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Off the Books vs. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Key Takeaways

Audits + the Academy Awards + multiversal mayhem?! Does the OTB crew have what it takes to break down best picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once and decide whether it counts as an accounting movie? Former host Nick Renkoski returns to hop dimensions and help the discussion! Dive in:


Show Notes:

Review which movies the crew originally considered when producer Mike Gravagno asked them to find the best accounting movie.

Tell us what they got right and wrong about the movies they’ve debated so far:

Catherine Tsai: The two of them in another universe probably could have been friends. But in what universe would you be friends with an IRS auditor? One in which you had hot dog fingers.

Mike Gravagno: When pigs fly, it's the new version. Yeah, when hot dogs are my fingers, I'll be friends with you. 

Steve Soter: We might have just alienated a small handful of our listeners who are employed by the IRS. 

Catherine: I'm sorry. I would totally be friends with an IRS auditor. 

Mike: Hello and welcome to Off the Books where we surf the uncharted waters of accounting, finance, risk, and wherever else the waves take us. This episode is brought to you by Workiva, the ESG risk, reporting, and compliance platform that simplifies your complex work and helps you traverse the multiverse without sticking something painful up your butt. Check it out at My name is Mike Gravagno, and I'm an Off the Books producer, recovering Cherry Coke addict, and today's host. I'm looking forward to debiting a great conversation today, and I'm very glad to have you hanging ten with us. Today we'll be continuing our accounting movie exploration with an unprecedented...unprecedented. That's how you say that word, an unprecedented unbracketed movie in honor of the—upcoming at this point—previous Academy Awards. We're recording ahead of time. We are talking about Everything Everywhere All at Once—possible best picture winner? With me, as always, are Catherine Tsai, asker of questions and lover of venti chai lattes, and Steve Soter, Diet Coke aficionado and accounting enthusiast. With us today is special guest and former Off the Books host Nick Renkoski. Nick, can you please tell the listeners what beverage controls your life and a little bit more about yourself? 

Nick Renkoski: I know we've got the Diet Coke aficionado and recovering Cherry Coke addict. I don't think I'm addicted to anything except for PCP, of course. But in terms of drinks, cream soda. I go for cream soda year-round, which people think is strange during the winter. It's hard to actually get in the winter. And I can't resist a craft cream soda that I'll see in a specialty shop, even though those are usually not very good. 

Mike: Yeah, you just go for the classics. What is your classic?

Nick: If I'm addicted to anything, it's to movies, which is why I'm here now. As you said, I was a former Off the Books host, a longtime marketer, and I was in your gravitational world a few years ago, but remain there because movies are my addiction. And I'm here exercising some therapy on that. 

Mike: Yes, movies are life. Now let's dive into Everything Everywhere All at Once. Catherine, before prepping for this podcast, what's your relationship to the movie?

Catherine: I was really excited to see it because I've seen some of the (music) videos that the directors have done before, and so I wanted to see what they could do with the movie.

Mike: Nice. Steve? 

Steve: Well, two things: We've already referred to this as an accounting movie. Let's be very clear. This is not an accounting movie. 

Catherine: You said Ghostbusters was an accounting movie.

Steve: Well, hey, look, it didn't make the brackets and wasn't under consideration. And this is disingenuous, I think, to our leaders, or to our listeners. So under protest, I am here participating in this. But to answer your question, I had no relationship with the movie. I think I had seen a still with the hot dog fingers, which was mildly amusing, I will admit. But honestly, I knew nothing. I didn't realize it was like a multiverse thing until I, under protest, watched it to prepare for this episode. 

Mike: And Nick, did you have a relationship with EEAAO, as we'll call it simply from here on out. 

Nick: It came out about a year ago now, and someone suggested it to me in opposition to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And so those were sort of compared because they came out same time and had similar thoughts as they are multiverse movies. 

Mike: At face value.

Nick: Yeah. And I had seen the directors' previous movie, Swiss Army Man. I was not aware that they had directed "Turn Down For What," among other music videos. And I liked the gonzo bizarreness of Swiss Army Man, but I didn't know how that would take on a sort of family generational drama and it has, you know, it did. 

Mike: I think they grew up a lot in between Swiss Army Man and EEAAO.

Nick: Yeah, well, it is a different type of movie, right. I think they realized we can—they spun that bit out. I don't know if you've seen Swiss Army Man, but it's about Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe on a deserted island. It's been a while since I've seen it. Daniel Radcliffe, I think is...

Mike: He's dead.

Nick: Can't move. He's dead, but can be used like a Swiss Army knife to a degree. He can be manipulated. 

Mike: Yes. 

Nick: So it's like Survivor at Bernie's, and Paul Dano is trying to survive on this island with a tool. 

Mike: With the help of a magical corpse. 

Nick: Right. And they spread it out about as long as you possibly could. And actually, it's one of—I don't have a whole lot of complaints like Steve about today's movie, but both are stretched the concept about as far as it possibly can. I don't know if there's much more room in either movie for them to go further than they did. 

Steve: It's like an old general ledger, right? You are using it in ways it was never intended to be used, but there you are.

Mike: I love it. You're looping it back in. 

Steve: I'm bringing it back, guys. Audience, you're welcome. I'm bringing this back. 

Nick: You will make this movie an accounting movie. 

Mike: We are holding Steve back, so I think we're going to have to just dive in. Early in 2022, a little movie called Everything Everywhere All at Once came out to instant critical acclaim. Directed by the Daniels, known for music videos and their first feature film, which, as we said, centered on a superpowered farting dead Daniel Radcliffe, and starring Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, and the return of the amazing Ke Huy Quan. The film follows the Chinese immigrants family's struggle with running a small business, relating to one another, and the imminent destruction of the multiverse. The movie has 11 nominations at the Oscars that just happened, including best picture, which makes it the most nominated film of the ceremony this year. Bookies, I ask you this: Before we dig into the film's handling of multiversal concepts, intergenerational trauma, marriage, love, death, and everything else, does this count as an accounting movie? Catherine, we know what Steve has to say, so let's start with you.

Catherine: I say yes. I mean, if we're saying Ghostbusters is an accounting movie, there is an auditor in this movie for like, you know, more than 10 seconds. So I say this an accounting movie. 

Mike: She's a reoccurring villain in so many of the different multiverses. She antagonizes them as a normal person and then also as a lieutenant of the big bad of the movie, though that's less accounting then and more throwing staplers at her own head and others. I agree. I think this is as accounting as some of our other movies have been. I think it's more than Moonlight, but I know Steve doesn't count that one either.

Catherine: Moonstruck.

Nick: The central drama took place at the IRS, and I don't know what Steve would qualify as an accounting movie, but because there is, to his point, very little accounting that happens on screen. But with the IRS agent being our main antagonist—well I shouldn't say main antagonist—the inciting incident at least happens at the IRS building, and much of the action takes place there. So I don't know if that means it's accounting adjacent, but the audit process and the tax process is a central portion of the drama. So again, I don't know what it takes to clear the hurdle, but I will also say that those things are intentional. I don't think if you change this to something else, some other functionary like a DMV or, you know, I think if you remove the tax element from the movie, the drama doesn't work. And if you change Jamie Lee Curtis' character into something else, it's not quite the same. So I don't know if that's an argument for. 

Mike: Right, we'll unleash Steve in a second, but because Jamie Lee Curtis says she has her numerous auditor of the month awards, and she says you might see a pile of boring papers, but I see a story and that's a way the movie gets into telling the story of these people's entire lives numerous times. Steve, unleash. 

Steve: Well, just another example of the stereotypical accountant being used, right, as some tool for some story or some plot, conveniently so, which is fine. That's, you know, a recurring theme. I will concede. Had we gone through the normal bracketing process and included this movie in our consideration, I do concede that this had just as much of a chance of making it as any other movie out there. I don't know. I mean, I get your point, Nick, about if she wasn't, you know, an auditor with the IRS, if this wasn't happening at the IRS, could it still work? I see your point. So I would have to concede it's conceivable—maybe—that this could be as much of an accounting movie as Ghostbusters. But as much as I love Jamie Lee Curtis, she's no Louis Tully. 

Mike: I was thinking about while watching this, Steve, is we talk about the accounting stereotypes a lot. And I do think Jamie Lee Curtis' auditor goes against a lot of them. She is, you know, she is not tiny. She is not nebbish. She is very domineering and kind of controls the situation. And so what stereotypes is she hitting for you in an uncomfortable way? 

Steve: Well, so so actually what's funny is that I think you're right. She didn't hit the stereotypes that we have typically considered and discussed: smallish, impish almost I would sort of say, yeah. Or like super geeky. She was very domineering, but that actually would be to me, the stereotypical auditor. And we haven't really gotten down into those categories.

Mike: Subgenres. 

Steve: Correct. So actually when I saw that—and it was funny, down to the this is—I don't know if call this crude, but even down to like the ill-fitting clothing, you know what I mean? That like was intentionally made to reveal, you know, maybe a little bit of extra weight around that. Like to me, like they totally nailed it. I mean, they just—having sat across from a lot of grumpy auditors over the years, they totally nailed it, not to say that they're all out of shape. That's not what I'm trying to say. 

Mike: We're talking about stereotype. 

Steve: Correct and some very deliberate things that they did where even for somebody like me, I was like, okay, yeah, you know what? They nailed it. They got this person. 

Catherine: I think her dance moves kind of rivaled Louis Tully's. 

Nick: I think she was based on a real person, or at least her character design is based on a real person. I think I saw this on Reddit or something, that there was a still of an auditor or some other sort of functionary who's made-up from hair to costume the exact same way that Jamie Lee Curtis is. 

Mike: Oh, wow. 

Steve: Oh, the wrist thing. The brace for carpal tunnel. Oh, yeah. 

Mike: Little details.

Nick: Right, and I think she is—a lot of people in this movie but her in particular are very well-defined within the movie.

Mike: Yeah, I think that's part of what made this movie hit as hard is that these are real people. These aren't fantastical heroes doing things with like one personality note. Even before we get into different versions of universe selves, they are well dimensioned. 

Nick: Shots fired while you're wearing a Marvel shirt? 

Mike: Look, as a true fan, I can have gripes and I do, though I liked Multiverse of Madness.

Nick: I mean, because it is a fantastic story. We do not go through the multiverse all the time, but it worked because it's rooted in these people who we care about, and we learn to care about them because of those little details. I mean, take a still of Jamie Lee Curtis' office or cubicle space, and you get to know so much about her for the things we just talked about, the wrist thing. I mean everything about it is designed to—she's the roadblock in the way and Michelle Yeoh's character's the same way. Her whole entire family is really well distinguished. And I think there's something universal about its family drama or family issues that we can all connect with. And then also—this is not my experience—obviously something very specific about immigrant experience, the Asian-American immigrant experience. And I think that's another reason why the tax thing is by design. I mean, again, not that this speaks for every Asian-American immigrant experience, but the tax nightmare. They live in the building where their business is. I think there's a lot of anxiety, and I can certainly understand it putting myself in the place of leaving my home and moving someplace else, that you build this life and this business. And if you don't click the right box, which is, by the way, in a different language than the one you understand or the one you grew up learning, it could all be taken away, or that there would be huge consequences or whatever else. And so I think that moment when she first learns about the multiverse, that anxious moment that we really want her to come through and have all the receipts and all the things she's supposed to have for the audit, is ubiquitous. We all don't want to be audited, but I think very specific to a small business owner from a different culture in which you are nervous that the bureaucracy is hard to navigate, even if you are a native speaker, is going to use that to chew you up and spit you out. 

Mike: And it's this kind of audit is one of those moments where you go like, it'd be nice to be any other version of me if I wasn't on the verge of divorce. And then each receipt. Waymond says it about Evelyn. He's like she confuses hobbies with careers, and then her different hobbies that we see in those receipts she's trying to write off are different versions of themselves. Steve, yes. 

Steve: Well, you know, it's funny, actually, just as a super geeky accounting thing on that. She could have written off the karaoke machine. If you are hosting a party and karaoke was like a thing that you were doing while people were like, hey, come do karaoke while you're doing your laundry. Great. Totally qualifies. Don't need a schedule C because you probably already had one for your dry cleaning or laundromat business. 

Mike: I love it. I would live at the karaoke laundry place. I would go there all the time.

Nick: Sure. 

Steve: Note to our laundromat-owning listeners here: Get a karaoke machine. Mike will be there. 

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Mike: Before we move on from the accounting movie or not, was it stereotypical or did you like that aspect, Steve, of the "I see a story" here? And then kind of the investigative side of the auditor's life trying to figure out who these people are just from the stacks of papers. 

Steve: Oh, no, I loved it because actually that's what they will teach you as an auditor. And whether you're auditing individuals, which there could often be personal stories behind that, but even a business. I mean, that's actually one of the first things that they would teach you is before you start digging into accounts and testing and all that stuff, hey, just take a step back, understand the business, understanding the story. What is the company trying to do? Not even with the assumption that it's nefarious or wrong, just what is the company trying to accomplish and then use that in order to sort of guide like where you think you need to go as an auditor. So actually, crap. See you're talking me up. Dagnabbit. Actually from that standpoint, I found that to be pretty accurate. 

Mike: Is it that they were the villains? Did that rub you the wrong way, that they start off as the antagonist?

Steve: No, not really, because it's the IRS. Number one, I'm not a tax person. So, taxes, the villain for me? Like very different, you know, I'd say gap accounting and tax accounting are super different. So for me, actually, the fact that they were associated with tax and they were the villain, no concern whatsoever. It made perfect sense to me. 

Nick: If you hold your breath for the positive Internal Revenue Service movie, you may be turning blue. 

Steve: Exactly.

Mike: When is somebody going to be brave enough to make that movie? 

Nick: The real hero! 

Mike: Yeah, we've been jumping around or circling around, rather, our next topic, and we're going to dive in. I'm thinking of themes versus high concept. Catherine, does, I think this is hitting a lot of hard-hitting themes a lot of Oscar bait movies do play with. I think that the stories of an immigrant family, of a couple in divorce, of a child moving away. And then it's couched in this everything bagel-ness of paper cut yourself and become a new version to fight. Do you think the concept ever gets in the way of the themes, or do they kind of augment each other? 

Catherine: I thought it kind of augmented each other. And you're right, it does get into a lot of different themes like the parent-child relationship. Do they understand each other? Yeah, I don't know. I think they all kind of build upon each other. There's also the theme of like the choices that you make in life and which path you should have taken. 

Mike: This, to me, felt like a modern, fantastical update without a sex-pest version of American Beauty. I think Evelyn's going through very similar things kevin Spacey's character went through in American Beauty. But I think societally we're kind of sick of white dudes, and we've seen that kind of story. So how can you tell it new? It's a new kind of protagonist, a middle-aged Chinese-born woman. Awesome. We don't see enough of that, and Michelle Yeoh is an amazing actress. And add some universe hopping. And now we're like, okay, these are enough twists on the story I've seen a thousand times. Let's do it. It feels fresh now. 

Nick: Yeah. 

Catherine: Is nice to have storytellers I guess from different backgrounds as well. So that's probably part of why we haven't seen this story before is we haven't allowed directors the budgets to be able to tell their own stories, and now it's happening. So good to see. 

Nick: I mean, all that's true, but it works because it follows storytelling principles of these were real people as opposed to I think the representation factor is wonderful. Even better is that they are real characters that have flaws and have almost everybody except for one of the Alphaverse's Waymond almost has personality problems and has caused some of their own issues, including the person we're really rooting for, Michelle Yeoh's character. And so instead of being—a lot of times with representation, you get sort of perfect versions where they've got nothing to learn. In fact, their entire job is to overcome the barriers that society has put in front of them. And that's less interesting to me because I want to see character arcs that are just as important. What happens in the multiverse, to me, is less important than what happens in that little laundromat in the universe that we're used to. And that required her to take a emotional journey. Yes, I think it's great and more than admirable that it's from different perspectives and you get to see that. But even better is that it told a compelling story on its own where people grew and made changes and could actually spur an audience member to be like, oh, in what ways, even though this person doesn't look like me or have my same experience, what ways can I better myself based on seeing her better herself?

Catherine: I would agree there are some universal themes there. It's just told from a different perspective, different lens. 

Mike: When you're creating—if you're on the creating side, they say like I think in early, whether you're a filmmaker, a poet, or a writer, in early flaws like, well, I'm going to take details out to make it universal. Specific is universal. 

Nick: That's right.

Mike: How specific each one of these people is why you felt it. And even you're like, well, I've never owned a business. It does not matter. You're seeing the struggles they're going through, and they are very specific to them and it makes it feel real. And that's what does it versus if they flattened it all out. 

Nick: Well, many of us want our space robot ad in outer space? But Star Wars remains a, you know, there's something for everyone just using that as an example. But none of us are Captain America. None of us are all these heroes.

Mike: Well, some of us might be. 

Nick: It's all different stripes and types, but they tell universal stories in specific ways exactly like you said. Because, again, it's not my experience, but I can recognize, especially as a parent, you know, she's in such a I think the title refers to how she's feeling when she first sits down at the IRS office: Everything Everywhere All at Once. She's getting divorced. She's got these problems at the laundromat. She's losing her grip on her daughter since she's pushing her daughter away when she can't understand her. Her father, played by the wonderful, legendary James Hong, you know, disapproves of almost everything she's done in the last 30 or 40 years. And she's having a hard time, so she's got that generation coming down on her, and her daughter is reacting and is not appreciating the sacrifices that she's made. I mean, looking at both sides of that divide, she can't quite understand the culture that her daughter's grown up with. And her daughter is unable to recognize that her mother, both parents, have made a space for the culture she still embraces now. Anyway, those things are specific, but also totally understandable to almost anyone with a beating heart. 

Mike: Right. Steve? 

Steve: So, well, I was just going to ask, and I, by the way, completely agree with the specificity being the part that makes it relatable. I guess my question is in the variety of universes that were out there, and I'm actually not saying this as a joke, then where do you place the hot dog fingers where she's having a relationship with this IRS auditor? That to me felt—it was funny and it was actually a bit of a break in some of the seriousness or kind of intensity.—but how do you put that within the context of what you're saying? Because to me, that was very not specific, that was goofy, and clearly it was intended to be goofy, but okay, I don't see how my choices could end up giving me hot dog fingers, maybe. I don't know. That might just be me and not somebody else. 

Mike: I think and I might be too in the bag to be like, well, that takes away from the themes. But I do think they're like, okay, so in this one, she's a movie star. In this one, she's just a more successful business owner. And so it goes and they're like, how do we show even more? So there's the Raccacoonie one and the hot dog fingers one are like the pushing it to the limits of universes. 

Mike: And the rocks. 

Mike: Oh yeah, and the rocks. So it's not all Evelyn's choices that got her there, right? So something early on made hot dog fingers happen. And so I think the hot dog fingers are one of the goofiest visual gags. I love it. But what it said to me is, if you truly take time to know a person, you will see that there's something to love about them, and so I think Deirdre, Jamie Lee Curtis' character, and Evelyn in another world if they weren't across from this table, they could have been lovers. They could have been each other's support system.

Catherine: I took it the same way where it was like the two of them in another universe probably could have been friends. But in what universe would you be friends with an IRS auditor? One in which you had hot dog fingers. 

Mike: When pigs fly, it's the new version. When hot dogs are my fingers, I'll be friends with you. 

Steve: We might have just alienated a small handful of our listeners who are employed by the IRS. 

Catherine: I'm sorry. I would totally be friends with an IRS auditor. 

Nick: Every time we mention hot dog fingers, we all bring our hands close. 

Mike: Yeah, you can't not. 

Nick: If your question was did the extracurricular stuff augment or take away from the very earthbound themes, I think there's a little—I agree with Catherine that overall I found that to be the case. But there were a few parts where I lost my patience with it. I could have done a little bit less development of the hot dog finger world or the rock world. All the rest I want. 

Mike: We will fisticuffs.

Nick: What was that? 

Mike: I said fisticuffs over the rock world. I think one, I think hot dog fingers is a stepping stone to the pinata and rocks.

Nick: I saw what it was doing. It didn't balance it quite enough for me. I was like I think I got it. We can go back to main thing. 

Mike: I think, for me, the most emotional scene in the entire movie is when Joy and Evelyn are rocks.

Nick: Yeah, I know. 

Mike: I feel like for that you can see some kind of directors' experiment, like they're experimenting and trying to see if something works. And for me, it did, where like, there's no music, there's no dialog, there's no actors to sell this. Can just two stones sell this human emotion of what it's so isolating to be a person? And for me, it sold it. 

Nick: And maybe only because it's the only moment when the movie sort of slowed down. Once we start, once the roller coaster began in the multiverses, that was, you know, just from a change of pace, pretty powerful. 

Mike: Is there anything I mean, there's probably so much we could dig into. We could dig into each each character over and over again. We haven't talked about Waymond that much because you said earlier, Nick, that everybody has flaws. It feels like the movie is often saying his positive outlook—Evelyn's flaw is not being able to see his positive outlook. But do you guys see any flaws in him being only positive all the time? 

Nick: It is interesting considering they get divorced in the first 5 minutes, or at least he serves her with divorce papers so that she's looking at them, that the real interpersonal conflict is between her and Stephanie Hsu, the daughter. So they kind, I shouldn't say drop it as if that's what they should have been focusing on, but they don't work that out as much, or at least they do that in a more action-packed way. So I don't know if I'm answering your question except to say that I don't know if the movie was that focused on what I guess the parlance of the day would be toxic positivity. But the, you know, I'm sure that that would become grating. From Evelyn's perspective, I can see how that would be annoying after 30 years of things falling apart and then being told how great everything is. 

Nick: Catherine, you had a—I want to say something nose twitch there.

Catherine: It didn't bother me. I think, in terms of balancing out, maybe Evelyn's character is probably needed.

Steve: Well, and I think that at the beginning there was this obnoxiousness of it, like what planet is this guy on? But then only after that roller coaster and then you sort of really see the totality of what was really happening by that time, the scenes. Then it becomes somewhat grounding and certainly endearing for the character. To me, that was a distinct kind of like flip it so that when he kind of became that person again towards the end and then you really saw within the context of everything else, oh, okay, you know what? Now I'm seeing really the role that he's playing that I didn't see at the beginning, but Evelyn probably wasn't seeing it either. 

Mike: Right. It's I think the reason it focuses on Evelyn and Joy's issues is she cares in theory that Waymond is going to leave her. But I think they are roommates and business partners who don't really get along. It seems like they haven't been in a long time. But she's losing. She's losing joy. I think there's a reason her daughter's name is Joy. She is losing joy if her daughter leaves her life and where she doesn't seem to have a lot in the beginning. Waymond's line towards the end is when he's dying. He's like, the only thing I know is we have to be kind, especially when we don't know what's going on. And if there isn't a more 2022 message when everything seems upended and all over the place, I think it's like, let's just be kind even when we're confused and scared. Man, yeah. I can talk about this move forever. I love it so much, but I think we're going to wrap things up with our awards. And so we will start, as we always do, with best accounting moment. Steve, our naysayer. 

Steve: Well, actually, it was the same one that you actually kind of cued up, or you didn't say it as the best accounting moment, but it was when, you know, Jamie Lee Curtis as the auditor, says, hey, you know, you may only see a pile of—however she says it—boring forms and numbers, but I see a story with nothing but just a stack of receipts. I can tell exactly what's going on in your life. And I would say that for the astute auditor and accountant, that is generally the case. To me, that was probably the crispest connection to at least what I would consider to be a pretty important part of accounting and definitely auditing for sure. 

Mike: And then I think set up her why she gave him another chance, because, as you said, I think she can see everything that's going on in their life. So even though she's not like I think you guys have marital problems, I think she sees it all. And so she's like, I'll give you another chance because she is not actually a monster. Catherine, what about you? 

Catherine: It's the moment when Jamie Lee Curtis' character shows off her awards and she says, "You don't get one of these unless you've seen a lot of bull----."

Mike: And I agree. Nick, what is your best accounting moment? 

Nick: Really, the only accounting happens in that first interaction between Jamie Lee Curtis and the whole extended family. And that scene bristled with anxiety and drama and tense suspense. So that was one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie anyway. And you feel so—even though you know she's got to go into the multiverse to continue the story and that's what you're here for, you're like, no, you're going to blow it in front of the auditor. You know, we really want her to succeed in that moment. 

Mike: Yeah, very much so. All right. Pound for pound performance, no matter how much screen time they had. Who does the best? Catherine, let's start with you. 

Catherine: This so hard to choose among the four main characters. 

Mike: Yeah.

Catherine: I'll probably say Ke Quan just because I think for all of them they had to play different versions of themselves, sometimes in the same scene, but even in the same shot. And I think Ke Quan did such a good job of that. And then actually I was watching the movie with my husband, and there was the part where his character Waymond is, you know, where he's all dressed up in the suit and all fancy, my husband thought that was a totally different actor. 

Mike: Oh, wow. Yeah. Because just down to his posture—I'm so glad we have him back. He's going to be the next Indiana Jones movie, which comes out on my birthday. I'm excited he's back. 

Nick: Well, you say back, but he quit acting and he worked on The One with Jet Li. He was the assistant director on some Wong Kar-wai film. So he's been in the business, and I think that's why he pulls off—I didn't know that. And I'm still amazed at how good he was at the fighting aspect. Like that's not a skill you pick up for one movie. Clearly he's been a part of the sort of Hong Kong, I think it's called, use of fighting film culture. 

Mike: He choreographed the first X-Men movie. Like, yeah, he's been behind the scenes for a long time, but he's back. Nick, what is your best performance?

Nick: I'm going to go with Michelle Yeoh, potentially Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. I don't think she I think Cate Blanchett's the favorite in that category, but she's won the SAG award and a couple other things that is very deserved. She's got to keep the whole thing—it cannot work without her. Yes, Waymond's role and Jamie Lee Curtis' role and Stephanie Hsu's role are way more showy, which is funny considering that Michelle Yeoh kicks butt throughout the entire movie. But she's got to both be credible in all these different things as a meek, you know, beaten down by life, tired person and, you know, a world beater, a opera singer, a movie star, and as a confused mother who can't tell ratatouille from Raccacoonie. You know, she's got to pull all those things off, so I thought she was incredible. 

Mike: And Steve?

Steve: You know what? I would agree with Catherine. I think it was Ke Quan and actually funny that your husband had that same reaction. And I did too. I was like, hey, wait, is that him? And I knew it had to be him just with, you know, the progression of the scene in the movie and everything else. But it actually took me a second, and funny, Mike, that you actually brought up Indiana Jones. That was actually my first childlike reaction. Like, hey it's Short Round. This is going to be great. 

Mike: He's still got it. Mine, I think it maybe because I expect Michelle Yeoh and Ke Quan and what's the dad's name? You said it earlier, Nick, the legendary...

Nick: James Hong. 

Mike: James Hong. But Stephanie Hsu blew me away because she's so new. She comes from the New York comedy scene. She's an improviser background. And to be able to hold and be distraught and malevolent and goofy. She crushed it. And I was incredibly impressed by her. 

Catherine: She really sells some of those emotional moments, too, just like the fact of like, you know, like your parents, they sacrifice everything to make your dreams happen as your child. But then, like as we saw in the movie, they're kind of like giving up their dreams in order to make your dreams happen. But that got me so much, right? 

Mike: And the weight of that. 

Nick: You didn't ask for that. I mean, you from her perspective, like, you really ask this big question of how much do children owe their parents? Yes, they make this great sacrifice, but none of us ask to be brought into the world. None of us were consulted on that. So it handles that on two different generations because, again, I think Michelle Yeoh, or Evelyn, is trying to balance her father's approval she'll never get back with the way she handles her increasingly Americanized daughter. Yes, it's very good.

Mike: And we will end our awards with best scene or worst scene, whichever flavor you're going after. Catherine, let's kick it off with you. 

Catherine: Let's go with the fanny pack fight scene.

Mike: And that's best? 

Catherine: Yeah.

Mike: Hell yeah it is. When he puts the fish rocks in the fanny pack, you're like, oh, they are screwed. 

Steve: He's bringing out the fish rocks. 

Mike: Nick, what did it for you? 

Nick: Raccacoonie. I thought that whole thing was so funny. I mean, I know on one side, I'm saying no more hot dogs fingers. That's too goofy. On the others, I'm like more raccoon content is, in fact, what are we doing with this generational stuff? Let's just get these do everything about Raccacoonie. I just thought that was fabulous. 

Mike: Steve? 

Steve: You know what? Actually, I was going to say the exact same thing: Raccacoonie, which I realize is a little less than satisfying for listeners. So I'll give you my second best, and that is Jamie Lee Curtis playing Clair de Lune with her feet on the piano because she has hot dog fingers. So how do you play Clair de Lune with hot dog fingers? My son plays that song. Well, my son plays that song. I love it when he does, and I actually love to watch his fingers move. So seeing her do that with a foot, and I'm not sure if that was a real thing, you know, I have no idea how they did that in the movie, but I thought that was fabulous. 

Nick: I just love the idea that the universe is so shifted that our fingers are hot dogs. But yeah, Debussy could still compose. We still generated something that would require digits just like that. 

Mike: Mine I said earlier, I think it is that rock scene. If it's not that, it's the fight between the two security guards and it's just the game of what other—when they're fighting over—so she's like, don't let it shove him up his butt because then he'll become even more dangerous. And the other guy runs and jumps from over three cubicles to land on it. All of that is so hilarious while being an awesome action scene. That is our show. This is not going to be eligible for the bracket because it was unseeded, much to Steve's dismay. Maybe congratulations if it won all these awards because this will come out after.

Nick: You can't go further in this bracket, but we'll have to settle for the Academy Award.

Steve: Which is itself, I think, in august accomplishment. So let's not minimize that.

Mike: Sometimes. Nick, thank you so much for joining us. And big thanks to you, dear listener, for surfing along with us. Big thanks to Catherine Tsai and Steve Soter. Of course, this has been Off the Books presented by Workiva. Please subscribe. Leave a review. Tell your buddies if you like the show. Sound off in the comments if you're watching on YouTube, and feel free to drop us a line at Surf's up and we'll see you on the next wave. 


Off the Books Season 4, Episode 12: Move Night: Everything Everywhere All at Once


40 minutes


Steve Soter, Catherine Tsai, Mike Gravagno, Nick Renkoski

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