Just as Ke Huy Quan made history at the SAG Awards, so did Michelle Yeoh. Like Quan, she’s the first Asian to win in her category, in this case, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role. And like Quan, she gave a wonderful, emotional speech, and dropped an F-bomb.
As with several other nominees this year, including Angela Bassett and Jamie Lee Curtis, Yeoh has been acting for decades and this is her first major awards run. That’s why Cate Blanchett winning everything for Tár has been so boring. It’s not that Tár is bad or that Blanchett is bad in it—it isn’t, and she isn’t—it’s just that Blanchett already has two Oscars, she’s already universally adored and widely acknowledged as one of the best of her generation. There’s no excitement to her winning because she wins all the time.
But Michelle Yeoh started out as a beauty queen in the 1980s and made the leap to acting after appearing in a commercial with Jackie Chan. She did most of her own stunts and made a series of cool ass Hong Kong action movies in the 80s with Cynthia Rothrock, retired from acting when she married Hong Kong producer Dickson Poon, then came roaring back in the 1990s after her divorce. She became a Bond woman, she did that incredible helicopter photo shoot, then came Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and STILL, Michelle Yeoh did not have respect put on her name around Hollywood. Only now, at age 60, after a multi-decade, storied career spanning two hemispheres is Michelle Yeoh being recognized by her Hollywood peers as one of their best, after giving the performance of her life in Everything Everywhere All At Once, a film about, in part, choices and how life diverges from what we want when we’re young. That’s a narrative! That’s exciting!
Cate Blanchett may very well get her third Oscar down the line, but does she need THIS Oscar, right now? No! And if she did win, I’m sure she’d give a perfectly nice speech, but could she match the raw emotion of Michelle Yeoh FINALLY having her moment? No, because Cate Blanchett has already been afforded so many of these moments in her career. And I’m not saying she didn’t deserve them, but again, only one person can win and Cate Blanchett winning everything all the time is boring. Michelle Yeoh winning is exciting, and deserved, and overdue. And now, thanks to winning at the SAG Awards—the last major stop before Oscar voting, and the award correlated with the biggest bloc of Academy voters—Michelle Yeoh has a fighting chance. The Best Actress race went from a Cate Blanchett snoozefest to a dead heat overnight.