Movies & TV / Columns

411 Movies/TV Fact or Fiction: Should Dune Win the Oscar for Best Picture?

March 25, 2022 | Posted by Jake Chambers
DUNE Timothee Chalamet Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Welcome to the 411 Fact or Fiction – Movies/TV Edition, I’m your host, I’m your host Jake Chambers. You know, FoF doesn’t have to be exclusively for pro-wrestling, so this week, with the Oscars approaching, I’m jumping divisions and going full pop culture and film!

And joining me this week is: Jeremy Thomas.

Jeremy is, of course, one of the great entertainment journalists working today. Along with being 411’s Head Editor, he runs the Movies/TV section, has given us a lot of great news, reviews and columns, but most importantly he is the go-to voice for wrapping-up of the weekly box office report, objectively contextualizing all of the information in an informative and interesting manner.

So I wanted to get his takes on some big Academy Awards issues, and a couple other things… so without further delay, let’s dim the lights, grab our popcorn, and enjoy the show!

Statement #1: You have watched all 10 of the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Jake Chambers: FICTION – I have only seen 4: Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, and West Side Story. There was a time (decades ago) when I would have gone out of my way to see all of the nominated films, but these days who has time? If you are more of a genre fan, like myself, then in this content-dump era of pop culture you are already spread so thin across all the wrestling content, gaming, TV shows, comics and podcasts you need to consume. I can’t motivate myself to watch movies I wouldn’t normally care about just because they are up for what I now consider to be a very arbitrarily chosen list of nominees and an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes-like voting system that puts popular opinion over excellence (the preferential order in which all voters need to list the movies means, statistically, that a movie could possibly win the award that not one voter even put at #1).

When they expanded the category to a maximum of 10 movies that can be nominated a year, I thought that meant there would be room for a wider selection of mainstream or genre movies to compete against the usual prestige dramas, arthouse and Oscar-bait, but that hasn’t been the case. How the Lord of the Rings movies and Avatar could be nominated when there were only 5 slots, but Avengers: Endgame couldn’t make it when there’s 10 is pretty ridiculous. This isn’t the Palme D’or we’re talking about here, this is a self-congratulatory celebration of Hollywood movies, and I’d prefer to see more of the kinds of movies myself and the broader audience enjoy in the nominations.

Jeremy Thomas: FICTION – I’ve seen nine out of the ten, with only Drive My Car missing me thus far.  That’s a hole I plan to rectify in the near future, but in general I do try to see as many movies that come out in a calendar year as possible and obviously potential Oscar contenders do end up ranking high on my list of things to see.

That said, I also recognize that this is not an easy thing for most people to do, even if they want to – and let’s be frank, fair or not there aren’t an army of people in the US who are racing to see a three-hour Japanese road trip drama no matter how good it is.  I do think that one major advantage to the push toward streaming is that people who want to see the Oscar-nominated films have an opportunity to do so.  All of the Best Picture nominees except Belfast are available on a streaming service, and even Belfast is available digitally for those who want to see it.  Again, I’m not expecting everyone to just go out and see them, but they have the option and the availability of these movies can only help both the studios and the Oscars.  It helps that all in all, this is a fairly strong crop of nominees; while I didn’t love them all, there are some very clear early contenders for the best films of the 2020s in this list.

Statement #2: The Batman was too long.

Jake Chambers: FACT – And I love long movies. Some of the best movies of all-time approach (or pass) the 3-hour mark: Apocalypse Now, Godfather Part II, Inland Empire, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Gangs of Wasseypur, Seven Samurai, Winter Sleep, Malcom X, Titanic, Avengers: Endgame. These are movies of such energy and vision that they needed to the longer time (from your typical movie) to give sweeping epic narratives, provide extended moments of visual or artistic flair, or pay off all the build up with extraordinary finale set pieces. Most recently, Drive My Car, was a three-hour movie and it had such a variety of unique performances and surprises, mixed in with fun, stupid and abstract moments throughout. It was a beautifully crafted, perfectly paced, interesting and unique work of art. The Batman was a 90-minute plot (at best; I’ve seen better mysteries on Law & Order or Murder, She Wrote that were set up and solved in half that time) stretched out for faux-aesthetic and painful melodrama. There was no unique action that required extended time to pull off (like in a longer Fast & Furious or Transformers movie) and certainly the drama and acting can’t compare to those previous classics listed.

In less than 6 months, having to sit through both this and The Eternals, sourced from some of the most wacky and adventurous comic books ever, turned into these navel-gazing, visually bland, bore-fests that had people slouching their way out of the theaters, eye lid heavy, instead of pumping their fists and high-fiving with glee is a damn disappointing shame.

Jeremy Thomas: FICTION – If I have any complaints about The Batman — and such issues are few and very far between – they do revolve around the ending.  I think that Matt Reeves’ film has a Return of the King problem where it has one too many climaxes.  But that’s a pacing issue and not a length issue.  The Batman is the shortest three hours I’ve spent in a theater since Avengers: Endgame and I never once checked the time or found my attention drifting.

Like Jake, I adore a good three-hour film when it’s done right and would co-sign on many of the films he mentioned as being worth their running time.  And while it’s true that The Batman didn’t need to spend three hours on its plot, it was absolutely essential for the setting and characters.  This was a film that worked not because of its plot (though I did like the story) but because it takes the time to establish its character and what this Gotham City is like.  I loved Batman as a detective, but I also loved that Matt Reeves gave Robert Pattinson the time to explore Bruce Wayne as a Year Two Batman who doesn’t know how to be both parts of his identity.  Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman wouldn’t have been as strong as she is without the development time.  We love The Godfather Part II because it fully realizes its characters in a genre that was largely viewed as B-movie fare before Coppola.  I’m not saying The Batman is as good as Godfather Part II – it isn’t – but it does get to follow the same genre rules.


Statement #3: With the Academy Awards eliminating some technical awards from the live telecast this year, they should start to include some new awards in the future, such as Best Stunt, Best Debut, or Best Onscreen Duo.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – I’m saying FACT here for one award and one category alone: Best Stunt Sequence (or Stunt Work).  I am holding my opinion on the technical awards being eliminated from the live telecast, because a) they’re still going to be aired so I don’t know whether it will even help and b) because I don’t like the idea of minimizing awards for things like Editing, Costume/Makeup, and the like.  I understand that AMPAS is in a difficult position here, because the Oscars have turned running over time into an expected occurrence and they need to do SOMETHING to spike ratings, so they’re clearing space for more entertainment segments.  I don’t think this will help and I do think it might do more harm than good, because the many jobs involved in making a movie don’t get enough respect as it is.  But again, it may work out great, so we’ll see.

All that said, I do think adding an award like Best Stunt Sequence/Stunt Work fixes a few things.  First off, it rewards an essential part of movie-making that hasn’t had the respect it’s deserved since filmmaking became a thing.  Stunt teams are essential to a lot more movies than people realize and stuntpeople put their bodies on the line in a lot of ways, yet they’re rarely given their due and when they do get brought up it’s often for a joke about stunt doubles.  While it is a technical award, it also provides another opportunity for more popular blockbusters to be honored which provably helps drive viewership for the awards.  I don’t need things like Best Debut Film, Breakthrough Director, or Best Onscreen Duo, which are better represented at other award ceremonies and would only sound like the Oscars trying too hard.  And since AMPAS is never going to do a Best Popular Film/Blockbuster, Best Stunt Sequence is at least step in that direction.

Jake Chambers: FACT – The Oscars telecast telecast went from roughly 40 million viewers in 2014 to 20 million in 2020… and then they even halved that to 10 million last year. If the Academy Awards is supposed to be the Super Bowl of movies, how come no one cares? It’s not a mystery, the show is a total bore.

Those hemorrhaging ratings illustrate just how badly they need to make drastic changes, I’m talking MTV Movie Awards level changes here. Those categories listed in the statement are conservative starts, and Jeremy does a great job laying out why the Stunt category would be a vital edition, especially if we could actually see the majority of those scenes on the show – gotta be more crowd-pleasing than another weepy method acting highlight from some drama no one watching at home saw or cared about.

Take this clip from the 2000 MTV Awards nominations for Best Action Sequence that pitted The Mummy, The Matrix, Star Wars Episode 1 and The Blair Witch Project against each other. The Oscars NEEDS something like this! By the way, 22 years later and at least 3 of those movies are still discussed as seminal movie history touchstones, meanwhile the 2000 Oscar winner for Best Picture, American Beauty, is kind of cringe-worthy to revisit, at best, with only The Sixth Sense really standing out as notable from the other nominees. Just saying, not only is the Oscars boring but are they even good at recognizing the historically important movies?

Statement #4: You prefer TV show episodes coming out weekly over having a whole season released at once.

Jeremy Thomas: FICTION – I don’t have an overall preference because I think it depends on the show.  Certain series benefit from being released weekly if they have that “water cooler show” feel.  I can include the MCU shows on Disney+ and Peacemaker here, as they’re the kinds of shows you build up and fans get engaged with.  When WandaVision and Loki came out, those shows were great for driving conversation around fan theories and building hype as we waited for the next episode.  Netflix’s League of Legend series Arcane was another great example of a show that benefited from having a release schedule (albeit three episodes at a time), as buzz around the show grew and it became a phenomenon where it might not have if it was released all at once.  Transitioning The Boys from an all-at-once release in season one to a weekly release in season two was a canny move by Amazon, as it quickly became a water cooler show in its own right, and I daresay that The Handmaid’s Tale would not have become the phenomenon it is if it was released all at once.

Meanwhile, other shows really are best when released all at once.  Good examples of this are Netflix shows like Archive 81, All of Us Are Dead, and true crime docuseries like Catching Killers and Tiger King, as well as Amazon’s Reacher, Peacock’s The Girl in the Woods and the upcoming WWE Evil.  These are shows where you can get your fix all at once because they’re either anthological in nature or are essentially series-length movies in a way.  They get sudden and intense interest and can be blown through over a weekend in a satisfying way, or watched at your own leisure.  I can’t think of any real benefit for these shows to be released on a particular schedule.  So yeah, even if I tend to take a little bit more time on some of my all-in-one releases (I still need to finish Archive 81 because I’ve been too busy otherwise), I do think that a show’s release schedule should be tailored to whatever best fits it.

Jake Chambers: FACT – I like Jeremy’s even approach here, as there are some shows that are probably best viewed at your own pace, and I think Reacher and Arcane were good examples of shows I liked being able to take in at my own speed, and I’d add stuff like Squid Game, Ted Lasso or Too Old To Die Young as others that I was able to binge or pace out differently. However, for me TV is a serialized format that benefits from the space between episodes.

I grew up watching TV like this because there was no choice, much like reading comic books was a weekly experience rather than a trade paperback one. Both, when done well, are about paying off in-episode stories and settling up long-term pay offs. I think the fun of this gets lost in the experience of binging through a show, because you’re just trying to get to the next one and next one without really digesting the suspense or details of the show. This extends as well to the creation of the content, when a Netflix or other streamers just want to keep you binging on their service for as long as possible, the content they create is more about stringing you along than paying you off.

So while I understand that we are firmly entrenched in a binge-watching generation, I will always prefer the patience and execution of a well-crafted, weekly serialized show.

Statement #5: Dune should win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – Let’s get this out of the way first: WILL Dune win Best Picture?  No, no it won’t.  Denis Villeneuve’s film is a long shot for it, because Best Picture is basically a two-way race between two entirely worthy winners in CODA and The Power of the DogCODA is my prediction, as its PGA Award this past weekend is a reliable (though not perfect) prognosticator.  Dune is in the position of most heavily-nominated genre blockbusters in that it will win a lot of technical awards (Cinematography, Score, probably Editing, Sound, Visual Effects, etc.) but will go home empty in terms of the “big ones” (Adapted Screenplay & Picture).

All that said, Dune was my pick for the best film of 2021 and I stand by that pick.  Villeneuve had an impossible task in adapting the novel for the screen and he nailed it from start to finish, both on the page and on the screen.  You have great performances across the board and a movie that hits some heavy topics like politics and religion while still delivering a mainstream appeal — and that’s to say nothing of the film’s massive accomplishments on a technical scale.  Look, we had a lot of qualified nominees this year — even I didn’t personally love a couple of the nominees, I don’t think there’s an unworthy film in the Best Picture list.  That’s saying a lot considering that we’ve had plenty of unworthy nominees in past years where you didn’t have 10 nominated pictures.  I’m not going to be upset that CODA or Power of the Dog win; I wouldn’t be upset if Nightmare Alley or even Licorice Pizza won, though there is no real chance of either doing so.  But if I had been a voting member of the Academy, Dune would have been at the top of my ranked choice ballot.

Jake Chambers: FACT – Can’t agree with Jeremy more, his #1 movie of 2021 is the best movie nominated this year and SHOULD win (although once he sees Drive My Car he may change his mind). But like he said, Dune won’t win, and that’s sad.

Jeremy hit it on the head when he said Villeneuve had an impossible task here, which is what really sets this one apart from the pack. I mean, history’s greatest filmmaker, David Lynch, had a crack at this and failed (although in retrospect, that he got the whole story from the novel in his runtime where Villeneuve only could get half, does seem much more impressive now, regardless of the weaknesses in the second half of Lynch’s film). For those who are fans of the novel, and there must be many considering it was the biggest selling sci-fi novel in the world at one point, you know just how crazy of a text this is to adapt (or if you watched the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary).

Thanks again to Jeremy Thomas for his amazing contributions! Be sure to follow him on Twitter:

Ah, it was nice being in the Movies/TV zone but we’ll see you next week at the regular FoF HQ for a Wrestlemania preview!