CHICAGO - Despite the usual snubs, flubs and surprises, the Academy Award nominations were actually pretty solid this year. In addition to honoring great performances like Penelope Cruz in "Parallel Mothers," Andrew Garfield in "Tick, Tick … Boom!" and Denzel Washington in "The Tragedy of Macbeth," the Academy also rounded up an appreciably diverse list of Best Picture nominees.
All this week we’ll be spotlighting the 10 films nominated for the big prize. And since we could all use more stuff to watch these days, we’ve also rounded up recommendations for movies (and TV shows) that echo or influence them in some way — all of which are streaming (for free!) on Tubi. Next up: Denis Villeneuve’s grandiose sci-fi epic "Dune."
The premise: "A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, "Dune" tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive."
The details: Rated PG-13. 155 minutes. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve.
The nominations: With 10 nominations, "Dune" is the second-most nominated film of the year, behind only "The Power of the Dog." In addition to its Best Picture nod, "Dune" is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve), Best Cinematography (Best Cinematography), Best Film Editing (Best Film Editing), Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer), Best Costume Design (Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan), Best Sound (Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett), Best Production Design (Zsuzsanna Sipos and Patrice Vermette) and Best Visual Effects (Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer).
Our critic’s take: Sci-fi epic has ambition, but its desert feels barren
(L-R) REBECCA FERGUSON as Lady Jessica Atreides, ZENDAYA as Chani, JAVIER BARDEM as Stilgar, and TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure "DUNE," a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary relea
Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel "Dune" has long seemed unadaptable. David Lynch and stars Kyle MacLachlan and Virginia Madsen gave it a crack in 1984, resulting in a strange, S&M-inspired take that condensed the 600-page doorstop to about two hours. That "Dune" captured the psychedelic spirit of the novel, but not its scope. And a pair of Sci-Fi (now SYFY) Channel miniseries in the 2000s had sufficient room to let the story’s ideas breathe, but suffered from budgetary (among other) limitations.
Now Quebecois auteur Denis Villeneuve brings "Dune" to the big screen once again. This titanic adaptation of "Dune" is perhaps the most gorgeous, sharply-realized vision of the world yet. It also happens to effectively be half a movie, its huge cast of characters lost in the infinite sands of its setting, drowned in oodles of lore.
But if the adaptation makes some missteps, the same cannot be said of the visual storytelling. "Dune" looks as though every penny of its budget (reportedly in the ballpark of $165 million) was put to good use. Villeneuve conjures a fully-realized universe rich with texture, thanks in no small part to Patrice Vermette’s production design and Greig Fraser’s sand-dusted cinematography. That level of excellence exists elsewhere in the film as well. Jacquline West and Bob Ward’s costumes do more world-building than a million monologues ever could.
Villeneuve has been adamant that viewers should see "Dune" in a theater, and it's easy to understand why: The grand scope of the thing cries out for the biggest screen possible, and the booming sound design and Hans Zimmer’s almost overwhelming score deserve suitably robust speakers. Vermette's production design blends brutalist futurism with rococo curves and impossible shapes, a mix that's truly something to behold. But like many expensive-looking sci-fi adaptations — see Apple TV+’s "Foundation" for another recent example — the human element of "Dune" is dwarfed by the film’s big ideas and even bigger canvas.
How to watch "Dune"
Streaming: "Dune" is currently streaming on HBO Max.
Rent or own: You can purchase "Dune" on VOD platforms like iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and Google Play. You can also buy "Dune" on both Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D — just in case you’ve ever wanted to see Timmy Chalamet in 3D.
On the big screen: The sands of "Dune" are still blowing through a limited number of theaters across the country.
About the writer: Clint Worthington is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, and a Senior Writer at Consequence. You can find his other work at Vulture, Nerdist, RogerEbert.com, and elsewhere.
What to watch next
It’s hard to find a modern day space opera that doesn’t owe at least something to Frank Herbert’s wildly influential 1965 novel "Dune," which director Denis Villeneuve stunningly re-adapts for the big screen. That includes "Battlestar Galactica," the 2004 sci-fi series about space politics and cosmic survival. A re-imagining of the 1978 series of the same name, "Battlestar Galactica" helped kick off the golden age of TV. And its mix of militarized space travel, socio-political metaphors and high-octane thrills puts it right in line with "Dune." (Or if you just like watching Jason Momoa in space, you can check out his 2014 low-budget sci-fi horror thriller "Debug.")
- Timothée Chalamet in "Miss Stevens"
- Oscar Isaac in "The Two Faces of January"
- Rebecca Ferguson in "Despite the Falling Snow"
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Allison Shoemaker and Caroline Siede contributed to this report.