The Oscar race got a shake-up this week with Warner Bros. officially moving “Dune: Part Two” to 2024. It’s a game changing move that could benefit the summer’s second-highest blockbuster “Oppenheimer.” The two seemed destined to dance at the upcoming Academy Awards in several artisan races.
I should note, I agree with the move by WB to move “Dune 2.” Why have its auteur director Denis Villeneuve, who was shockingly snubbed for the first entry, be forced to go toe-to-toe with several cinema masters? Sequels in franchises (i.e., 2002’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”) missed out on a directing nom, before the third installment swept the next ceremony.
The first “Dune” walked away with six Oscars — production design, cinematography, film editing, sound, visual effects and original score. Based on the trailer and early buzz, the second installment would likely be competitive once again in those same races (perhaps even more). With “Oppenheimer,” Nolan assembles another dynamite team of talented artists, all of which are competitive in those same races.
But, why does it matter?
Well, if you’re Universal Pictures and you want to win best picture after coming up short with “1917” (2019) and “The Fabelmans” (2022), you are anxious to get your first best picture trophy since “Green Book” (2018). You’re also likely aware one of the best ways to craft the narrative “it’s Nolan’s time,” is best achieved when multiple techs statuettes are bestowed upon a single film.
Throughout history, the most awarded movies at the Oscars have been period pieces or tech-driven features such as James Cameron’s “Titanic” (1997) and Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003). Since the expansion of the best picture lineup from five to 10 nominees in 2009, there have been others that dominated their respective ceremonies but came up short with the top prize such as “Gravity” (2013), which despite winning seven statuettes lost out to “12 Years a Slave,” which netted only three in total.
The removal of “Dune 2” allows “Oppenheimer” to plead its case among the tech branch members. When it comes to nominations, each of the categories are voted on by their respective branches. However, after noms, the entire membership (who are eligible) cast ballots determining the winners.
Barring unforeseen shortcomings (which you can never count out in an Oscar season), “Oppenheimer” is currently projected to land in the realm of 12 Oscar noms — picture, director, actor (Cillian Murphy), supporting actor (Robert Downey Jr.), supporting actress (Emily Blunt), adapted screenplay, production design, cinematography, costume design, film editing, sound and original score. With 12, Nolan’s atomic bomb origin tale would be on par with others such as “Ben Hur” (1959), “Dances with Wolves” (1990) and “Schindler’s List” (1993). If it can also find a way to muster in additional noms such as makeup and hairstyling, visual effects or perhaps even a Matt Damon double dip in supporting actor, it would be in a powerful, tentpole position.
Keep in mind, it’s very early, with fall festivals nearing kickoff later this week with Venice and Telluride. Any number of films slated to come down the pike such as Bradley Cooper’s partly monochrome “Maestro” or Yorgos Lanthimos’ sci-fi period dramedy “Poor Things” could offer competition. In addition, we know Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” has more than enough juicy bits to whet the appetites of industry voters. Not to mention, Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” slated to likely become to the highest-grossing film globally, could be the “pink” engine that could as the slog of awards season draws out.
With a $777 million global box office, critical acclaim and a “Dune”-less year ahead, “Oppenheimer” stakes its claim as an early frontrunner.
From Variety US