Monday, March 13, 2023

An Everything Bagel for “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Well, it’s official: Everything Everywhere has now won everything everywhere, including the Oscar for Best Picture of 2022. I wish I had liked it better. I was so willing to challenge my initial impression—formed while I (somewhat sleepily) watched it from my living room couch—that last week I sought it out in an actual theatre. This time I stayed wide awake, and discovered lots of new instances of the film’s whimsical cleverness. But at a certain point I started to feel it was repeating itself. Am I the only moviegoer convinced it would have been a better movie if it were 30 minutes shorter? (A friend walked out early, saying the film made her feel assaulted.)  I did love all the leading actors, and felt they earned their accolades, but enough is enough, right? Hotdog fingers can only amuse us for so long.

 I do admit I got a kick of Everything Everywhere’s use of a bagel motif to suggest the mysterious unity of the cosmos. A century ago, a bagel was an ethnic snack known only to Jewish immigrant-types in places like New York City. When I read The Rise of David Levinsky, a 1917 novel about a Jewish  man starting life over in the New World, I came across a passage in which—suddenly homesick—David was comforted by finding on the streets of the Lower East Side someone hawking the  “ring-shaped rolls” he’d known back in Russia. I was momentarily stymied: what in the world was a ring-shaped roll? Suddenly it came to me. He’d found the bagel man . . . but readers of English-language novels in 1917 would not have known the word.

Now, of course, bagels are a worldwide phenomenon, although they take on the coloration of different cultures. (I saw edamame and banana-flavored bagels being sold in Kyoto, Japan.) Everything Everywhere, though, is probably the first movie in which they’ve played a major symbolic role. Yet bagels, I’ve discovered, have also entered the English language (in tennis scoring, for instance), as a slang indication of nothing, or zero. This being so, one of my big regrets regarding this year’s Oscar event was that some mighty fine movies got bageled. I’m not talking simply of small art-house flicks like Living, which was nominated both for its adapted screenplay and for Bill Nighy’s rich performance. Martin McDonagh’s complex and fascinating The Banshees of Inisherin was nominated for 9 Oscars, all of them in major categories, and couldn’t manage a single win. Likewise the admirable Cate Blanchett starrer, Tàr.  Steven Spielberg’s deeply-felt The Fabelmans got 7 noms, including one for its John Williams score, but it too came up empty.

 Some bageling went on in the always poignant obituary segment of the evening too. This year’s tributes seemed to include a larger than usual number of movie craftspeople, along with the vaunted celebrities. That’s entirely fitting and proper., and I was pleased to see recognition of Mike Hill, one of Ron Howard’s longtime film editors, along with Angela Lansbury and producer Walter Mirisch (In the Heat of the Night). Actor Robert Blake, whose checkered career included the role of a murderer in 1967’s In Cold Blood as well as an actual murder rap in 2001, may have died too recently to be included, though host Jimmy Kimmel mentioned him in a tantalizing quip. But it would have been nice to recognize the low-budget side of the industry, where Jamie Lee Curtis got her start, through a reference to Bert I. Gordon, beloved as Mister B.I.G. to millions of B (for Bagel?) movie fans.

Dedicated to the Evelyn Wang I once knew, MIT Professor of Engineering extraordinaire and someone who's probably never been in a laundromat in her life.

No comments:

Post a Comment