I find it hard to admit that Michelle Yeoh hasn’t given a performance on the level of Cate Blanchett, Michelle Williams or Andrea Riseborough. The Malay star is not that kind of actress. He plays in another league, yes, but not in that of the great figures of the interpretation. So what is it about this Oscar that has touched the hearts of so many cinephiles in a way that has rarely happened?
A large part of us started in cinema not so much as cinephiles but as cinephages. In other words: The seventh art dazzled us and we wanted to devour it all. When you’re a movie newbie, there’s no such thing as a bad movie. There are no prejudices. If you met this wonderful world in the 90s or 80s, then you will have been video club meat. In this case you will also have rented a Friday the godfather and on Saturday one of the action films that John Woo shot in Hong Kong. You also know that you enjoyed one as much as the other, because in your early fan mind you were learning by devouring everything that came your way.
The commercial cinema that came to you from the East was exciting to you. Whether action like martial arts, like samurai or Chinese epic. And there was Michelle Yeoh. Beautiful, with a physical presence on screen that made her the biggest female icon in Asian cinema. What’s going on? That outside your circle of couch and video friends, these were movies for geeks. It lacked recognition as great cinema. Cinema in capital letters, cinema of awards and festivals, cinema of Oscars.
You knew there was no reason to underestimate these products, but it was. The cinema with which your love for this medium was born was not valued as quality art.
That’s the value of Michelle Yeoh’s Oscar and that’s the reason why you enjoyed her nomination and prayed for her to win. It wasn’t for her, it was for you. That the academy has given the recognition means that you are the child you were when you saw it years ago. This cinema you grew up with, the one you were told was no good, has just been redeemed. The academy has celebrated one of the legends, the muse of Chinese action cinema. This is the importance of the award.
Jamie Lee Curtis couldn’t have expressed it better receiving hers: This Oscar belongs to all genre film fans who have always followed it. Who would have thought that the Slasher Queen would win Best Supporting Actress? Of his long career stands out above all the saga of Halloween. His Oscar dignified horror cinema and, above all, the public who finally recognized that they were not freaks, that the cinema they saw was as worthy as anything else.
Both awards, actress and supporting actress, have legitimized all the cinema we grew up with as fans. Maybe they both needed this Oscar, but I think the academy still needed to give it to each other.
A note before finishing. It is true that Yeoh would hardly have been able to pull off a film like Tar, but I’d also like to see Blanchett at 60 playing a loser doing martial arts, only she can do that. Is Blanchett a better actress? Certainly. Is Michele Yeoh the whore mistress? No one will deny it.