The Oscars are in their flop era. Each year brings fewer viewersfollowed by a victorious conservative news cycle on the unbearable awakening of Hollywood elites. Worse, this news cycle is at least partly correct, but not for the right reasons. A lot of Hollywood elites are unbearable, and awards shows find them in self-congratulatory mode, spilling superlatives on high-profile projects whose importance often diminishes almost immediately.
In a futile effort of populist appeal, the Academy this year relaunched its Category Fan Favoritesfirst launched in 2018 and retired later that year when it was considered a a soup for Black Panther Fans. But it’s hard to imagine much drawing power in the chance to watch Spiderman 3 win the american idol part of the procedure. A potential solution to declining interest in the Oscars, however, lies in the hands of Academy voters. What if, just once, they had voted best picture for a film that critics and public okay – the clever blockbuster that turned an unfilmable book into an unforgettable feast for the senses? The future of the Oscars could be saved by Dunes Sunday night best picture winner.
Fans and newbies
The chasm between what audiences and critics seem to expect from a film like Dunes is nothing compared to the one between what superfans and newbies want. As with any mega-budget adaptation of a beloved sci-fi or fantasy epic, one of the two groups is going to be disappointed. Dunes, however, is not just any sacred text; it’s the sacred text. star wars, The matrix, Harry Potter, you name it – basically every messianic story of the past 50 years owes a deep debt to Dunes. Disappointing the serious Dunes-heads would be unforgivable, especially since it has happened many times before, most dramatically with David Lynch’s 1984 film, which the director has since disavowed. But is it even possible to please fans and casual viewers when the source material is so legendaryly impenetrable that it makes the vanity of “casual viewing” a paradox?
Ask a duner this Dunes is on point and you could get an uninterrupted 45 minute response. It’s a sprawling 800-page anti-imperialist allegory filled with intergalactic mythologies and plenty of weird nonsense that people have been getting high on for generations. Read any random page, and your eyes may glaze over or widen, depending on the page.
Here is my most compact attempt to summarize the plot. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), son of noble Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), is perhaps humanity’s chosen one, whose lineage has been subtly led over the millennia by a secret society of which Jessica is a member, the Bene Gesserit. (If wacky sci-fi phrases irritate your ears, buckle up!) Paul’s heroic journey takes him from his home planet Caladan to the harsh desert planet Arrakis, where a shadowy emperor has installed Duke Leto to harvest something. thing called “spice”, a psychoactive substance that makes interstellar space travel possible. The Arrakis natives known as Fremen resent being exploited and oppressed for their abundance of natural resources, and perhaps they need to do something about it.
Did I mention there are huge sandworms?
It’s hard sci-fi, and it’s a lot to ask viewers to understand. Fortunately, Denis Villeneuve has made a film that viewers can simply almost understand and always love. The director somehow found a way to help newbies get through his Dunes without holding their hand. Villeneuve, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, has wisely split the book into two films and uses economical storytelling so that the denser material doesn’t feel like reading a book. For example, David Lynch Dunes begins with Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen) speaking directly to the camera for two minutes straightwhile the new version focuses entirely on Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh will be play it in the sequel) and opts for a vivid portrayal of life on Arrakis – told by a Fremen named Chani (Zendaya) – nodding towards what lies ahead for the planet.
This intro reveals key concepts and themes without getting lost in the weeds, and things continue that way for the duration. Villeneuve distributes his exposition in crumbs and not in blocks, drawing the audience further and further, until about halfway through the film. At this point, newbies and veterans alike finally know everything they need to sit down and soak up the great cinematic spectacle of the paid setup, without having to actively follow along.
Theaters and streamers
Dunes is the quintessential pandemic film. It was meant to be seen in theaters — perhaps during one of 2021’s brief lulls where it felt safe — and it’s been enriched by repeat viewings — perhaps on HBO Max, where it’s been created the same day. It made good at a time formats.
It is impossible to appreciate Villeneuve polite insistence that the public sees his film in theaters without really seeing it that way. Everything about his film looks, sounds and feels far too massive to be contained in his house. Each scenic landscape drips with grandeur. Each soaring symphonic note projects vastness and menace in equal measure. Every penny of the $165 million budget is accounted for on screen.
Dunes that’s what going to the movies is all about: luscious adventure sets, major movie stars with memorable character beats, and sensory overload done right. What takes the film to the next level, however, is that it’s also totally immersive. The world-building is so deftly constructed that no matter where a scene takes place in the galaxy, viewers get an idea of what the land must look like just beyond the frame, and another equally captivating film could also take place there. . The astro-ninjas descend from the sky and you immediately accept it. Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) mentions something called a sand compactor and you think, “It looks like something out there,” and then several scenes later, of course, what must be a sand compactor appears in action.
Watching Dunes in theaters is a thrill ride, but seeing it again at home makes for a thrilling playground to explore at your own pace.
Parts and sets
Once the credentials are officially signed on a Dunes continuedscheduled for 2023, the title of the current film has changed to Dune: part one. Indeed, some reviewers cited its “unfinished” look as a reason to dislike it. However, although the film’s final line is “It’s just the beginning”, Dunes tells a full story. The arc of House Atreides taking over harvesting operations on Arrakis is coming to an end and leaves Paul Atreides at a pivotal point in the path he is heading on. There’s no reason the movie we saw shouldn’t be recognized on its own terms, rather than through the the Lord of the Rings The road to the Oscars is to wait until it’s over to reward its creators with their flowers. Dunes the achievements are already apparent.
It’s strange that a film with 10 nominations, just behind The power of the dog‘s 11 – would be considered a total underdog, but Dunes It’s exactly that. The chances of director Villeneuve’s masterful adaptation winning top honors have been struck off in trades as negligible.
But a Best Picture win is what she deserves. It would be as if Mad Max: Fury Road had won in 2016 instead of Projector, which, six years later, seems to be the way things should have been. (Spotlight is a great movie; Mad Max: Fury Roadto like Dunesis a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience.)
A Dunes winning would fuse popular and critical acclaim into a singular product, rewarding ambition and vision over more typical Oscar bait. It would be the kind of shake-up that would keep moviegoers interested in awards shows for the next decade. The bottom line is this: If voters can’t expand their current conception of what “best picture worthy” means, this could be the hill — or dune, if you will — over which the Academy’s relevance eventually dies. And it won’t be saved with a sequel.