Dune is easily one of the most impressive cinematic spectacles of 2021. The Academy clearly agrees, having awarded the film with 10 nominations, including one in every single technical category, and most importantly in Best Picture. When big budget sci-fi epics receive that kind of attention, they almost never leave the ceremony empty handed. Or, in the case of Mad Max: Fury Road and Gravity, with a bucket of Oscars. So, which of Dune’s nominations will it win?
Let’s get the slam-dunks out of the way. Dune was prophesied to win the Visual Effects Oscar back in the Bronze Age. It’s not merely “likely” to happen, it’s the only possible outcome in the category. Nearly as likely is Dune securing Best Sound. Dune’s sound design is integral to its epic feel, and no film last year rattled theater seats more.
Hans Zimmer’s magnificent score is just about inseparable from the overall experience of Dune. I struggle to think of a nominee in any crafts branch whose work has been more discussed and widely appreciated. Zimmer is very likely to win his second Oscar, his first since The Lion King in 1994. Crazy to think he only has one, considering his incredible body of work. This category has clear a runner-up in Jonny Greenwood for his work in The Power of the Dog, but Zimmer is still miles out front.
Dune’s chances at winning Production Design are looking very good, with Critics Choice, BAFTA, and Art Director’s Guild wins already secured. Its main competitor looks to be Nightmare Alley. It’s tough to compete with a Guillermo Del Toro film in this category, considering Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water both won this category. However, recent wins for films like Black Panther and Mad Max: Fury Road show that The Academy may favor Dune's epic world-building.
Cinematography is another category that appears to be in Dune’s favor, but isn’t quite sewn up. Greig Fraser was awarded a BAFTA for his work, but lost the Critics Choice Award to Ari Wegner for The Power of the Dog. Wegner is likely the runner-up, though a surprise win for Bruno Delbonnel’s work in The Tragedy of Macbeth can’t be ruled out either. This award has paired with the Visual Effects Oscar 7 times since 2009, which works in Dune’s favor.
The Best Editing race is rarely as wonky as it is this year. Dune seems to be an easy favorite, especially when considering the categories close ties to the Best Sound category. Since 2007, every editing winner has had a sound nomination, and in 12 of those cases the editing winner won a sound award. To my bewilderment, none of the major precursors gave Dune an editing award. To make matters more complicated, they all went to different films: King Richard won the ACE, West Side Story won Critics Choice, and No Time To Die won the BAFTA. The good news for Dune is that King Richard is the only one nominated for the Oscar, and it lacks the almighty sound nomination.
The Nomination is the Award
Dune is a potential runner-up in Makeup and Costume Design, but the consensus seems to be gathering around other films. In this case, The Eyes of Tammy Faye for Makeup, and Cruella for Costumes.
Dune has almost no shot in winning Adapted Screenplay or Best Picture. No major awards groups have backed it in these categories beyond a nomination. The biggest criticism with the film has been that it feels like the story is only getting started, so I don’t think The Academy will be ready to award it in any above-the-line categories until they see the next installment.
Dune will win a minimum of three Oscars, and a maximum of six. Visual Effects, Sound, and Score are practically in the bag. Cinematography, Editing, and Production Design look to be in the film’s favor, but these are categories where The Academy could decide to spread the love. I predict that when the night is over Dune will have five Oscars, likely making it the most awarded film.
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