It’s been more than 36 hours since the 94th Academy Awards and The Slap is still all that anyone can talk about it, but it’s important not to lose track of the fact that Dune won six Oscars on Sunday night — twice as many as any other movie, thereby giving Warner Bros. bragging rights over its rival distributors.
Warner Bros. won seven statues on the night, but that last one was for Best Actor, which was won by Will Smith mere minutes after he slapped Chris Rock in front of an audience of millions. That incident has already been dissected to death on social media, and the fervor will no doubt continue all week, so you’ll just have to wait for Neil Turitz‘s next column for more on the hot topic du jour.
But frankly, it’s a shame that Smith’s behavior wound up overshadowing all of the other winners, as Dune was a force to be reckoned with, taking home trophies for Cinematography (Greig Fraser), Editing (Joe Walker), Original Score (Hans Zimmer), Production Design (Zsuzsanna Sipos and Patrice Vermette), Sound (Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett), Visual Effects (Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer).
Zimmer hadn’t won since the original Lion King movie, but he couldn’t even attend the ceremony because he was on tour overseas. Meanwhile, Walker won his first Oscar after losing for 12 Years a Slave and Arrival, and he wound up giving one of the best speeches of the night, explaining how his kids used his nomination to clown on him before he slipped into French and said “Merci du fond du coeur,” which translates to “thanks from the bottom of my heart.”
Vermette had also been nominated and lost twice before for his varied work on Arrival and The Young Victoria. He made sure to thank Dune director Denis Villeneuve “for allowing us to dream” and “for being a great friend” before telling him, “I owe this to you.” Vermette also paid tribute to his friend, the late Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club).
Fraser won on his second try, having been nominated five years earlier for his work on the Dev Patel drama Lion. He’s an early contender for another nomination this year thanks to his haunting work on The Batman. Fraser actually shot Jane Campion‘s last feature, Bright Star, which helped launch his career as a cinematographer, only to wind up winning instead of her Power of the Dog DP Ari Wegner, who is just the second woman ever to be nominated for that particular Oscar.
Dune also got shafted, in a sense, because five of its six Oscar wins were announced an hour before the live telecast, only to be awkwardly edited into the show hours after the fact. So rather than find out the winners on TV, many Oscar fans read about them on social media from either The Academy’s feeds or reporters like myself, which struck me as incredibly disrespectful to those below-the-line artisans.
Adding further insult to injury, not only were their speeches heavily trimmed for the telecast (so it wasn’t just about all the walking to stage) but there weren’t even official transcripts provided to the press — only transcripts of what was televised. So those missing words are now lost forever. Oh, and the show went nearly 40 minutes long, so what then, exactly, was the point of upsetting the entire below-the-line community by moving those eight awards to the 4 p.m. preshow?
It was a wild and crazy culmination of an Oscar season that was far too long — 15 months, for those who caught CODA at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival — but in the end, Villeneuve’s star-studded adaptation of Frank Herbert‘s sci-fi epic was recognized for its incredible craftsmanship, just as Mad Max: Fury Road was before it. I don’t know how close Dune came to winning Best Picture, but what I do know is that Dune: Part Two has to be considered an early frontrunner given the respect the Academy clearly has for the talented team that tailored the film for theaters, even though it debuted simultaneously on HBO Max.
Not that a delineation really needs to be made anymore after Apple’s epic Best Picture win for CODA, which has changed the equation, for better or worse. I guess that $25 million the streamer spent to acquire the film at Sundance was money well spent after all…