Can ‘Mad Max’ Rally Passion for Oscar Best Picture Nomination?

mad max fury road
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

One of the year's most vibrant auteurist statements could depend on turning out the base.

Last week a number of headlines sprouted up across the Internet beaming that Warner Bros. would be pushing “Mad Max: Fury Road” for best picture Oscar consideration. The impetus was the launch of the studio’s annual “for your consideration” site, which featured the film in all categories.

Of course, there’s nothing really new about that practice; “Our Brand is Crisis” soon joined “Black Mass” and “Fury Road” on the site, and Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea” will surely land there in time. It was always in the cards to promote the film heavily for awards, and recently the studio really began that charge, circling director George Miller and star Charlize Theron back around for press opportunities aimed at reminding the industry what the movie has to offer (i.e. an experience you simply won’t find elsewhere on the circuit).

With more than $153 million in domestic box office receipts ($374 million worldwide) and standing tall as one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year (a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 Metacritic score), the film absolutely remains a strong contender. The question is — and has been — whether Warner Bros. can find room for such an unabashedly atypical entry.

Passion matters most in the nominations phase, though, and there’s certainly a base to rally here. Filmmakers like Edgar Wright (a newly minted Academy member this year) have been particularly vocal about supporting it throughout the season, for instance. What’s more, the feminist aura of the film makes it the bold sort of centerpiece in a year dominated by female-driven narratives.

When I first saw “Fury Road” back in May ahead of its Cannes debut, my first thought was that it would be a brilliant poster child for the push to recognize stunt work at the Oscars. It’s jaw-dropping, what Miller and company were able to achieve practically, in-camera. My second thought was that, even if it doesn’t find enough best picture love with Academy voters who can’t quite keep up with its mania, perhaps members of the directors branch will sit in awe at what the 70-year-old Miller accomplished this late into what has long been an iconic career.

At a Q&A over the weekend, moderated by Variety‘s Jenelle Riley, Miller recalled working with actor Jack Nicholson and a debate the two had over whether the toughest job on a set was the actor’s or the director’s. Miller said he ultimately agreed with Nicholson’s take that it was the actor, and he then went on to praise Theron and his cast for “the interplay between rigor and abandon” necessary for a film like this.

But Theron wasn’t having it. “I’m going to put my foot down and say that you, by far, had the hardest job,” she replied. “To tell this story in a way that was so unusual — you knew that this is the way you wanted to tell it and everyone said, ‘That’s not how to do it,’ but you stayed true to it and that’s an incredibly hard thing to do. When I watch this movie, it’s like looking at a Jackson Pollock. I see your thumbprints all over that canvas.”

I think that really centers the film’s awards case. This film might be the most vibrant auteurist statement in the Oscar race this year, a controlled chaos courtesy of a legend. Degree of difficulty is a fairly definitive measuring stick, after all. With Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass” — which it should be noted does have its own passionate base — not quite generating the Oscar excitement Warner Bros. had hoped for overall, a fairly impressive best picture streak is on the line here; the studio has landed in the Academy’s top category 10 of the last 12 years, including three wins (for “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Departed” and “Argo”).

Is there enough fuel in “Max’s” tank to get it there? Whether there is or isn’t, you can at least go ahead and chalk Wright up for a vote:

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  1. Bill B. says:

    I thought it was brilliant film making and one of the best films I’ve seen this year, but I would still be surprised to see it land a best picture nomination. What it truly deserves though is a best director nomination. This is an awesome accomplishment.

  2. anonymous says:

    I like Wright but he’s wrong about this. The Mad Max sequel was a mess. The story was a mess, the editing was a mess and some of the acting was a mess. It wasn’t half as strong as the previous films in that series. Why did it need two main characters? Totally cop out. Theron should have been “Max.” This was a movie for popcorn munchers and knuckle draggers as proven by it’s box office, not for any Academy or guild “best ofs.” There are even better action films than this out this year. Why is this even being discussed. Like rain in Los Angeles, chance of precipitation or participation, 0%.

  3. joestemme says:

    I liked it. I really liked it. But, Best Picture? Not really. The story is thin despite some of the metaphoric underpinnings. Hardy is a fine actor, but, exudes a fraction of Gibson’s magnetism in the role. Heck, it’s not even the best movie in the Mad Max series – let alone the Best Picture of the year.

  4. Maxim says:

    A film is an experience and this is definitely that. Great script, great directing. It’s a marvel and deserves recognition.

  5. Not U2 says:

    Answer to the title: NO. It wasn’t THAT good. The VFX were better than the story.

  6. Viv R says:

    applaud your continued support of your friend Scott Cooper… even in article not about his film

  7. NA says:

    No. We are talking about the Academy here, not IMDb fanboys. Edgar Wright’s moviemaking and taste is very much unlike the Academy tastes and shows, if anything, why Mad Max probably won’t be nominated.

    Remember last year Edgar Wright and Brad Bird championed Interstellar and Nolan’s vision? I don’t think a few directors forecast anything about the Oscars.

    • NA says:

      Forgot to add Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Rian Johnson publicly praising Interstellar last year as well.

  8. Iván el Terrible says:

    I want Fury Road to win. I’m tired of seeing the typical snob flicks and the annoying political correctness propaganda winning awards while the real masterpieces are ignored by critics.

    • Stergios says:

      So incredibly well said. Not only it deserves a Best Picture nomination but even a Best Picture win. It’s just a phenomenal piece of cinema.

  9. Lloydmmertz says:

    nice good

  10. John Matrix says:

    Mad Max doesn’t deserve any Oscar nominations outside of technical categories.

  11. Stergios says:

    At the end of the day, you realize that the most disappointing thing of all is how The Oscars and the whole Hollywood bubble refuses to come to terms with the fact that times change and those stereotypical labels like “action” and “horror” preventing cinematic masterpieces like Mad Max: Fury Road getting nominated are honestly laughable. It’s funny how the Academy keeps on going for the Oscar-bait when most cinephiles clearly know where the truly great work is in any respective year. There’s room for The Imitation Game in the Best Picture category but not for Inherent Vice or Gone Girl (!), there’s probably room this year for Suffragette but not for Mad Max: Fury Road. After watching The Dark Knight not earning even a nomination in the Best Picture category, hope is definitely not high for this to happen with Fury Road. If it does, it will be just incredible but yeah, that’s a huge, huge “if”.

    • SteveP says:

      You’ve summed up why I think I might just remove myself from the Oscar hubbub this year. For me the two most brilliant movies I’ve seen this year have been Mad Max and What We Do In the Shadows. Impeccable direction of tone, fantastic acting, stunning movies. But they won’t be up for Best Film.
      I loves Bridge of Spies and Room, but why must ‘Best Film’ be synonymous with ‘Most Serious’.

      • Bill B. says:

        They’ve always had an aversion to comedy. They go for musicals now and then, but never much for comedy and when they do, it’s something ridiculous like The Artist. Nothing like making a movie just like they did 90 years ago!

  12. harry georgatos says:

    If this gets best picture nomination I’ll fly to the moon and back. Non-existant story dominated by cartoon vehicular mayhem. If THE DARK KNIGHT can get snubbed then a genre film like FURY ROAD has little chance. Should be nominated for cinematography, even though it was shot on digital Nomination for make-up and art direction. That’s it, doesn’t deserve more.

    • SmarterThanHarry says:

      Harry, a non-existent story? Did we see the same film? The story in Mad Max Fury Road is quite clear. The movie’s got TWO, count em, two protagonists – both with clear goals and obstacles in their way. The movie’s got a fantastic antagonist, a non-complicated plot and a pretty well defined theme….not to mention an incredibly imaginative setting and dialogue. From a technical standpoint, the film is brilliant, with every shot filling the frame with well designed imagery, masterfully edited at a thrilling pace. When consideration is given to how much was achieved WITHOUT visual effects, the technical expertise on display is downright impressive, even to the most jaded of moviegoers. Five months after release, its influence upon creatives in this town and around the globe is unquestionable. I think genre films like the DARK KNIGHT have paved the way for something like Fury Road to be taken seriously…yet it seems to me you’re crapping on it for some other reasons. Wake up, you’re in the midst of greatness!

      • harry georgatos says:

        FURY ROAD has positive and negatives. Technically the logistics are mindblowing. There’s a skeletal story with Furiosa and womanhood. Basically it’s a thin thread where the cartoon mayhem take center stage. That’s what these films are about and that’s what fans expect. As far as I’m concerned the mythology was better captured with the first two in the franchise with a demented Mel Gibson. Tom Hardy is just okay with a lot of brooding that pales to Gibson. THUNDERDOME like FURY ROAD are entertaining but are more of a circus to the solid mythology of the first two. I would like to see a best picture nomination go to deserving genre films such INCEPTION when it got nominated. Personally it should have won as a lot of these art-house films are extremely overrated. Tarantino was able to break into Oscar contention with worthy films such as PULP FICTION, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and the pulp DJANGO UNCHAINED. THE FUGITIVE and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was able to break the art-house snobbery of the Academy. Worthy genre films can get nominated but has yet to win even though a genre film such as SILENCE OF THE LAMBS broke that barrier in it’s particular year.

  13. Greg Samsa says:

    It was perfect, in every way.

    • Brandon says:

      non-existent story? please think about this real hard and try again.

      also your comment about shooting on digital is ludicrous too.

  14. someperson says:

    Still my favorite film of the year (of the 11 I’ve seen, but it’d be up near the top in any year) but really don’t see it happening unless WB decides to give up on Black Mass. This is the same problem with Inside Out: Disney has a much better shot with Bridge of Spies, so why waste resources when they know the only thing it can win is the one award it can’t lose?

  15. SoFar says:

    a Razzie is more likely, awful film, non existing script

    • crossie says:

      Inside Out does have an advantage Mad Max doesn’t; Disney will campaign it regardless because it will be a contender in Best Animated Feature, and if you’re already campaigning that, it doesn’t exactly cost extra to add “in all categories, including Best Picture” to your FYC.

      Also, another advantage, DreamWorks is leaving Disney; Pixar isn’t. That could factor in.

    • SteveP says:

      97% on rotten tomatoes. 97%.
      Again….97%.

    • SmarterThanSoFar says:

      I have trouble believing you even saw this movie, SoFar. I hereby nominate your comment for a Turd Award….

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