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Dune harnessed Oscar power on Sunday night. The sci-fi adaptation from Legendary and Warner Bros. took home six Oscars, winning in cinematography, editing, score, visual effects, production design and sound.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser won his first Oscar as part of a busy year that also saw him unveil his work on The Batman and prepare to film Dune: Part Two. Backstage, he told press that he recently read a draft of the sequel, which is due out next year: “Part Two is a bigger story. I read the script, and I was more blown away than Part One.”
Hans Zimmer was not present at the ceremony to collect his original score statue, but his win marked a return to Oscar glory after last winning for The Lion King in 1995.
As expected, Dune won the Oscar for its visual effects. The winning team included production VFX supervisor Paul Lambert, who previously won Oscars for First Man and Blade Runner 2049; special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer, who also won an Oscar for Blade Runner 2049; and Tristan Myles, VFX supervisor at lead VFX house DNEG’s Vancouver studio, who previously won for First Man. Brian Connor, VFX supervisor at DNEG Montreal, nabbed his first Oscar with Dune.
In a controversial move, this year’s Oscars presented eight categories an hour before the official telecast, with the speeches later edited into the show. Dune took home multiple statues during that preshow hour, with director Denis Villeneuve and stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya seated in the audience to watch their film take home the first of these Oscars.
The Oscar for best sound went to Dune‘s supervising sound editors Mark Mangini and Theo Green, rerecording mixers Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, and production sound mixer Mac Ruth. It was the second Oscar and sixth nomination for Mangini, who previously won for Mad Max: Fury Road; and the second Oscar and 10th nomination for Hemphill, who previously won for The Last of the Mohicans. It was the first win and third nom for Bartlett, the first win and second nom for Green, and the first win and fourth nom for Ruth.
In the press room, the sound team saved most of their praise for Villeneuve. “To do this for Denis is so close to my heart. He’s such a wonderful human and one of the best filmmakers that I’ve ever worked with,” said Bartlett. Green admitted he was “confused when Denis was not nominated for directing” and “seeing the sweep Dune is having tonight makes me very proud.”
Mangini noted that Villeneuve has a “forward-thinking” approach to sound, involving the team early in his filmmaking process. ”He has us designing sounds early, so they can inform the edit and the visual effects. We are much more proactive.”
Editor Joe Walker also won his award during the preshow hour, telling the crowd an anecdote about his daughter. “In the hands of a skilled 17-year-old, the words ‘Oscar-nominated’ can be used as an insult. In the middle of a dispute my daughter once said to me: ‘Well it’s all very well for you, Oscar-nominated Joe Walker. So, thank you Academy for this upgrade — I need all the help I can get. Nell, Rose, Anoushka, I love you with all my heart!’ Thank you Mary Parent, Legendary, Warner, thank you to my team, most of all Denis: Merci du fond du coeur!“
Patrice Vermette and Zsuzsanna Sipos were honored for production design, and are also set to return for Dune Part Two, along with Fraser, Walker, and the VFX and sound department heads.
Dune went into the night with 10 nominations, only losing out in best picture, makeup and hairstyling, costume design and adapted screenplay. The film, starring an A-list cast also including Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac and more, did not go into the night with any acting nominations.
Dune was considered a long-shot for best picture, but in a year dominated by smaller projects and streaming services, the Villeneuve film represented the biggest box office hit in that category. In bygone years, hits such as Titanic, the Lord of the Rings films, Avatar and Mad Max: Fury Road could be counted on to provide mainstream audiences with a reason to tune in to the Oscars. But one year after the Oscars’ lowest-rated telecast ever, Dune was the only best picture nominee that was a bona fide hit, bringing in $400 million globally. West Side Story, which has the next biggest box office haul in the category, grossed $75 million globally.
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