2022 Academy Awards: ‘CODA’ wins three Oscars, including Best Picture; ‘Dune’ wins six Oscars

March 27, 2022

by Carla Hay

Members of the “CODA” team at the 94th annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. Pictured from left to right: producer Patrick Wachsberger, actor Eugenios Derbez, writer/director Siân Heder, actress Marlee Matlin, actor Troy Kotsur, actress Emilia Jones, actress Daniel Durant, actress Amy Forsyth, producer Philippe Rousselet and producer Fabrice Gianfereme. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

With three prizes, including Best Picture, Apple TV+’s drama “CODA” made Oscar history by being the first movie from a streaming service and the first movie with several deaf actors to win Best Picture. This historic victory happened at the 94th annual Academy Awards, which were presented at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes hosted the show, which was telecast in the U.S. on ABC. Eligible movies were those released in U.S. theaters between March 1 and December 31, 2021. The nominations and awards are voted for by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Troy Kotsur of “CODA” also made history by becoming the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar. Kotsur took the prize for Best Supporting Actor. Marlee Matlin, who was the first deaf actress to win an Oscar (Best Actress for 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God”), also starred in “CODA.” Kotsur and Matlin portray a married couple in “CODA,” an acronym for “child of dead adults.”

In “CODA,” a hearing teenager named Ruby Rossi (played by Emilia Jones) has parents named Frank and Jackie (played by Kotsur and Matlin) and an older brother named Leo (played by Daniel Durant), who are all deaf. Ruby has to decide if she will stay in their hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, to help in the family’s fishing business or pursue her dream of being a singer at Berklee College of Music.

“CODA” is a remake of the 2014 French film “La Famille Bélier,” thereby making “CODA” the second movie remake (after 2006’s “The Departed”) to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Unlike “La Famille Bélier,” which cast hearing actors as deaf people, “CODA” had deaf cast members in the roles of deaf people. “CODA” won all three of the Oscars for which it was nominated. In addition to Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor, the Oscar haul for “CODA” included Best Adapted Screenplay. “CODA” director Siân Heder adapted the screenplay.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ sci-fi remake of “Dune” won six of its 10 Oscar nominations: Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Production Design, Best Sound, Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects. Netflix’s Western drama “The Power of the Dog” went into the ceremony with the most nominations (12) and ended up winning just one: Best Director, for Jane Campion. The only other movie to win more than one Oscar at the ceremony was Searchlight Pictures’ Tammy Faye Bakker biopic “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”: Jessica Chastain won Best Actress, and the movie won the prize for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

Ariana DeBose, Troy Kotsur and Jessica Chastain at the 94th annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer woman to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won the prize for playing the role of Anita in the 2021 remake of “West Side Story,” which was DeBose’s acting debut in a feature film. It was the same role for which Rita Moreno won a history-making Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1961’s “West Side Story,” which made Moreno the first Latin person to win an Oscar. Moreno attended the Oscar ceremony in 2022, and she looked on with pride and joy when DeBose took the stage to accept the award.

Despite all the accolades during the show, it will probably be most remembered for an unscripted moment when “King Richard” star Will Smith went on stage and punched presenter Chris Rock in the face, after Rock made an insulting joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, looking like G.I. Jane because of her close-cropped, shaved head. Pinkett Smith went public in 2021 about shaving her head because she has alopecia, a condition which causes large clumps of hair on a head to fall out. Rock was on stage to present the award for Best Documentary Feature. According to Variety, Smith also yelled Rock after slapping him: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”

This surprising altercation, which was followed by spurts of audio blocking and other technical interruptions to TV audiences, happened about 30 minutes before Smith won Best Actor for “King Richard,” in which he portrays Richard “Richie” Williams, the father and first tennis coach for tennis superstars Venus Williams and Serena Williams. Smith gave a tearful acceptance speech about protecting his family and being called to spread love.

Smith also said during the speech: “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people.” The Smith/Rock altercation is bound to be ranked as one of the most notorious moments in Oscar history.*

Other presenters at the show were Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Daniel Kaluuya, H.E.R., Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez, Jacob Elordi, Rachel Zegler, Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, Shaun White, Stephanie Beatriz, Halle Bailey, Lily James and Naomi Scott, Naomi Scott, Tiffany Haddish, Simu Liu, Mila Kunis, Ruth E. Carter, Lupita Nyong’o, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Garner, Elliot Page J.K. Simmons, Shawn Mendes, Tracee Ellis Ross, Rami Malek, Tyler Perry, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Murray, Jill Scott, Sean Combs, Zoë Kravitz, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Costner, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Anthony Hopkins, Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli.

There were also performances of four of the five songs competing in the Best Original Son category: Beyoncé opened the show with her Oscar-nominated “Be Alive” from “King Richard,” by performing the song at a tennis court in Compton, California, as a nod to where Venus Williams and Serena Williams got their start. Sebastián Yatra sang “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto.” Reba McEntire sang “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days.” Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell performed the title track to “No Time to Die,” which won the Oscar. Van Due to touring commitments, Morrison did not attend the ceremony to perform his Oscar-nominated song “Down to Joy.” Instead, there was a performance of the “Encanto” hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” by members of the “Encanto” cast with a special guest appearance by Megan Thee Stallion.

*April 1, 2022 UPDATE: After much controversy and media coverage of Smith’s physical assault of Rock at this Oscar ceremony, Smith has resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. Read the full story here.

*April 8, 2022 UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it is banning Smith from all Academy events for 10 years. Read the full story here.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominations for the 2022 Academy Awards:

*=winner

Best Picture

“Belfast,” Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas, producers

“CODA,” Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger, producers*

“Don’t Look Up,” Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, producers

“Drive My Car,” Teruhisa Yamamoto, producer

“Dune,” Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve and Cale Boyter, producers

“King Richard,” Tim White, Trevor White and Will Smith, producers

“Licorice Pizza,” Sara Murphy, Adam Somner and Paul Thomas Anderson, producers

“Nightmare Alley,” Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale and Bradley Cooper, producers

“The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier, producers

“West Side Story,” Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, producers

Best Director

Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”)

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”)

Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”)

Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)*

Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”)

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”)

Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”)

Andrew Garfield (“Tick, Tick … Boom!”)

Will Smith (“King Richard”)*

Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)*

Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”)

Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”)

Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”)

Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Ciarán Hinds (“Belfast”)

Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)*

Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”)

J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”)

Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”)

Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)*

Judi Dench (“Belfast”)

Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”)

Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”)

Best Adapted Screenplay

“CODA,” screenplay by Siân Heder*

“Drive My Car,” screenplay by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe

“Dune,” screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth

“The Lost Daughter,” written by Maggie Gyllenhaal

“The Power of the Dog,” written by Jane Campion

Best Original Screenplay

“Belfast,” written by Kenneth Branagh*

“Don’t Look Up,” screenplay by Adam McKay; story by Adam McKay and David Sirota

“King Richard,” written by Zach Baylin

“Licorice Pizza,” written by Paul Thomas Anderson

“The Worst Person in the World,” written by Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier

Best Cinematography

“Dune,” Greig Fraser*

“Nightmare Alley,” Dan Laustsen

“The Power of the Dog,” Ari Wegner

“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Bruno Delbonnel

“West Side Story,” Janusz Kaminski

Best Film Editing

“Don’t Look Up,” Hank Corwin

“Dune,” Joe Walker*

“King Richard”, Pamela Martin

“The Power of the Dog,” Peter Sciberras

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum

Best Sound

“Belfast,” Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri

“Dune,” Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett*

“No Time to Die,” Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey and Mark Taylor

“The Power of the Dog,” Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb

“West Side Story,” Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson and Shawn Murphy

Best Original Score

“Don’t Look Up,” Nicholas Britell

“Dune,” Hans Zimmer*

“Encanto,” Germaine Franco

“Parallel Mothers,” Alberto Iglesias

“The Power of the Dog,” Jonny Greenwood

Best Original Song

“Be Alive” from “King Richard,” music and lyric by Dixson and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

“Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto,” music and lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

“Down to Joy” from “Belfast,” music and lyric by Van Morrison

“No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die,” music and lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell*

“Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days,” music and lyric by Diane Warren

Best Animated Feature Film

“Encanto,” Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer*

“Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie

“Luca,” Enrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” Mike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Kurt Albrecht

“Raya and the Last Dragon,” Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho

Best International Feature Film

“Drive My Car” (Japan)*

“Flee” (Denmark)

“The Hand of God” (Italy)

“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” (Bhutan)

“The Worst Person in the World” (Norway)

Best Documentary Feature

“Ascension,” Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell

“Attica,” Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry

“Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie

“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein*

“Writing With Fire,” Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Coming 2 America,” Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer

“Cruella,” Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon

“Dune,” Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh*

“House of Gucci,” Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock and Frederic Aspiras

Best Costume Design

“Cruella,” Jenny Beavan*

“Cyrano,” Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran

“Dune,” Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan

“Nightmare Alley,” Luis Sequeira

“West Side Story,” Paul Tazewell

Best Production Design

“Dune,” production design: Patrice Vermette; set decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos*

“Nightmare Alley,” production design: Tamara Deverell; set decoration: Shane Vieau

“The Power of the Dog,” production design: Grant Major; set decoration: Amber Richards

“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” production design: Stefan Dechant; set decoration: Nancy Haigh

“West Side Story,” production design: Adam Stockhausen; set decoration: Rena DeAngelo

Best Visual Effects

“Dune,” Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer*

“Free Guy,” Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis and Dan Sudick

“No Time to Die,” Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker and Dan Oliver

“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick

Best Documentary Short Subject

“Audible,” Matt Ogens and Geoff McLean

“Lead Me Home,” Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk

“The Queen of Basketball,” Ben Proudfoot*

“Three Songs for Benazir,” Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei

“When We Were Bullies,” Jay Rosenblatt

Best Animated Short Film

“Affairs of the Art,” Joanna Quinn and Les Mills

“Bestia,” Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Díaz

“Boxballet,” Anton Dyakov

“Robin Robin,” Dan Ojari and Mikey Please

“The Windshield Wiper,” Alberto Mielgo and Leo Sanchez*

Best Live-Action Short Film

“Ala Kachuu – Take and Run,” Maria Brendle and Nadine Lüchinger

“The Dress,” Tadeusz Łysiak and Maciej Ślesicki

“The Long Goodbye,” Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed*

“On My Mind,” Martin Strange-Hansen and Kim Magnusson

“Please Hold,” K.D. Dávila and Levin Menekse

Review: ‘Cruella,’ starring Emma Stone

May 26, 2021

by Carla Hay

Emma Stone in “Cruella” (Photo by Laurie Sparham/Disney Enterprises Inc.)

“Cruella”

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1952 to 1974 in England (primarily in London), the comedy/drama “Cruella” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Asians and black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: In this “101 Dalmatians” origin story, an aspiring fashion designer has conflicts with her cruel boss and vows to get revenge. 

Culture Audience: “Cruella” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, as well as anyone who doesn’t mind watching lengthy origin-story movies of classic Disney characters.

Emma Thompson in “Cruella” (Photo by Laurie Sparham/Disney Enterprises Inc.)

In this “battle of the villains” origin story, “Cruella” can be a little too overstuffed and filled with inconsistencies, but the dynamic duo of Emma Stone and Emma Thompson (as well as top-notch costume design) elevate this sometimes tedious movie. “Cruella” is a prequel to Disney’s 1996 live-action “101 Dalmations” movie, starring Glenn Close as villain Cruella de Vil. “Cruella” benefits from having a talented cast, including Stone as Cruella during her youth in England. At a total running time of 134 minutes, “Cruella” might test the patience of people with short attention spans, but the movie has enough dazzling moments and star charisma to hold people’s interests during the best parts of the film.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, “Cruella” at times seems a little too enamored with itself and could have benefited from a slyer sense of comedy. The jokes sometimes fall very flat, and the pacing drags during the middle section of the film. It’s a shame, really, because Stone and Thompson have immense comedic talent, but so much of it could have been put to better use if the “Cruella” screenplay (written by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara) had been wittier and more creative. The supporting characters are underwritten by not having enough depth to their personalities. (Dodie Smith’s 1956 children’s novel “The One Hundred and One Dalmations” is the basis of this movie franchise.)

“Cruella,” which occasionally features Stone’s voiceover narration as Cruella, begins by literally showing Cruella at birth (in 1952), and being raised by her mother Catherine (played by Emily Beecham), a mild-mannered and patient single parent. Cruella’s birth name is Estella, and the movie shows that she was born with her famous two-toned hair, which is black on one side and white on another. It’s later shown how she gave herself the nickname Cruella, to describe her evil and vindictive side.

Estella/Cruella says in a voiceover: “From an early age, I realized I saw the world differently from everyone else, including my mother. It wasn’t her I was challenging, it was the world. But, of course, my mother knew that. That’s what worried her.”

The first 15 minutes of “Cruella” show her childhood at 5 years old (played by Billie Gadsdon) and at 12 years old (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland), with Estella and Catherine (who has work experience as a maid) living in an unnamed suburban part of England. As a 12-year-old, Estella enrolled in a new school and was bullied by boys. Because she physically fought back, she often landed in the school headmaster’s office.

Because she was usually blamed for fights that she didn’t start, Estella learned early on not to trust authority figures. One bright spot to her miserable experiences at school was that she made a friendly acquaintance with a fellow classmate named Anita Darling (played by Florisa Kamara), but they didn’t hang out with each other enough to form a close friendship. Estella is an only child, and her closest companion is a stray, mixed-breed brown puppy she found in an outdoor garbage bin. She names the dog Buddy.

Estella gets in so much trouble at school that she’s eventually expelled by the headmaster or withdrawn from the school by her mother. The movie has what’s supposed to be a funny scene of Catherine debating with the headmaster (played by Leo Bill) over who made the decision first for Estella to leave the school. It’s another version of “You can’t fire me because I quit” schtick that doesn’t work very well in this scene.

At any rate, Catherine decides that she and Estella need a fresh start in the big city of London. But first, Catherine says they have to visit someone who can help them finance their relocation. Catherine seems reluctant to ask this person for help, but one evening, she drives herself and Estella to a grand estate called Hellman Hall, which is located on the top of a cliff.

A lavish costume ball is taking place at Hellman Hall. Before she gets out of the car, Catherine takes off a necklace with a red circular stone. This necklace, which Catherine describes as a “family heirloom,” is a big part of the story that’s linked to family secrets that are exposed later in the movie. Catherine tells Estella to stay and hide in the car.

But, of course, rebellious and curious Estella doesn’t stay in the car. Estella takes the necklace with her while she and Buddy crash the costume ball, Estella gets caught by a valet named John (played by Mark Strong), and the expected mayhem ensues. Three aggressive Dalmations give chase to Estella.

Estella gets cornered and hides near the cliff, where she sees Catherine talking to a woman (whose back is facing Estella) and asking the mystery woman to borrow some money. Suddenly, the Dalmations charge and jump on Catherine, who falls off of the cliff to her death. A horrified Estella runs away with Buddy and accidentally drops the necklace in the chaos.

An orphaned Estella is wracked with guilt because she blames herself for her mother’s death. With her dog Buddy in tow, Estella is now homeless and living on the streets of London. And it’s where she meets two other street urchins who are the same age as she is: somewhat dimwitted Horace (played by Joseph MacDonald) and intuitive Jasper (played by Ziggy Gardner), who both eventually take Estella under their wing. They make money as beggars, thieves and con artists.

The movie then fast-forwards 10 years later. It’s 1974, and Estella (played by Stone) is now living with Horace (played by Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (played by Joel Fry) in a large warehouse-styled loft. They are still being grifters for money, with some help from a white and brown terrier mix dog named Buddy and a Chihuahua named Wink. There’s a montage of this team of thieves working in tandem to do things like pickpocket wallets or steal jewelry from a jewelry store by posing as customers.

Estella (who wears a red wig to hide her distinctive black-and-white hair) designs a lot of the clothes that she, Horace and Jasper wear as disguises. Her ultimate goal is to become a famous and successful fashion designer. And her biggest idol is a designer named The Baroness (played by Thompson), who is considered to be one of the top haute couture designers in the fashion industry. The Baroness is also the boss from hell, who demeans and insults almost everyone she’s in contact with, and she takes credit for her employees’ work.

“Cruella” wastes some time setting up the convoluted circumstances that led to Estella working for The Baroness, whose first name is not mentioned in the movie. First, Jasper embellished Estella’s résumé/CV, and he found a way to get it into a stack on a hiring manager’s desk at a high-end clothing boutique called Liberty. Somehow, Estella was hired for an entry-level position at Liberty without even interviewing for the job. Jasper tells Estella this news one day. And she’s elated, because working at Liberty is a dream job for her. Naturally, Liberty carries fashion by The Baroness.

But the entry-level job at Liberty isn’t what Estella thought it would be. She’s the store housekeeper, which means that she mostly has cleaning duties. Meanwhile, her snooty boss Gerald (played by Jamie Demetriou) doesn’t care that Estella is an aspiring fashion designer and ignores her suggestions on how to style the store’s displays. Gerald just wants Estella to shut up and clean when she’s at work.

Horace thinks there could be some kind of thieving angle they can work in Estella’s Liberty job, but Estella and Jasper both insist that this job will be off-limits to their con games. Jasper seems to be in tune to Estella’s desire to break into the fashion industry honestly. Does that mean Estella, Jasper and Horace will straighten out their lives and leave their criminal ways behind? Of course not.

One day, Estella walks into a vintage clothing shop called Second Time Around and meets an androgynous sales clerk named Artie (played by John McCrea), who’s clearly influenced by David Bowie’s 1970s glam rock style. Predictably, Artie becomes Estella’s flamboyant sidekick, which seems expected when there’s a scripted movie that takes place in the fashion industry. Artie is very sassy, but unfortunately, viewers will find out almost nothing about Artie while watching “Cruella.” He seems like a fascinating character who deserves more of a storyline.

Estella grows increasingly frustrated by her dead-end job at Liberty. And so, one night, she gets drunk, goes to the store when it’s closed, and completely rearranges Liberty’s front-window display to make it look like an anarchist punk took over the space. She passes out and wakes up the next morning as the store is opening for the day.

And guess who happens to be visiting the store at that moment? The Baroness. Estella’s boss Gerald panics because there isn’t time to change the window display back to what it was. The Baroness wants to know who did the window display. Gerald points to Estella, but he says that she’s been fired.

However, viewers shouldn’t be surprised that The Baroness loves the display because it’s so edgy. She gives Estella her business card. And it isn’t long before Estella is working as a junior designer at The Baroness’ chic designer workshop.

Estella soon finds out that The Baroness is a tyrant boss. And this is where “Cruella” looks like Disney’s version of “The Devil Wears Prada,” except that Estella doesn’t battle with any co-worker peers and she doesn’t get involved in any romances. Through a series of circumstances, the rest of the movie is about Estella getting revenge on The Baroness, as they try to out-do each other as diva villains.

Most of Estella’s revenge plans are done under her alter ego Cruella. Viewers are supposed to believe that during much of the Cruella/Baroness feud, The Baroness doesn’t figure out that Cruella and Estella are the same person, just because Estella has red hair and wears glasses while on the job. It doesn’t make The Baroness look very smart, so it dilutes some of the comeuppance competition between The Baroness and Cruella/Estella.

And the tactics used by Cruella fall into catty stereotypes of women being cruel over who looks better, with Cruella doing some form of “The Baroness is an old has-been” type of humiliation. The Baroness has a formal Black and White Ball where the attendees are require to wear only black and/or white, but Cruella crashes the event by wearing a bright red dress. In another scene, Cruella upstages The Baroness at a high-profile gala, by literally wearing black makeup on her face that reads “The Future.”

And in another scene, with Jasper and Horace’s help, Cruella outshines The Baroness at another public event. The Baroness is prevented from getting out of her car when she arrives. Cruella stands on the car and unfurls a dress that has the words “The Past” pointing down at The Baroness.

Meanwhile, Anita Darling (played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste) is now working as a society columnist for a Daily Mail-type tabloid newspaper called Tattletale. She has been reporting on Cruella’s shenanigans in her column. And because Anita is someone with common sense, she immediately figures out that her former school acquaintance Estella is really Cruella.

In her coverage of the Cruella/Baroness rivalry, Anita seems to side with Cruella. And so, one day, The Baroness confronts Anita about it and demands that Anita help The Baroness find out Cruella’s true identity. “Don’t cry,” The Baroness tells Anita. When a calm Anita says that she’s not crying. The Baroness gives a slight pause and says ominously, “You will.” It’s an example of how comedically gifted Thompson is in this villain role.

It should come as no surprise that The Baroness owns Hellman Hall and the Dalmatians that Estella/Cruella saw that fateful night when Catherine died. Therefore, there’s a long part of the movie where Estella wants to get back the lost necklace from The Baroness. Various schemes are put in place. And at one point, the Dalmatians get kidnapped.

Because “Cruella” is supposed to be a family-friendly movie, nothing too disturbing happens in the story. However, much like director Gillespie’s 2017 dark comedy film “I, Tonya,” the title character is often upstaged by a bigger scene-stealing villain. Thompson’s The Baroness actually becomes more riveting to watch than Cruella in many scenes.

It’s not that Cruella isn’t potent in her own right, but she’s often conflicted about how evil she wants to become while getting revenge. There’s no ambiguity for The Baroness, and Thompson seems to be reveling in being an unabashed villain in a lot of the showdown scenes. As Cruella, Stone is perfectly cast and plays the role with the right combination of toughness and vulnerability, but there’s no denying that Thompson is a formidable presence too. Cruella gets a despair-driven monologue which is one of the film’s emotional standouts.

Aside from Stone and Thompson working so well together in “Cruella,” the movie’s other atrributes are its costume design by Jenny Beavan and production design by Fiona Crombie. (Tom Davies handled the eyewear design.) The makeup and hairstyling are also outstanding. There are set designs in the movie that look right out of a fairy tale, which is clearly the intention.

However, the “Cruella” screenplay needed a lot of improvements. There’s a big reveal in the movie about Catherine’s death that has a major inconsistency/plot hole that would require a certain person to almost be in two places at once to commit a certain act. The timeline just doesn’t add up.

And the movie’s visual effects are hit-and-miss. Some of the scenes with the Dalmations obviously used CGI dogs, not real dogs. And there’s a scene with a big fire that looks too fake, because more characters should’ve gotten fire burns in that scene, but they were able to unrealsitically walk away unscathed.

And most of the supporting characters are underdelevoped. Estella has been living with Jasper and Horace for several years, but viewers don’t learn anything interesting about these two Estella/Cruella confidants by the time the movie ends. And, if we’re being honest, the casting of this trio is age-inappropriate. Estella, Jasper and Horace are supposed to be in their early 20s, but the actors in these roles look at least 10 years older than that, because they are. That doesn’t take away their ability to act in the roles, but they just don’t look entirely convincing as people who are supposed to be in their early 20s.

There’s just so much untapped potential for the movie’s supporting characters, who are really just incomplete sketches with limited personalities. All the supporting characters—including Anita, John and The Baroness’ attorney Roger (played by Kayvan Novak)—just react to whatever Estella/Cruella or The Baroness does. The Baroness has a lackey assistant named Jeffrey (played by Andrew Leung), who is constantly by her side, but Jeffrey doesn’t say an entire word during the movie.

The way that the soundtrack songs are used in “Cruella” borders on jukebox placement instead of feeling organic. It’s a good selection of songs, but sometimes they blare in places that seem way too intrusive and distracting. At times, it just seems like shameless shilling to buy the “Cruella” soundtrack.

And there’s a bombastic outdoor concert scene where Cruella makes a big entrance to The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” with Artie singing as an emcee, Jasper playing a guitar and Horace being a DJ. This is the part of the movie where viewers who love punk music might be rolling their eyes, because there are no DJs in real punk music. The movie would’ve worked better if Cruella and her mates had more 1970s London punk authenticity, not a watered-down Hollywood version of this subculture. The adult Estella/Cruella, Horace and Jasper have a polished actor sheen to them that isn’t entirely consistent with these characters who are supposedly to be scrappy con artists who grew up on the streets.

The scenes with the adult Cruella are supposed to take place in 1974. However, some of the soundtrack choices might annoy pop music aficionados who will notice that there a few songs in the movie that were released after 1974, such as Electric Light Orchestra’s “Livin’ Thing” (released in 1976) and Blondie’s “One Way or Another” (released in 1978). These are small details, and a movie director who really cares about musical accuracy wouldn’t make these mistakes. The “Cruella” soundtrack also has the obligatory new and original song that will undoubtedly be promoted for awards consideration: Florence + the Machines’ “Call Me Cruella,” which was co-written by Florence Welch and “Cruella” composer Nicholas Britell.

Despite some of the flaws with the screenplay, editing and song selections, “Cruella” can be enjoyable to watch if viewers brace themselves for the overly long run time. “Cruella” isn’t a superhero epic origin story, although at times it seems to want to use that template when it should have been a movie under 100 minutes. “Cruella” is a movie that’s supposed to be a fun and cheeky romp, but the jokes and slapstick comedy just aren’t very imaginative and edgy as a young Cruella is supposed to be. If not for the great comedic talents of Stone and Thompson, “Cruella” would be nothing but cast members playing elaborate dress-up in a bloated and mediocre Disney movie.

Walt Disney Pictures will release “Cruella” in U.S. cinemas and at a premium extra cost on Disney+ on May 28, 2021. The movie’s release date on digital, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD is on September 21, 2021.

2019 D23 Expo: Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and other Disney-owned movie studios announce updates

August 24, 2019

Walt Disney Studios co-chairman/chief creative officer Alan Horn at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The following is a press release from Walt Disney Studios:

The Walt Disney Studios—including studio leaders and filmmakers from Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Disney live action, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios—wowed an audience of nearly 7,000 this morning at D23 Expo 2019 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif. Alan Horn, cochairman and chief creative officer, The Walt Disney Studios—joined by Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige, Disney live action’s Sean Bailey, Pixar’s Pete Docter and Disney Animation’s Jennifer Lee—offered guests a captivating look at Disney’s upcoming film slate, including never-before-seen footage and a host of stars, plus a spectacular performance from “Frozen 2” voice cast members Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.

“You’re not just fans, you’re family,” said Horn to the packed room. “It’s because of you that we keep working so hard to make great movies, and we love D23 Expo because it’s where we can share them with you first.”

The presentation included the following highlights.

LUCASFILM

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and  director/producer/screenwriter J.J. Abrams  at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” director/writer/producer J.J. Abrams showcased the riveting conclusion to the Skywalker saga. Kennedy and Abrams revved up the audience, introducing nine stars from the film —many of whom marked this as their first D23 Expo appearance: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran and Billy Dee Williams, plus special appearances from R2-D2, BB-8 and the new droid D-O. A brand-new poster was revealed—and gifted to the entire audience. And all were given a look back at the incredible legacy of Star Wars storytelling and treated to a sneak peek of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 20, 2019.

Billy Dee Williams, R2-D2, Anthony Daniels, Keri Russell, Naomi Ackie, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams  at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

MARVEL STUDIOS

Director/screenwriter Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige  at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, kicked off his presentation with a surprise visit from “Black Panther” director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. Together, they revealed that “Black Panther 2” (working title) will hit U.S. theaters on May 6, 2022.

Feige segued to next year’s “The Eternals,” inviting cast members from the muchanticipated film to the stage: Richard Madden, who portrays the all-powerful Ikaris; Kumail Nanjiani, who plays cosmic-powered Kingo; Lauren Ridloff, who portrays the super-fast Makkari, the first deaf hero in the MCU; Brian Tyree Henry, who plays the intelligent inventor Phastos; Salma Hayek, who plays the wise and spiritual leader Ajak; Lia McHugh, who portrays the eternally young, old-soul Sprite; Don Lee, who plays the powerful Gilgamesh; and Angelina Jolie, who stars as the fierce warrior Thena. Feige revealed concept art images of each character, and announced three new cast members and their characters: Gemma Chan, who plays humankind-loving Sersi; Kit Harington, who was cast as non-Eternal Dane Whitman, and Barry Keoghan, who portrays aloof loner Druig, and was on hand for the event. Directed by Chloé Zhao, who helmed the critically acclaimed Sundance film “The Rider,” “The Eternals” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 6, 2020.

Kevin Feige, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, Angelina Jolie and Barry Keoghan at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Feige concluded with “Black Widow,” the Cate Shortland-directed first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which hits U.S. theaters on May 1, 2020. Feige shared a pre-recorded greeting featuring stars Scarlett Johansson, who reprises her role of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow; David Harbour, who was cast as Alexei the Red Guardian; and Florence Pugh, who plays Yelena. The audience was also treated to an exclusive look at the upcoming film.

DISNEY LIVE ACTION

Dwayne Johnson at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Emily Blunt at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Sean Bailey, president, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, took the audience through upcoming releases for the studio, including next summer’s “Jungle Cruise,” a rousing adventure inspired by the classic theme-park attraction. Star Dwayne Johnson, who plays riverboat captain Frank Wolff, entered Hall D23 aboard an original Jungle Cruise boat, introducing a “trailer” that showed off his character—so much so, that co-star Emily Blunt, who portrays Dr. Lily Houghton, arrived via classic car to share with fans her own “trailer,” offering a different perspective—Bailey laughingly informed Johnson and Blunt that neither trailer was official. Directed by Jaume ColletSerra, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” hits U.S. theaters on July 24, 2020.

Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Bailey welcomed Angelina Jolie back to the stage to present exclusive footage and details about Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” the exciting follow-up to the hit 2014 film. Maleficent, portrayed by Jolie, and her goddaughter Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies and new dark forces at play. Aurora’s imminent marriage to Prince Phillip is cause for celebration—however, Prince Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, challenges Maleficent’s role as Aurora’s mother figure. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Connal, one of the leaders of the dark fey who becomes Maleficent’s ally. Ejiofor, Pfeiffer and Fanning were all welcomed to the stage by an enthusiastic audience. Directed by Joachim Rønning, who co-helmed 2017’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” arrives in U.S. theaters on Oct. 18, 2019.

Director/screenwriter Niki Caro and Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production president Sean Bailey at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Bailey next introduced acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro, director of “Mulan,” the upcoming live-action reimagining of the 1998 classic animated film. Caro expressed to fans her passion for the project, sharing several minutes of footage from the epic adventure inspired by one of China’s fiercest warriors. In Disney’s “Mulan,” which opens in U.S. theaters on March 27, 2020, the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders. So, the eldest daughter of an honored but ailing warrior masquerades as a man, transforming into a heroic warrior to ultimately earn her the respect of a grateful nation and a proud father.

Emma Stone in “Cruella'” (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)

Next up, Bailey shared details about “Cruella,” an all-new feature film starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. Stone, who plays the iconic “Cruella,” sent D23 Expo fans a greeting from the London-based set with help from a spotted, four-legged co-star. Fans also got a glimpse of an image of Stone in full costume with Cruella’s signature black-and-white hair. Director Craig Gillespie, who helmed “I, Tonya” and “The Finest Hours,” brings “Cruella” to the big screen on May 28, 2021, with a fresh, 1970s, punkrock approach.

PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS

Mike Jones, Kemp Powers, Dana Murray and Pixar Animation Studios chief creative officer Pete Docter at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Pixar Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter guided the audience through Pixar’s upcoming film slate of originals. Docter began with next summer’s release, “Soul,” which he directs. The film journeys from the streets of New York City to the never-before-seen cosmic realms and “The You Seminar,” the fantastical place where we all discover our unique personalities. Producer Dana Murray, co-director/ writer Kemp Powers and writer Mike Jones joined Docter on stage, and together they set up the film for the audience and shared a sneak peek.

Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad and Questlove at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The team revealed members of the voice cast who joined them on stage, including Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx. Foxx lends his voice to Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. Fey plays 22, a soul-in-training who has an unexpected encounter with Joe when he accidentally finds his way to the “You Seminar.”

Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Together, the two are going to find a way to get Joe back to Earth, making him think again about what it truly means to have soul. Filmmakers also revealed that globally renowned musician Jon Batiste will be writing original jazz music for the film, and Oscar®-winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Social Network”), from Nine Inch Nails, will compose an original score that will drift between the real and soul worlds. Disney and Pixar’s “Soul” opens in U.S. theaters on June 19, 2020.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, director Dan Scanlon, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt and producer Kori Rae at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Docter next introduced director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae, who shared details and more than ten minutes of exclusive footage from Pixar’s upcoming feature film “Onward.” The movie, which opens in U.S. theaters on March 6, 2020, stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as two teenage elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left in the world. Set in a modern fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” is inspired by Scanlon’s personal experiences with his brother. Holland, Pratt and Julia Louis-Dreyfus —who voices Mom in the movie—joined the filmmakers on stage—much to the delight of the audience, who all received an exclusive “Onward” poster.

WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS

Dean Wellins, Osnat Shurer, Adele Lim and Paul Briggs at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee presented an overview of the studio’s next two features, beginning with the Thanksgiving 2020 fantasy-action-adventure, “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Directors Paul Briggs and Dean Wellins (“Big Hero 6,” “Frozen”), producer Osnat Shurer (“Moana”) and writer Adele Lim (“Crazy Rich Asians”) joined Lee on stage to set up the film, which introduces Raya, a lone warrior from the fantasy kingdom of Kumandra who teams up with a crew of misfits in her quest to find the Last Dragon and bring light and unity back to their world.

Cassie Steele and Awkwafina at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The D23 Expo crowd was the first to get a look at the new film, viewing an exclusive three-minute piece. They also met two newly announced members of the voice cast: Awkwafina lends her voice to Sisu, the Last Dragon, who was left on Earth in case dark forces return to the world, and Cassie Steele voices the lead character, Raya. Exploring themes of community and hope, and inspired by the beautiful and diverse cultures of Southeast Asia, the fantasy-action-adventure “Raya and the Last Dragon” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 25, 2020.

Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling K. Brown at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

Lee, who directs “Frozen 2” with Chris Buck, and wrote the screenplay, invited Buck to join her on stage as the Oscar®-winning duo revealed new details about the upcoming film, which opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22. Lee and Buck introduced two new “Frozen 2” cast members: Sterling K. Brown, who voices Lieutenant Destin Mattias, and Evan Rachel Wood, who voices Queen Iduna, Anna and Elsa’s mother.

Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, on August 24, 2019.  (Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company/Image Group LA)

The crowd— who received an exclusive D23 Expo “Frozen 2” poster—saw never-before-seen footage of the new characters, including a scene that featured Wood as Iduna singing to young Elsa and Anna. The song, “All Is Found,” is one of seven all-new original songs by Oscar®-winning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The audience also saw a sequence from the movie that showcased Elsa’s yearning for answers about the past, culminating in another song, “Into the Unknown.” And a climactic performance of the song “Some Things Never Change” by Menzel, Bell, Groff and Gad brought the audience to its feet, capping off the studio presentation in extraordinary style.

About The Walt Disney Studios
For more than 90 years, The Walt Disney Studios has been the foundation on which The Walt Disney Company was built. Today, the Studio brings quality movies, music, and stage plays to consumers throughout the world.

About D23 Expo 2019
D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings together all the worlds of Disney under one roof for three packed days of presentations, pavilions, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, shopping, and more. The event provides fans with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, games, theme parks, and celebrities. For the latest D23 Expo 2019 news, visit D23expo.com. Presentations, talent, and schedule subject to change. To join the D23 Expo conversation, be sure to follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and use the hashtag #D23Expo.
About D23 The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his first studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s 90-plus-year history. It gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication, Disney twenty-three; a rich website at D23.com with members-only content; member-exclusive discounts; and special events for D23 Members throughout the year.
Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($99.99), Gold Family Membership ($129.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels at D23.com. To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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