Make the Case: Dune

By: Isaac P. Ale
March 18, 2022

dune2 Dune [2021]

Here is Part 9 in our "Make The Case" series leading up to the Oscars! All week we will be expostulating how and why each of the ten Best Picture nominees have a chance at winning the top prize at the 94th Academy Awards -- no matter how likely or unlikely their chances may be. Stay tuned for our Oscars Preview next week as we gear up for the ceremony on Sunday, March 27th. As always, be aware that there will be spoilers aplenty.

The Case

Ohhhhhhh baby.

Buckle up you little shits because this is the one I've been waiting for.

My pride and joy. My favorite film of the year. My Arrakis. My Dune.

If you need a little refresher on all the things that makes Dune so outrageously great feel free to check out our previous thoughts on it!

Now that you're freshened up, let's just reiterate what makes Dune so amazing.

First off, the book is widely considered the grandfather of all science fiction. An epic intergalactic adventure with so many twists and turns that pits good versus evil, but on a larger and more complex scale has provided the blueprint for so many sci-fi fantasy stories after it. Star Wars draws a ton of inspiration from the classic, even the sci-fi space masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey pulls thematic and psychadelic elements from Dune and the spice melange. But its influence even thrives outside of film, the popular video game series Fallout has a common item in the game called "Mentats" named after the human calculators in Dune. Not too long ago I even drank a beer named after the Atreides family!

Dune is much more than a simple science fiction story, its an entire ecosystem of ideas, power struggles, plots, plots within plots, and so so much more. Not to mention the book is absolutely stuffed with internal dialogue and thinking that pushes the character development and introduces most of the characterization we see along with those plots within plots.

dune Dune [2021]

So with all that, it is noteworthy to mention that this book is ridiculously difficult to turn into a movie. It's absurd to do. There are so many characters to introduce, make the audience understand, empathize and care about the outcomes of thier actions, all the while explaining what every single word means. If you read one page of Dune you will flip to the appendix or google a word aboout every other sentence. But there is no appendix or googling while in a movie theater, and you have to be able to explain things in the film, either in the dialogue or in the setting, or just about anywhere you can. But of course it can't be unnatural, or bloating anything.

You can see where I'm going here. The fact that we got a Dune film, that was this good and is nominated for Best Picture is a feat all on its own!

But of course that's not what it's just nominated for, and we're obviously not satisfied with just being nominated. We want the whole damn thing.

So let's take a peek at what its nominations are, and what is the case for Dune to win Best Picture.

  • Best Sound
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer)
  • Best Editing
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Cinematography (Greig Fraser)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Picture

Yeah, that's a lot.

What's also a lot, is how many of those Dune is gonna walk away with at the end of the night.

Sound? Dune. Visual Effects? Dune. Production Design? Dune. Original Score? Dune.

No, no, no don't click away just yet I'm not done.

Editing? Dune. Makeup and Haristyling? Maybe The Eyes of Tammy Faye but probably Dune. Costume Design? Maybe Cruella but probably Dune. Adapted Screenplay? Dune.

That's A LOT for a movie made from a book that is impossible to make a movie out of.

That's also a lot for a vast sci-fi epic that includes 0 acting nominations and also doesn't include the director nomination which is the greatest snub of all snubs. What we have here is a meticulously crafted film that is shot and directed so well it has overcome all the hurdles of the source material and found itself up at the top of the hierarchy of film for the year. Yet here we have Denis Villneuve not being nominated and cinematographer Greig Fraser may not win the Best Cinematography Oscar (my bet is on The Power of the Dog's Ari Wegner).

All things considered though, that doesn't hurt Dune's Best Picture chances. Where Dune really thrives is how the film is built. Villeneuve chose to go the Christopher Nolan route and try to add little CGI where CGI wasn't absolutely necessary. There's this beautiful combination of practical and visual effects that make a story about blue eyed aliens in a desert look and feel realistic. Not to mention the sheer grandeur of it all, the scale at which Villeneuve constructs this vast desert empire is so visually stunning you can't help but stare mouth agape. When the Bene Gesserit ship lands on Caladan you can't help but see how gargantuan the ship is to the trees below. But then you marvel at the Spacing Guild transporter being 1000x the size of the Bene Gesserit ship! It's astounding to see unfold on the screen after only visualizing it in your mind reading the novel.

This is where Dune really excels. The technical aspect of it. Which is where its money is going to be made on Oscar night like I mentioned above. But its really a shame, and I mean a shame, that the academy didn't recognize Villeneuve's perfect direction of the film along with it. Just like his snub for Blade Runner: 2049, the Academy just simply doesn't understand the vision of Denis Villeneuve and that's the one pitfall of Dune's Oscar chances this year. The Academy is full of people that gave up on the book on the first page and gave up on the movie and Villeneuve in the first 15 minutes. It's despicable.

Without Villeneuve this movie doesn't become what it is, which is the blockbuster event of the summer maybe even the year. Yeah the Spider-Man: No Way Home crowd can bug off because Dune has been a colossal amount of hype for years, years. From the very first announcement of the film it became a mark on the calendar for millions. That on top of its A list cast, impeccable direction, cinematography and a top-tier Hans Zimmer score, it is just unfathomable to not reward this conglomeration of perfection with the top award this year!!!

I know its an uphill battle to beat The Power of the Dog (deservedly so), but if something is gonna beat it, it has to be Dune. This is the Best Picture. This is... Dune.

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