If you watched the 94th Academy Honors last night, one of the most important conclusions was that the science-fiction epic Dune swept all of the technical awards. Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Production Design, and Best Visual Effects were among the awards it received. With six Oscars, it was by far the most successful film of the night. However, if you watched the program, you would have missed more than half of them as they were announced live. This is because the event planned to give away eight trophies before the ceremony ever begun, causing outrage from folks like Steven Spielberg, who stated that “one craft is just as vital as the next” in the development of a film.
Despite the protests of Steven Spielberg and others, the Oscars went ahead with their plan. This was ostensibly a means to cut the length of the lengthy show while also reaching a wider audience in light of dwindling ratings. This desperate ruse was never going to work – even if it had gotten them what they wanted, it would never have been worth the cost of completely disregarding the people who work on the movies. Many people said this in the days preceding up to the ceremony, but it turned out to be even worse than anyone could have imagined. The pre-recorded material was blended into the main broadcast in such a way that it felt like an afterthought. It was as if all of these crucial aspects of the filmmaking process were unimportant.
This is terrible because, when you watch Dune, it’s evident that it’s the result of a lot of things coming together brilliantly to draw you into its vast world. The way the sound of every aspect in the desert, from the giant sandworms to the tiniest mouse critter, is brought to life in some of the most riveting passages is nothing short of amazing. Even more impressive is the way this sound crashes over you in massive blasts that are edited together with an eye for breadth and scale, as well as emotion. You can’t help but be amazed at how finely tuned everything is, operating with such a high degree of perfection that every single frame is practically flawless.
This precision is even more critical in instances where Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho appears to lift off in the vibrating ornithopter or make a last stand in defense of his allies. Because of the strength of how everything is put together, even a minor character can become a memorable aspect of the picture. We are swept up in the cinematic language being conveyed by a range of distinct voices in sync with each other because of the rigorous effort that goes into them. All of these scenarios were created and composed as a result of all of the talented crafters working in unison with one another. The finished outcome is as gorgeous as it is because of every single decision and detail they spend days on.
Aside from the value of craft, removing Dune so entirely was a weird decision on so many reasons. It was a highly lauded and universally adored picture that also happens to be one of filmmaker Denis Villeneuve‘s greatest in a long and illustrious career. If given the opportunity, one would believe that this would have at least increased the number of viewers watching the show. But, beyond the rating debates, this choice utterly undermines what the Oscars are supposed to be about: celebrating success in movies. The entire event seemed to be filled with self-loathing. It seemed as though the program itself didn’t give a damn about the films that the entire event revolved on. Instead, we received a self-congratulatory piece that included a tour of the Academy’s film history museum. What may have been intriguing was tainted by the reality that all of the individuals who worked on those old films would almost certainly have been barred from this year’s event if they had been nominated.
This exclusion has nothing to do with Dune. It was also an insult to the cosmetic and hairstyling effort that went into The Eyes Of Tammy Faye. The great filmmakers who created a range of intriguing short films were ignored, despite the fact that this is where many of tomorrow’s best artists may be discovered. We even missed seeing Samuel L. Jackson, one of the most well-known and adored performers of all time, get a well-deserved honorary Oscar from Denzel Washington. That’s the kind of thing you’d expect would be televised and that people would want to watch. This year, we were treated to a slew of pre-recorded skits and hamfisted promos for future films that have yet to be released. While this isn’t totally surprising, it does leave a sour taste in the mouth when it comes in lieu of all the praise these filmmakers earned.
It was all such a big blunder based on a desire to avoid genuinely embracing the craft of filmmaking. It wasn’t necessary, and it felt like an ongoing unforced blunder that didn’t save all that much time in the end. Even honors granted to auteurs like writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi for the magnificent Drive My Car were interrupted during the broadcast in an attempt to discredit him. One can only hope that, in the future, all of the awards, as well as the people who worked on them, would be fully featured in the program, rather than being tossed out without a second thought. The Oscars should honor all those who contribute to making the best films possible and show them the recognition they deserve. Without them, the colorful brilliance on display in the best films of the year would be suffocated, and anyone who appreciates great art would suffer greatly.