Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects
I, like many, scoffed at the ten nominations for Mad Max: Fury Road. On the outside, it doesn’t seem to fit your standard Academy film. It seems like a post-apocalyptic version of Fast and Furious. This is a perfect example of how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Mad Max: Fury Road tells the story of a woman named Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who helps a group of female slaves escape from a mad dictator. She attempts the escape through an expansive desert, hoping to find a place of peace on the other side. As she journeys, she’s joined by Max (Tom Hardy) who is battling his own demons.
George Miller had quite the undertaking as the director. First of all, there’s virtually no dialogue. The story is built and pushed almost entirely through the action going on. Secondly, the pace of the movie stays about the same (hectic) almost the entire time. There are stunts practically every five seconds. I don’t know how many extras worked on the film (or which extras were real and which were virtual) but they were numerous. Miller pulled an amazing number of variables together to create a seamless experience. I wish I’d been able to see it in theaters for the full effect.
The cinematography was intentional, creative, and effective. It set the tone for the film. It felt like a modern version of a 1980s film – which makes sense considering this is part of the Mad Max film franchise. (Full disclosure: I’ve never seen any of the other Max films. I did quickly skim the plots of the other three on Wikipedia before watching this one, though.) It was unique and memorable. Of course, this would all mean very little if the film editing wasn’t just as good. Which it is. Everything flows well from one scene to the next. It flows so well, that you just find yourself falling into the next moment without realizing that a scene change is happening. For a movie with so much action, it would be easy to get tired of things blowing up all the time. For a movie with very little variability in pacing, it could be easy to get overwhelmed. However, the editing – combined with a narrative score (which should have been nominated) – keep you interested and engaged the entire time.
The costumes and makeup designs tell their own stories. Both are intricate and dramatic, while subtly helping to explain things. The screenplay provides little in the way of background information for the societies that are encountered in the film. The costuming helps display the state of degradation that these people have found themselves in while also helping to distinguish between different groups or types of people. The makeup brings everything full circle by providing the futuristic sense that these people are not like us.
The visual effects of the film are almost indistinguishable from the practical special effects. Although most of the scenes are simply set in the desert, there are some truly epic moments starring the visual effects. Most of the film is one huge car chase that is creatively enhanced through some CGI work. Oh, and Charlize Theron is missing an arm the whole time. I had not even realized the broad scope of the visual effects work until I had to think about it for this post. While you’re watching the movie, the CGI/greenscreen effects don’t stand out from the actors and real vehicles.
The sound editing helped create the illusion of reality almost flawlessly. For the sound mixing, I felt like there were some off moments when the vocals were mixed in. Particularly with Tom Hardy’s lines (of which there were maybe five). I’m not sure if that’s just me being picky or if they did have some dubbing issues. Everything else related to mixing seemed strong.
Production design is my last to analyze for this post because everything I could say has probably been said about any of the previous categories. The production design stands out because all the other categories are so strong. They each work together perfectly to form this immersive environment. The fact that this film stands solidly in the realm of well-crafted stories without a significant amount of dialogue is evidence of exceptional production design.
Overall, it is a great movie. It’s not my normal type of film but I enjoyed it. Something that stood out significantly to me is the fact that there were numerous times where the filmmakers had an open moment for some gratuitous nudity and they chose not to do it. There was also very little profanity. In a time where those two elements are usually crutches for filmmakers, it’s impressive to see someone make a good movie without them.
Best Picture – Unlikely. Even though it’s very good.
Director – Unlikely. Just because of the other contenders.
Cinematography – Possible….
Costume Design -I hope so! I think it’s in the top two.
Film Editing – Not sure yet.
Makeup – Possible. Old age makeup is usually the give away for this award so I’ll have to see what happens in The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared first.
Production Design – Unlikely…but I think it’ll be between this and The Revenant
Sound Editing – Unlikely
Sound Mixing – Unlikely
Visual Effects – Possible