‘CODA’ Makes Oscar History as First Streaming Film to Win Best Picture

The lines between theatrical and home entertainment were blurred even further at the 94th Academy Awards when CODA became the first movie from a streaming service to win Best Picture.

The coming-of-age drama was released on Apple TV+ as well as theaters last August.  Written and directed by Sian Heder, the film is a remake of the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. It stars Emilia Jones as a CODA (child of deaf adults), the only member of a deaf family who can hear, and follows her struggles to strike a balance between her own life and her family’s fishing business.

Troy Kotsur, one of several deaf cast members, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, while the film’s third win went to Heder for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Streaming already accounts for nearly 80% of all consumer spending on home entertainment, and CODA‘s win reflects the growing importance of non-theatrical distribution in a world still battling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The night’s other big winner was Dune, which was intended for theaters but due to the pandemic wound up premiering on both the big screen and HBO Max in October 2021. The Denis Villeneuve-helmed sci-fi remake won six Oscars, more than any other film, but mostly in technical categories: Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, an Best Original Score for Hans Zimmer. A sequel is already in the works, tentatively slated for release in October 2023.

Among the major awards, Jane Campion won Best Director for The Power of the Dog, a Netflix film many observers felt was the frontrunner for Best Picture after leading all films with 12 nominations. It won just the single trophy.

Best Actor in a Leading Role went to Will Smith for King Richard, while Best Actress in a Leading Role went to Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, from Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures.

King Richard, about the father of tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams, was released simultaneously to theaters and HBO Max in November 2021. The Eyes of Tammy Faye, about the flamboyant wife of televangelist and convicted fraudster Jim Bakker, also won Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The film was released theatrically in September and on Blu-ray Disc two months later. It became available for streaming on HBO Max in February 2022.

Ariana DeBose won Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story, Steven Spielberg’s remake of the 1957 Broadway musical about two rival New York City street gangs. The film was released theatrically in December 2021 and became available to stream on Disney+ and HBO Max on March 2. The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on March 15. DeBose won for playing Anita, the same role for which Rita Moreno won the same award for playing in the 1961 movie adaptation.

Smith won the top acting award shortly after he jumped up on stage and smacked presenter Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopedia, an autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to fall out. During his presentation of the Best Documentary Feature award, Rock compared Pinkett Smith — who has shaved her head — to Demi Moore in 1997’s G.I. Jane, saying he can’t wait to see her in G.I. Jane 2. Pinkett Smith gave him a sour look, while Smith at first smiled, but seconds later bounded up on stage.

After the altercation, Smith returned to his seat but shouted, twice, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

Rock ultimately handed the Documentary Feature statuette to Summer of Soul, a documentary directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The Searchlight Pictures release is available on DVD and to stream on Hulu. Best Documentary Short honors went to the 22-minute film The Queen of Basketball, about Lucy Harris, the first and only woman officially drafted into the NBA.

Among other major awards, Disney’s Encanto won Best Animated Feature. Best Original Screenplay honors went to Belfast, the British coming-of-age drama written and directed by Kenneth Branagh and released by Focus Features.

“No Time to Die,” from the James Bond movie of the same name, was hailed as Best Original Song. This marks the third win in a row for a Bond title song, following 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s Spectre (“Writing’s on the Wall”). The Bond movie franchise, which received a 60th anniversary tribute from the Academy (since the debut of Dr. No in 1962), is known for its iconic musical themes, but scored no song Oscars for its first 50 years.

The year’s Best International Feature was pegged by Academy voters to be Drive My Car, a  Japanese road film that also made Oscar history this year by being the first Japanese film to be nominated for Best Picture.

Best Costume Design honors went to Disney’s Cruella, while The Windshield Wiper was named Best Animated Short and The Long Goodbye won Best Live Action Short honors.

Dune: Part One

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $107.35 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.
Stars Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem.

Efforts to adapt Frank Herbert’s landmark 1965 sci-fi novel Dune have been met with mixed results over the years.

The 1970s saw Alejandro Jodorowsky envision a 10-hour movie version, and when that fell through, producer Dino De Laurentiis grabbed the rights and hired Ridley Scott to give it a go as a follow-up to Alien, though the scope of the project proved too daunting for him as well.

Then David Lynch came on board, choosing to adapt Dune over, among other projects, directing Return of the Jedi. His version finally arrived in 1984 after a troubled production and massive edits to bring his three-hour initial cut to a bit over two hours for the theatrical release, a running time that so crammed Herbert’s story that it was generally panned by critics for being incomprehensible.

The Sci-Fi Channel in the early 2000s had a bit better luck with a pair of miniseries based on Dune and a few of Herbert’s sequels to it, earning ratings success while leaving fans of the books to continue to clamor for a worthy big-screen version.

Director Denis Villeneuve’s interpretation seems to have met those aspirations.

Villeneuve’s Dune presents the narrative as a sweeping epic of galactic politics and feuding families, marked by stunning visual splendor and scope.

Covering roughly half of the first book, Dune: Part One, as it is announced on screen, tells the story of a desert world named Arrakis, thousands of years into the future when humanity has colonized the vast expanses of outer space and formed an empire to control it, led by wealthy and influential families. The planet’s sands provide the only known source of the spice Melange, a substance with mind-altering properties that makes celestial navigation possible.

The Emperor has ordered the House Atreides, led by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) to take over administration of Arrakis from Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). Leto’s son, Paul (Timothée Chalamet), begins having visions of living among the Fremen, remnants of the tribes that originally inhabited the planet.

The Fremen are experts at surviving the harsh desert environment and dealing with the giant native sandworms that roam beneath the surface, both depositing the spice and menacing the efforts to extract it. Paul is rumored to be a prophesized messiah to the Fremen.

The Atreides will not have an easy time of it on Arrakis, however, as it quickly becomes apparent that their appointment to govern the planet is a trap by the Emperor and the Harkonnens to diminish their power, if not eliminate them altogether by a full-scale assault on the planet.

Villeneuve places the emphasis on the human and character aspects of the story, rather than the more bizarre sci-fi elements that seemed to fuel Lynch’s version.

At around two-and-a-half-hours, he also takes 20 more minutes than Lynch to tell half the story, allowing it to breathe by not trying to cram the density of the first book into a single movie, as the 1984 version did.

To make sure viewers who didn’t read the book are not left completely baffled, long early stretches of the film are very heavy in exposition, explaining who the families are, the Fremen and the culture of Arrakis. But this is all necessary worldbuilding endemic to any good sci-fi franchise and should continue to pay off with future installments.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Savvy viewers may have noticed the influence the original novel had on countless burgeoning sci-fi franchises in the years it took to get a movie adaptation off the ground, with “Star Wars” and its desert world of Tatooine being the most notable example. Because of this, some fans might find a lot of similarities between this latest Dune movie and some recent “Star Wars” shows set on Tatooine, such as “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett.”

The exposition provided in the film is expanded upon in the Blu-ray bonus materials, with an eight minute featurette about the Royal Houses, and 10-and-a-half-minutes of video encyclopedia entries similar to the ones Paul watches in the film in order to learn about Arrakis.

The Blu-ray also includes nearly an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes as well, with individual videos focused on the usual things like production design, cinematography, costumes and visual effects

Some dig deeper, such as a creating the makeup effects used to create the Baron’s bloated physique. Another looks at the fighting styles used to give the battle scenes a heightened since of verisimilitude. Others show how the visual effects team pulled off the film’s unique vehicles, as well as the giant worm attacks; the longest is an 11-minute examination of the film’s distinctive sound design and Hans Zimmer’s musical score.

Collectively, they demonstrate the precision and craftsmanship that went into constructing the film.

‘Dune’ Home Entertainment Release Party Canceled Due to Omicron Concerns

A party to celebrate the Jan. 11 DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD release of Dune has been canceled due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

On Dec. 17, journalists received, by email, an invitation to a Jan. 4 release party at the Bar Lis at the Thompson in Hollywood. A reception was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., followed by a performance by Hans Zimmer, the film’s composer, at 7 p.m.

The party, jointly hosted by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, also was to feature appearances by director, producer and co-writer Denis Villeneuve; writers Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth; director of photography Greig Fraser; editor Joe Walker; costume designer Jacqueline West; makeup hair and prosthetic designer, and makeup department head, Donald Mowat; and supervising sound editor Mark Mangini.

The invitation warned that “all guests must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination to attend the event. All guests will be required to show a negative PCR COVID-19 test result within 72 hours or a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test result within 24 hours of the event, in addition to proof of full vaccination. All guests will be required to wear masks while inside except while eating or drinking.”

Just five days later, a second email arrived, noting that “out of an out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to cancel our Dune Home Entertainment Release Party. … While we will not be able to gather in person to celebrate the home entertainment release of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, we invite you to watch the film at home either on digital, which is available now, or on 4K UHD, available on Jan. 11.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Dune became available for premium digital ownership ($29.99) and VOD ($24.99) on Dec. 3. The film, which has generated more than $350 million at the global box office, was directed by Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) from a screenplay he co-wrote with Spaihts and Roth, based on the novel of the same name written by Frank Herbert.

The film’s cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, and Dave Bautista.

Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides (Chalamet), 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 Blu-ray, DVD and 4K discs will include the featurette “The Royal Houses.”

Extras on the Blu-ray and 4K editions will also include:

  • Filmbooks: House Atreides
  • Filmbooks: House Harkonnen
  • Filmbooks: The Fremen
  • Filmbooks: The Spice Melange
  • Inside Dune: The Training Room
  • Inside Dune: The Spice Harvester
  • Inside Dune: The Sardaukar Battle
  • Building the Ancient Future
  • My Desert, My Dune
  • Constructing the Ornithopters
  • Designing the Sandworm
  • Beware the Baron
  • Wardrobe from Another World
  • A New Soundscape

 

‘Dune’ Due Via Premium Digital Purchase and Rental Dec. 3, on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 11

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ Dune will arrive for premium digital ownership ($29.99) and VOD ($24.99) on Dec. 3. The film will also be available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD  Jan. 11.

Dune, which has garnered more than $350 million at the global box office, was directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) from a screenplay he co-wrote with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, based on the novel of the same name written by Frank Herbert.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The film stars Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Little Women), Rebecca Ferguson (Doctor Sleep, Mission: Impossible — Fallout), Oscar Isaac (the “Star Wars” franchise), Josh Brolin (Milk, Avengers: Infinity War), Stellan Skarsgård (TV’s “Chernobyl,” Avengers: Age of Ultron), Dave Bautista (the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, Avengers: Endgame), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences, Lady Bird), Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, TV’s “Euphoria”), Chang Chen (Mr. Long, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), David Dastmalchian (Blade Runner 2049, The Dark Knight), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, TV’s “Sex Education”), with Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Assassin’s Creed), with Jason Momoa (Aquaman, “Game of Thrones”), and Oscar winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Skyfall).

Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides (Chalamet), 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 Blu-ray, DVD and 4K discs will include the featurette “The Royal Houses.”

Extras on the Blu-ray and 4K editions will also include:

  • Filmbooks: House Atreides
  • Filmbooks: House Harkonnen
  • Filmbooks: The Fremen
  • Filmbooks: The Spice Melange
  • Inside Dune: The Training Room
  • Inside Dune: The Spice Harvester
  • Inside Dune: The Sardaukar Battle
  • Building the Ancient Future
  • My Desert, My Dune
  • Constructing the Ornithopters
  • Designing the Sandworm
  • Beware the Baron
  • Wardrobe from Another World
  • A New Soundscape

Blade Runner 2049

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 1/16/18;
Warner;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $91.95 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.
Stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto.

What’s remarkable about director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is how seamlessly it returns us to the dystopian future established in the original 1982 film. Set 30 years later, 2049 manages to both tell an engaging story in its own right while providing deeper context and reframing the narrative of the first film — no easy feat considering the landmark cult status it has achieved.

Harrison Ford returns as Deckard, the police officer in the first film tasked with hunting down rogue replicants — specially engineered not-quite-humans designed for labor in off-world colonies. While the character doesn’t appear until well into the running time and his role is relatively limited, his presence does provide a nice sense of continuity. And the lingering question of the ages about whether Deckard himself was a replicant is dealt with here in a way that makes sense for the story this film is trying to tell.

Another source of stability between the two films is co-writer Hampton Fancher, who also co-wrote the original film and clearly had more to say about this world, which was originally adapted from Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The sequel follows a new cop, Ryan Gosling as K, a replicant Blade Runner tasked with hunting down his own kind. K stumbles upon a 30-year-old mystery that suggests replicants can reproduce biologically, a fact that would have enormous repercussions on society. His discovery triggers a race to find the child, between a police chief (Robin Wright) who wants to eliminate any hint of the replicants’ humanity for fear it may lead to a revolution, and the replicants’ billionaire breeder (Jared Leto), who sees natural biology as the key to growing a replicant population big enough to enable mankind to achieve its true potential.

At the heart of the story is the question of identity and individuality, and whether true personhood can be achieved artificially. Can K truly find meaning in his life, or is he only programmed to think that he can? Contrasting K’s flesh-and-blood interactions is a companion hologram named Joi (Ana de Armas), who always comes across as the perfect girlfriend with just the right words of encouragement to push K forward. Is her sentience real, thus providing some legitimacy for K’s affection for her? Or is she merely a function of very sophisticated algorithms? Does it even matter?

While the film is set in 2049, it is not necessarily a vision of the future based on how things are now, but more of an extrapolation of the vision of the future of the original film from 1982 (where newspapers were still a thing in 2019!), with maybe a few real-world influences from the intervening time period.

Every character has a role to play in this parable, and everything they do has some connection to the film’s larger themes, even if they seem superfluous at the time. Villeneuve with Arrival established that he is a master of visual landscapes, and the settings here really allow him to indulge those instincts, embellishing the style that Ridley Scott established 35 years ago.

If there’s a major drawback to the film, it’s that Villeneuve is quite deliberate in his pacing, and his long establishing shots of the bleak future world are a primary contributor to the 163-minute run time, about 45 minutes longer than its predecessor. But there is splendor in the visual effects, and fans of the original will no doubt appreciate how the follow-up takes the time to breathe. It is certainly a unique feature of the home video formats that viewers who don’t find themselves enthralled by longer films can chart their own course through it.

The Blu-ray includes three short films (originally released online in the lead-up to the new film) that serve as prequels to 2049, filling in parts of the 30-year gap in the timeline. For those who picked up the disc for their first viewing of 2049, I’d recommend a rewatch of the “Final Cut” of the original first, followed by these shorts in chronological order.

The 2022 short is an anime that delves into a massive blackout that will have a profound impact on the events of 2049. This picks up with the 2036 short, which features Leto’s character waxing about why he wants to create a new breed of replicant. Finally, the 2048 short features Dave Bautista as a replicant defending a family from thugs, and leads into the opening scene of 2049.

The rest of the bonus materials offer about 50 minutes of short featurettes about the making of the film and the advancement of the concepts introduced in the original movie.