film fatales #135: the last days of chez nous (gillian armstrong, 1992)
the mitchells vs the machines (michael rianda and jeff rowe, 2021)

dune (denis villeneuve, 2021)

The is the seventh Denis Villeneuve film I have seen, some of which I liked, some not so much. The one I saw first is the one I liked best: Incendies. Because of this, I sometimes think of Villeneuve as a disappointing director, because nothing has matched Incendies for me. Which is unfair, since I've liked more of his movies than I've disliked.

Of course, Villeneuve isn't the only thing that might bias me in advance. There's Dune itself, an iconic work as a novel that had yet to be conquered on screen, despite several attempts. My engagement with the material is best noted by explaining that I'm not sure whether I read the novel or not, which means even if I did, it didn't stick in my memory. I didn't come to the movie as a fan boy, but I did have an open mind ... I simply had no opinion about Dune prior to watching this movie.

I've never been a big fan of the Star Wars franchise ... I watch them, but usually only once. I get antsy whenever those movies overtly move towards appealing to youngsters. So, give some points to Dune, which never panders to kids. In some ways, Dune is the opposite of Star Wars, and that's a plus in my book. And there is plenty to like. The film looks wonderful (cinematography by Greig Fraser) and Hans Zimmer's score in excellent. (Fraser and Zimmer received two of the movie's ten Oscar nominations.) The cast is filled with people I liked, even if I wanted more Zendaya than we got. The visual effects were also impressive (and nominated: Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor, Gerd Nefzer), although I think Mad Max: Fury Road did better with its sand storm. In short, Dune gives you lots of reasons to like it.

And yet ... look at those ten Oscar nominations categories. None for any of the actors. None for Villeneuve-as-director. There is one for adapted screenplay (Drive My Car better win). There's even a Best Picture nomination (I've seen nine of the ten nominees, and to me, it's in the bottom half). My guess is it will win a handful of technical awards, but none for picture or screenplay (and, of course, none for acting or directing). Dune has our attention, and I don't have any ill will towards it. But that's faint praise for a film that cost $165 million.


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