Poster of 'Dune' movie
Denis Villeneuve's science-fiction epic “Dune” has won four Academy Awards, even if the broadcast hasn't begun yet.
The 94th Academy Awards got underway Sunday off-camera, with the first eight awards on the night being handed out at the Dolby Theatre before the start of the ABC telecast, beginning at 8 p.m. EDT.
The Dolby was largely full in time for the 7 p.m. EDT pre-show, dubbed the “golden hour” by the academy. Presenters Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin announced the winners, whose speeches were to be edited into the broadcast.
But it was a strange and controversial beginning to the first fully in-person Oscars in two years. Earlier this month, more than 70 Oscar winners, including James Cameron, Kathleen Kennedy and Guillermo del Toro, warned that the change would turn some nominees into “second-class citizens.”
After record-low ratings in 2021, the academy trimmed the live presentation of eight categories from the broadcast, which will feature edited clips of their wins. The academy also elected not to televise the early awards in the Oscars' press room, where the red carpet pre-show continued to play, even though most stars were by then in their seats. (Most interviews were taped shortly in advance, when the carpet was crowded.)
“Dune” got out to an early lead, winning for production design, editing, sound and for Hans Zimmer's score. Though it's not favored in the top awards, “Dune” — the biggest blockbuster of this year's 10 best-picture nominees — was widely expected to clean up in technical categories.
Best makeup and hairstyling went to Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” That film's star and producer, Jessica Chastain, had been among the many academy members who thought all the awards should have been handed out live during the broadcast. Chastain hugged each winner as they took the stage.
“I just hope that each and every day on set everyone takes a moment to just look around and look at all those talented people who work hard," said Dowds, the make-up artist.
“The Queen of Basketball,” about the basketball great Lusia Harris, took best short documentary film. Its executive producers include Steph Curry and Shaquille O’Neal. Best animated short went to “The Windshield Wiper," while “The Long Goodbye,” a blistering fictional short starring Riz Ahmed, took best fiction short.
“This is for everyone who feels like they’re stuck in No Man’s Land,” said Ahmed. “You’re not alone. We’ll meet you there.”
But after two years of pandemic, and beneath a warm California sun Sunday, a Hollywood rite of glamour again got into swing. The early hour of awards was one of many shifts, both slight and tectonic, around this year’s ceremony. After a socially distanced 2021 edition, the Academy Awards are trying to recapture their exalted place in pop culture with a revamped telecast that’s expected to see a streaming service win best picture for the first time.
The film industry recovered significantly from the pandemic in 2021, but despite one of the biggest hits in years in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the rebound has been fitful. The global movie industry sold about half the tickets last year as it did two years ago, $21.3 billion in 2021 compared to $42.3 billion in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association. Hollywood pushed more of its top films directly into homes than ever before; half of this year's 10 best-picture nominees were streamed at or very near release. Even the film academy shifted entirely to a streaming platform for voters, rather than DVD screeners.
Then there are the challenges of commanding worldwide attention for a night of Hollywood self-congratulation after two years of pandemic and while Russia's war ravages Ukraine. Packer has said the war in Ukraine will be respectfully acknowledged during the broadcast. Some stars, like Sean Penn, have lobbied the academy to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speak at the ceremony. Some stars sported blue ribbons in support of Ukraine.
Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s gothic western, comes in with a leading 12 nominations and a good chance of snagging the top award. But all the momentum is with Sian Heder’s deaf family drama “CODA,” which, despite boasting just three nods, is considered the favorite. A win would be a triumph for Apple TV+, which acquired the movie out of the Sundance Film Festival last year and has spent big promoting it to academy members.
After several years sans-host, the Oscars are turning to the trio of Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall to emcee the broadcast, which is also streaming on platforms including Hulu Live TV, YouTubeTV and on ABC.com with provider authentication. Producers have also lined up a star-studded group of performers including Billie Eilish and Beyoncé to sing nominated songs, while the “Encanto” cast will perform Lin-Manuel Miranda's breakout hit “We Don't Talk About Bruno.” (Miranda, however, won't be attendance after his wife tested positive for COVID-19.) Also planned: anniversary celebrations for Francis Ford Coppola's “The Godfather” (50 years old) and James Bond (60).
Behind the change is alarm over the Oscars fast-falling ratings. While drops have been common to all major network award shows, last year’s show attracted only about 10 million viewers, less than half of the 23.6 million the year before. A decade ago, it was closer to 40 million.
To help restore the Oscars’ position, some argued in the lead-up to this year’s awards that a blockbuster like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” should have been nominated for best picture. It’s up for just visual effects.
Instead, a wide gamut of films are in the hunt, ranging from the much-watched Netflix apocalyptic comedy “Don’t Look Up” and the roundly acclaimed three-hour Japanese drama “Drive My Car.”
One thing producers have promised: the night's final award will be best picture. Last year's show concluded awkwardly with the unexpected presentation of best actor to a not-present Anthony Hopkins.