For all of those people thinking a film that comes out before September won’t be nominated for an Oscar, let me introduce you to “Mad Max: Fury Road.” That’s right, a film that came out last May is not only in the mix, it has the second most nominations next to “The Revenant.” That’s ludicrous and outright shocking considering how rare that it is. Meaning, most films that hold this many nominations typically are released well after May. History tells us that over the past 20 years, there were 15 Best Picture winners released over the last 10 weeks of the year. Doing the quick math, that’s 75 percent of the field easily supporting the rarity of one “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But, that’s not all as it also holds the distinction of being just the third film since 1995 to be released in May and have at least 10 nominations. The other two were “Braveheart” and “Gladiator,” two films that don’t need any explanation. So that’s some pretty good company to be in, especially when you figure since 1978 we have only seen seven films that were released before the month of September even go on to win Best Picture. That’s incredible and exactly why no matter what happens in a few weeks, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has already won.
You know what might be the craziest thing about what “Mad Max: Fury Road” is attempting to do though? Its predecessor’s didn’t even sniff the Academy Awards, so for it to be here and even a part of this very countdown is impressive to say the least. But, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised given the accolades I gave it after walking out of the theater nearly 10 months ago. Yup, at that time I said that this film was the very definition of a “popcorn” flick given its mindless nature and that you don’t have to think about anything when watching it. Wait, but that doesn’t really define a Best Picture, no matter how what decade we are living in. Yet here we are and waiting to see just how many Oscar’s this film walks away with. And it will win several, but none with any significance. That’s right; I am calling my shot now that it will not win either of the two major categories (Best Director, Best Picture) it is nominated for. The competition is just too tough for directing and Best Picture, well is Best Picture. So, unless the Academy somehow rewards the 70-year-old George Miller with the “career Oscar” kind of like they did with Martin Scorsese nine years ago for his work with “The Departed,” I think the producers are going to have to live with the smaller victories given its cast wasn’t able to earn a nomination either.
It’s true, not one actor earned a nod here and by count, that was a mistake given what Charlize Theron did as the heroine. Given how wide open the Best Actress race tends to be, Theron could have easily be among the picks given she shaved her head for the part. What a performance by someone I have loved since first seeing her opposite Keanu Reeves in “The Devil’s Advocate.” That was 1997 and I swear all she has done is get better and stronger with each new role she takes. Here, it was with a face covered in grease and a mechanical arm held together by a leather strap, which helped the film earn its Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling nomination’s. That’s old school, but part of the overwhelming charm this film oozed of thanks to director George Miller who apparently designed the film using storyboards. That’s great and almost hard to believe given how much was packed into this. Like Miller said during a 2015 interview with NPR, “Despite the amazing advances in 15 to 20 years of the digital world in filmmaking, it’s still very difficult to make something feel really authentic. So we chose to do it old school and that means going out to a remote location with endless deserts and have real vehicles and human beings in that landscape.”
That’s brilliant and just one of the reasons why this film worked on so many levels. To be able to sustain the energy of a story like this is tough, but Miller was able to do that thanks to some of the best action sequences I have ever seen on the big screen helping support it’s nominations for Best Production Design, Visual Effects, Editing, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing . And as I said, it was all for the most part shot without the help of a green screen, making for an extremely realistic feel you often don’t find in this kind of film. If that doesn’t spell a victory laced with gold, I don’t know what does despite what could be some fierce competition from fellow nominees like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Revenant” or “The Martian.” So, we’ll see if the Academy gets caught up with the nostalgia of it, because it’s not often you have a film that literary is one long chase sequence offering so many opportunities to excel within these famed categories. I just wish there would have been more of it, as it could have helped cover up some of the less stellar moments within the script. But, I guess you can’t have everything despite the effort of George Miller who went big with his reboot of a franchise that helped launch his career nearly 40 years ago.