Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road - 10 nominations

Best Picture - Doug Mitchell and George Miller, Producers
Costume Design - Jenny Beavan
Directing - George Miller
Visual Effects - Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams
Makeup and Hairstyling - Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin
Cinematography - John Seale
Film Editing - Margaret Sixel
Sound Mixing - Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo
Production Design - Colin Gibson (Production Design); Lisa Thompson (Set Decoration)
Sound Editing - Mark Mangini and David White

Oh, Academy, where to begin on Mad Max: Fury Road?  An edge of your seat, high energy, heart pumping, popular film finally to make it to the big show in the Best Picture category.  A cursory review of all Best Picture nominees since 1962 (when the category was renamed to "Best Picture" as we know it today) reveals that Mad Max is the first of its genre to achieve this high honor.  But if we're using this film as a benchmark, it's hard to understand how a film like this one makes it as a nominee for the top prize.

Mad Max is a movie about a car chase.  Seriously.  A car chase.  Yes, we are in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world in which resources are limited, poor people's blood is mined to super charge the army of the despotic ruler, and women are kept in harems in service of this evil dictator, but still basically a car chase (with a really memorable electric guitar player strapped to a mobile speaker system whose job is presumably to provide hype and insanity to the troops).  Charlize Theron plays Furiosa who helps these victimized women escape in search of her homeland, where she remembers a flourishing landscape with sufficient water and resources for everyone who lives there.  Tom Hardy plays Max who escapes servitude and for the promise of freedom, he commits to aiding Furiosa in bringing these women to safety.

There is so much that is right with Mad Max, and I, like everyone else in the theater, certainly had a heart-pumping experience, even if at the same time I was thinking, "where's the plot? where are the characters?"  In some ways, it's entertaining enough not to matter, especially when one notes the excellence of the cinematography.

All of the design elements are brilliant and do deserve recognition - the makeup (the tattoos!), the hairstyling, the costumes, the production design, the visual effects, the sound effects - most certainly rise to the levels of excellence worthy of the Oscars. Mad Max has some serious competition in these categories but it sits comfortably with its nominated peers.  But for Best Picture?  I'm out, and I suspect you will be too.

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