighy) script, adapted from Akira Kurusawa’s 1952 film, Ikiru.

Januel Mercado with a ‘Puss in Boots’ mascot. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales

Another Asian representing proudly at the Academy Awards is Domee Shi, whose Turning Red for Pixar is a best animated feature film nominee. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, also an animated contender, was co-directed by Filipino Januel Mercado, but under Oscar rules, the main director, Joel Crawford, and producer Mark Swift, are the ones listed as nominees.

There are Asian nominees in the other categories that may greatly boost the Asian presence in the Academy Awards’ winners roster.

Jimmy Kimmel hosts the show which will air live on ABC and broadcast outlets worldwide.

Among the presenters announced so far are Halle Bailey, Antonio Banderas, Elizabeth Banks, Jessica Chastain, John Cho, Andrew Garfield, Hugh Grant, Danai Gurira, Salma Hayek Pinault, Nicole Kidman, Florence Pugh, and Sigourney Weaver. – Rappler.com

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Ruben V. Nepales

Based in Los Angeles, Ruben V. Nepales is an award-winning journalist whose honors include prizes from the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards, a US-wide competition, and the Southern California Journalism Awards, presented by the Los Angeles Press Club.