The Oscar Campaign for Mad Max: Fury Road Starts Here

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most acclaimed films of the year. But will the Academy show it any Oscar love?

Mad Max: Fury Road arrives on Blu-ray and DVD today (September 1) and if there’s one film you should actually purchase in the format this year, George Miller’s stunning action/sci-fi epic is it. Almost universally acclaimed upon its release, the fourth film in Miller’s post-apocalyptic saga was perhaps his most complete realization of Max Rockatansky’s world yet, even if the original Max, Mel Gibson, had been replaced by an equally terse and coiled Tom Hardy.

But the casting of Hardy, while perfect, was almost an afterthought next to the other incredible surprises offered up by this glorious headrush of a film. Its powerful feminist point of view was embodied by Charlize Theron’s magnificent Imperator Furiosa, while Miller — who had not directed a film of this scope since, well, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome 30 years earlier — dismissed the current reliance on CG for practical effects, fully working vehicles and real stuntwork that, combined with his sure eye for staging action, made Fury Road unlike any other summer tentpole released in recent memory.

Yet with all that, it’s likely that Mad Max: Fury Road will get little attention from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when Oscar time rolls around. Sure, it will get nominated for technical awards, but can they really leave Miller off the Best Director list? Or forget about Theron for Best Actress? Keep in mind also that no sci-fi film has ever won the big prize – Best Picture – and only a small amount have been nominated.

We’d like to change that. The Oscar campaign for Mad Max: Fury Road starts right here, with a list of categories and why Fury Road deserves at least a nomination in each (we did skip some — can’t be too greedy). Read on and tell us if you agree…

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Best Picture:

Sci-fi films have received just a handful of Best Picture nominations: Avatar, District 9, Her, Gravity, Inception, Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial and A Clockwork Orange are the members of that elite club, while the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Empire Strikes Back, Interstellar, The Matrix, The Dark Knight, Blade Runner, Aliens and many more have been passed over. The Academy seems to look down its nose at the genre, despite many of the above films being not just worthy of Best Picture consideration but acknowledged cinematic masterpieces. Fury Road is as good as moviemaking gets, in terms of creating a compelling narrative and characters, not to mention just pure cinematic storytelling. Will voters acknowledge this artistic achievement with the Academy’s highest honor?

Best Actress:

The movie may have Max’s name in the title, but in all the important ways this is the story of Theron’s Furiosa, the lieutenant who betrays the warlord Immortan Joe and helps his Five Wives escape their existence as his sex slaves. Furiosa is, like everyone in this poisoned post-apocalyptic world, deeply damaged but possessed with formidable strength and courage, as well as an indomitable will to survive. In a year when themes of gender were a large part of the discussion around movies, Theron was a ferocious female action hero who left many male counterparts in the dust. The last actress nominated for a sci-fi role was Sigourney Weaver for Aliens back in 1987; nearly three decades later, her spiritual descendant deserves the nod too.

Best Supporting Actor:

Charlize Theron is superb and Tom Hardy is terrific, but let’s not forget Nicholas Hoult as Nux, the War Boy who is almost mindlessly loyal to Immortan Joe but ultimately turns into a protector of the Five Wives and love interest for Capable (Riley Keough). Nux has a rich character arc from little more than an animal to a brave, caring soul, and his self-sacrifice at the film’s conclusion is moving and emotionally resonant. Hoult, almost unrecognizable in his makeup, does top-notch work as a human attack dog who rediscovers his humanity.

Best Director:

A no-brainer. In an era when many so-called “action” films are a collection of poorly-strung together shots that do not give you any idea of what is happening or where, Miller shows everyone how it’s done. He is in command of his story, his visuals and his compositions from start to finish in Fury Road, while also managing to invest his characters with real humanity and bring both social and emotional resonance to the story he’s telling. And all with minimal dialogue to boot! If there is one movie that came out in 2015 that was the successful end product of a singular artistic vision, Fury Road is it.

Best Cinematography:

It’s George Miller’s film but John Seale’s stunning camerawork helps bring it to life. Even in its bleak desert setting, the colors pop off the screen, vibrant and full, and the blue-lit nighttime scenes (especially those at the bog) look like luminous, gorgeous paintings. Many post-apocalyptic films make the end of the world look ugly, drab and washed out – and to be fair, that’s appropriate much of time. But Miller and Seale went the other way, and their vision of Armageddon is hauntingly beautiful.

Best Original Score:

Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL) has been steadily working in composing for film for years, most recently with Hans Zimmer on behemoths like The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel. He goes it alone on Fury Road and delivers a propulsive, relentless score that is a perfect match for the movie’s breathless pace and aggressive forward momentum. Combining elements of traditional film music with electronics, rock and industrial influences, the music of Fury Road enhances the story without ever dominating it – the mark of a great score.

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Best Costume Design / Best Editing / Best Production Design / Best Visual Effects / Best Makeup and Hair:

I’m grouping these together because these are the awards that Fury Road is almost certainly a lock to be nominated for, and require very little in the way of making a case for them. The production, costume and makeup designs for the movie are as detailed, unique and inspired as they come, adding so much depth and texture to the world that Miller and company have built, while the largely practical visual effects go hand in hand with the editing to manufacture a number of jaw-dropping sequences. It would be no surprise if Fury Road won in any or all of these categories – but we want more, don’t we?

Best Stuntwork:

Okay, there actually is no Oscar category for stunts yet, although there has been a lot of lobbying for one. If any movie serves as an outstanding example of why the incredibly brave and tireless stunt people in the film business deserve awards recognition, Fury Road is it. If a sequel ever comes around, perhaps the award will be in place by then.

Mad Max: Fury Road is out on Blu-ray and DVD now.