‘Fury Road’ revs up for the Academy Awards

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Out of all of the films that premiered in 2015, I enjoyed  “Mad Max: Fury Road” the most. It’s certainly the best blockbuster in years, I think.

While this film throws you in the midst of the story, it provides just enough context for the story to be enjoyable as well as easy to follow. Sure, there’s a whole world out there to explore, but the narrative is cut down to just the things you need to know. It trusts that the audience is smart enough to figure things out on their on.

The opening scene with Immortal Joe releasing the water on to the masses tells us everything we need to know about the dynamics of the citadel.

The brief flashes of the little girl tell us all we need to know about who Max is.

In regards to Furiosa (Charlize Theron), there are so many little touches that complete her as a character. When she explains to a group of characters that her mother is dead, and they do that gesture. And Furiosa does the gesture herself, trying it out; it speaks so much of the history of the character, and her world as a whole. There has been no place for mourning in her life and certainly no means for her to know about the culture from which she came. That one gesture just says so much.

The film is really daring in that way. It is a big movie filled with small, potent details. Just the way The People Eater, The Bullet Farmer, and Immortal Joe talk to each other builds a pretty strong portrait of how their particular arrangement functions. And there’s just so much to read into all of it. It’s a simple, straightforward film, but it’s not dumb. Blockbusters get a lot of leeway for being dumb as long as they’re fun. Well this is a fun film that also lends itself to many interesting interpretations. It’s just a mad, mad, world and it seems we’ve only gotten a small glimpse of it.

The women in this film are incredible and I believed every second of it. Max is physically imposing but as a pure fighter he doesn’t hold a candle to Furiosa. He’s bigger and maybe has her outmanned in hand-to-hand combat, but it’s a realistic result of their size differential. She’s tougher, meaner, handier and a much better shot.

But the film also doesn’t go the bumbling idiot and clear-minded woman who keeps him on the right path route. They help one another. The women aren’t damsels in distress/escort missions and they’re not untouchable. They’re real people in a bad situation.

I kept waiting for the scene where Max is fighting some bad guys and is put in a bad spot only for one of the mothers to hit someone over the head with a lamp. It never comes. They fight to the best of their ability, and sometimes it’s enough and sometimes it isn’t. They’re also complicated. They dress the same ways (and look pretty similar) are grouped together, and yet it was incredibly easy to distinguish them as characters. That’s astonishingly difficult to pull off in a movie that moves at a lightning speed.

Some of the women were strong and some of them weren’t really. Just like real people. The rest of the movie is immaculate, but I was particularly impressed by this aspect. I’d have trouble pointing to a movie in the action genre that did it better.

I apologize if I sound a bit sociopathic, but it’s amazing how rare it is too see women getting killed in an action role.

I kept thinking to myself “why is this feeling so… unique?” and I realized that I never see women getting killed in action movies without some unnecessarily dramatic attention paid to the fact that she died. They treated their skills, dialogue, action, and deaths as they would any other male character, and that was so freaking refreshing!

I don’t think anyone can argue that this film wasn’t a masterpiece of design, at the very least. It’s visually much more interesting than your average nine-figure-budget film. Every frame is just bursting with imagination. Every car design is a real triumph in my eyes.

So in short, I really like this movie. And yes, I would consider it a masterpiece of it’s craft.

Yet, despite that, how do I feel it contends in the Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards?

I personally believe it should be nominated for best picture.

That category still needs to break out of the historical drama ghetto, and since Fury Road is by all accounts one of the best of its genre it deserves it. I don’t think it could win the big prize, but seems like it has a good shot at production design and a few other technical awards.

Perhaps of the other major awards the movie is nominated for, the best shot is for Director for Miller.

The Academy seems pretty comfortable splitting up picture and director Oscars these days and I think the studio’s PR team could really sell Miller to the Academy voters. All and all then there’s a good chance that Fury Road will be walking away with a Oscar on Feb. 28.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons