Let's talk about all the Oscars 'Mad Max: Fury Road' needs to win
OK, we have more than a half a year of movies to go, so "win" is hyperbole. But thanks for clicking all the same. What I'm saying is George Miller's latest is such a nuts-and-bolts marvel of the form that not only should it be up for consideration in a number of areas, it really ought to be the impetus that drives the Academy to finally add a certain new category that has long been championed in some industry circles.
The look of this film is absolutely bonkers. And, admittedly, it's the accumulation of a few departments that really gets it there. But with that in mind, if it wasn't clear by my interview with the man, cinematographer John Seale needs a serious victory lap for jumping onto this wild ride, strapping in and delivering much of this spectacle in-camera. Many of us are surely pleased he didn't go out on "The Tourist," too.
Visual effects, though, played a heavy part, as did the whole post-production process. Rotoscoping and color grading and the whole gamut helped to produce this striking world of contrast, in addition to assisting the practical side of things (which I'll get to momentarily). The editing process had to be a Sisyphean task, slicing 480 hours of footage into two. How does that branch not trip over itself to raise a toast? Oh, right, because they've spent the better part of 15 years chasing the Best Picture category instead…
Design elements across the board are visionary, full stop. Production design includes things like massive tricked-out oiler rigs, not just sets, so while much of the scenery here is Namibian desert, there is clearly a whole world created right before your eyes. But even still, the early stages of the film present plenty of amazing sets, some of them CG hybrids, that deserve to be in the mix. And the makeup, my God…better to just let you get a load of that for yourself. It's not arbitrary, either. It all serves a larger vision with detail and precision.
But the costumes. MAN. The costumes. Every character is so thoroughly defined by what he or she wears. It's the richest element of the film, in my opinion. I would love to see that ever quirky branch stick up for a movie like this, and I suppose it's not out of the question. Jenny Beavan has nine nominations and a win to her credit, after all. (Be sure to check out a gallery of her work below.)
The soundscape is meticulous, the cacophony enveloping you from beginning to end. It took a stand-out team to pull it off, and between re-recording mixers Gregg Rudluff and Steve Maslow, you have 13 nominations and five Oscars on films like "The Empire Strikes Back," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Speed," "Waterworld," "The Matrix" and "The Perfect Storm." So…yeah. And Junkie XL's face-melting score, well, that insular, conservative branch isn't likely to get on board something like this. But it would be nice if they took it seriously and gave some consideration to how it bleeds into the diegetic world of the film.
And finally, Tom Hardy is a great addition to the iconography here. No question. But when you really boil it down, he's sort of just there. (No disrespect to the hell he went through in those harnesses, being thrown this way and that throughout.) Rather, this is Charlize Theron's movie, and it's a strong female role in the middle of a film that has a razor sharp feminist edge. It's her "Aliens." That's all I'm saying.
So, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects…that is, straight-up, eight nominations I think the film deserves without blinking. And frankly, for a 70-year-old like George Miller to crank a movie like this out, well, how do his colleagues not sit back in gleeful envy? I could probably be convinced by year's end that he deserves it, too.
But beyond all that, there's the question of a category the Academy has been pressured to institute for a number of years, and this film pretty much becomes the rally cry: Best Stunts. "Fury Road" is a film that lives and dies on its vision of practical effects wizardry. The rigging and second unit insanity and live spectacle that is achieved throughout, it's a testament to how methods perceived as antiquated can prove richer and more fulfilling than just drawing them into the frame with a computer. Perhaps that's the angle proponents ought to be chasing in trying to establish this category, preservation of cinematic art forms that find themselves slipping away. In some ways, in most ways, isn't that the Academy's mission?
Anyway, for more on all of this, be sure to read Drew McWeeny's review of the film, as well as his interview with Junkie XL and my interview with John Seale. "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a whole lot of movie, and if you're disappointed with the summer so far, prepare to get punched right in the face.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" opens Friday, May 15.