Thursday, December 24, 2015

Am I mad for fearing a Mad Max snub?


I want to start by noting that I have still NOT seen this movie yet (I know, I know) and so this is in no way questioning the quality of deserving nature of the film that has pretty much been cemented as the film of the year by so many bloggers, critics and pundits, but merely a thought I've expressed a few times over the past month+ and just wanted to get off my chest and on paper.

I'm afraid that a Best Picture nom for Mad Max: Fury Road is not as certain as it would seem.

Here's the thing; there really is no precedent for something like this.  In scrolling through Oscar's ballots for BP, I can't come up with a film that could serve as a precedent for this kind of nomination; anywhere.  True, I haven't seen it, so maybe I'm missing something, but this kind of gritty, violent, comic-book stylized summer action tent-pole doesn't generally make waves with Oscar.  There have been close calls, or films that were seemingly in the running, but they've always fallen short.  In recent years we had films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Drive and even The Dark Knight make a dash for Oscar, and yet they've never quite made it.

Until now?

I'm not saying it won't happen, and in all honesty, I'm predicting it right now.  The critical support has been beyond any expectations, and bodies like The Globes and BFCA (but, like, they're complete jokes now, right?) are even embracing it, so the support is clearly there and the reviews are clearly there and the people want what the people want...but this is AMPAS, and they are not easily swayed to embracing the populous vote when it doesn't conform to what they like to reward.  

But this is a strange year, and in strange years there seems to be an opening for films that don't often register, or at least push the boundaries of what registers, with AMPAS.  Films this year that were clearly produced and aimed at the Oscar voting bodies are receiving their fare share of lukewarm reactions and tepid embracing and so that leaves a feeling of filler in the air.  But, sadly, Oscar is not above filler.  Look at 2011.  Critics bodies began to swarm around a film called Drive, specifically it's director, Nicolas Winding Refn (not unlike what is happening here).  Refn was winning left and right with critics, and collecting nominations from BFCA and BAFTA.  The film was high on MANY lists and getting showered with praise.  On Oscar nomination morning it walked away with a solitary Sound Editing nomination.  You know what was nominated for BP in it's place?  War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  That was also the same year that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a late bloomer and looked set to snag a BP nom in the last minute stretch of the race, and yet it missed as well, despite WINNING for Best Editing.

Oscar likes filler.  They like safe.  When they stretch outside of their box, whether it be in genre or themes, it is usually because of some sort of pedigree attached.  Mad Max: Fury Road, while savagely adored, doesn't really have pedigree.  George Miller has an Oscar, for directing one of the most criticized and loathed Oscar winning Animated Features of all time (probably the most hated) and is otherwise known for cult cinema, including the previous Mad Max films which have never really been taken seriously.

I just have such doubts.  The numbers don't lie, except for when they do, and while the numbers point to Mad Max: Fury Road being destined for TOP FIVE placement on Oscar's Best Picture ballot...so did The Dark Knight's numbers...and then there was The Reader.

The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Carol, Creed, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight, Steve Jobs, Trumbo...some lauded, some filler, but all feel more Oscar than Mad Max: Fury Road and so the fear is...Oscar will think so too.

I have such doubts.

40 comments:

  1. This makes perfect sense. I have seen Fury Road and really enjoyed it, but it doesn't feel like Oscar to me. It's crazy fun, don't get me wrong. Still, it's just one long chase scene that lacks in the things the Academy seems to like. It's thinly written (not underwritten, mind you, but a very thin screenplay), doesn't have a gigantic director at the helm, nor a big, showy performance, and though there is some social commentary going on, it never feels like an "important" film. It's pure popcorn flick. Plus, it might be a little vague for some as a standalone. I know I said it's not underwritten, but in one sense it clearly is. It never bothers clueing in viewers who might be new to the franchise even though the previous entry was 30 years ago. That said, I won't be completely floored if it gets a nom because the push for it seems to be growing daily. That's even clear to me, someone who doesn't really follow all the pre-Oscar stuff, so I imagine how huge it really is. Plus, there are 10 available spots. On the other hand, I won't be bummed if it doesn't because I'm sort of expecting it not to.

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    1. There is nothing small about Theron's work here. She gave the best performance of the year imho. Not just in her category, among all the actors - the best one.

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    2. I do think it's a great performance, but not the type that the Academy usually goes for. She's not playing a historical figure and there's no melodrama with scenes of her crying her eyes out through some tragic moment. So while I agree she's fantastic, it's not the type of work The Academy normally gravitates toward.

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    3. "there's no melodrama with scenes of her crying her eyes out through some tragic moment."

      There is.

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    4. I'm kind of with you, Dell. I mean, it's a really, really well done movie, but the 'guts' of it aren't really anything inspired. It has a message, for sure, but it isn't anything uniquely profound or even spectacularly developed. Above all else, Mad Max is a brilliantly constructed and directed piece of film-making. It isn't necessarily a brilliant piece of storytelling.

      And regarding Theron, she falls right in with the Weaver-type nom for Aliens, which means that she is a RARE case for Oscar, but not something completely out of the race (even if I don't see her being nominated)...but that scene Sati is referring to is a masterful piece of acting and one of the best cinematic scenes of the year (also thanks to Miller's handling of that moment...making it instantly iconic).

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    5. I feel you guys are thinking about her big no more green place moment. But there is another one I'm stunned people forget - after Spledid fell under the wheels.

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    6. The best part about Theron's performance is that she creates such a sea of backstory without going there in any kind of showy way. Even her breakdown that I was referring to is done with such restraint. The moment after Spledid is run over is a great example of that restraint. It's a beautiful performance.

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  2. I wouldn't call you mad because as someone who enjoyed Mad Max very much, I myself am quite nervous about its chances. But one other reason I'm fearing for it is because Star Wars: The Force Awakens entered the mix and if they were to recognize a tentpole film, they might lean more towards that one. Especially considering the possible nostalgia factor and how it is playing critically and of course, financially.

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    1. If this film is actually nominated, it's going to be such a bizarre statistic.

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  3. You still haven't seen it? What the fuck is wrong with you? SEE IT NOW! If you have HBO, it's coming in January so you'll have time to see it.

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  4. I watched this and while it was fine and actiony I saw nothing special in it whatsoever. Now it's one of this years darlings. I don't get all the love.

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    1. It's a very good movie, and from a construction perspective, I think it's really special...but...I just can't think of any reason Oscar will feel the same way.

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  5. Fury Road >>> than most of the films I've seen this year. It's definitely been a year of 'meh' movies that while they're good, they're not great. I think Mad Max will pick up momentum...have a lil faith ;)

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    1. The momentum is there already, which is the shocking part. Like, the critics are throwing themselves all over it...but Oscar is a different animal.

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  6. 1. This is awful of you to post such thing on Chrismtas' Eve! :P

    2. "gritty, violent, comic-book stylized summer action" - yeah...it's actually not that violent or gritty. It has tremendously rich story. It has a lot of action but also plenty of quiet, poignant moments. It's really unlike most action movies out there

    3. Refn and Miller comparison doesn't work for me. Miller has been in the game a long time and I have a feeling he is very respected in the industry. IMHO he is front runner for Best Director

    I get what you are saying because Academy consists of old, white rich fucks mostly but this film really transcends any genre boundaries. I may be incredibly wrong here but imho it is 2nd in the race. Not for nomination. For actual BP trophy.

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    1. LOL, I posted this for you, in some ways, since your post jogged my memory that I had been meaning to ask this question to the blogosphere :-D

      I get where you're coming from, with regards to the rich story and the poignant quiet moments. I personally don't think the story is 'that' rich, but it runs deeper than most action films. After seeing this though, despite the chances that this could actually make the BP lineup (and, like I said, the numbers are there), this is the furthest thing from an Oscar movie there ever was. Like, NO PRECEDENT and after seeing it that is cemented. If this wins (which I HIGHLY doubt will happen) it would change the way these awards are viewed pretty instantly. NOTHING like this has ever even come close to winning, ever.

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    2. This is the year almost every single Oscar bait failed. They either recognize actual good movies in spite of what genre they are or they become even more of a joke

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    3. I'd love to have faith in them, that they'd do the right thing so-to-speak...but I have this aching feeling they won't.

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  7. I think a snub is probable, although it very much warrants some consideration. I think we need to go back to Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark for the sort of movie you're looking for that got this sort of consideration on the Oscar stage as Best Picture.

    Looking just at the last 10 years for tentpole-y, effect-y films that got Best Picture nominations (deserved or not):

    Avatar, District 9, Inception, and Gravity are all I come up with, and of those I think you can argue that three of them (all but Avatar) gained consideration for reasons other than special effects work.

    Oscar screws up a lot. It's why I devote my Fridays to trying to correct some of Oscar's past blunders. Someone has to do it...

    And yes, don't just watch this. Watch the hell out of it!

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    1. Not even Star Wars and Lost Ark. I mean, they were family orchestrated genre fare with pedigree helming them. Lucas and Spielberg were already Oscar nominees when their film's struck with Oscar, and those films, while 'genre', were very accessible.

      Mad Max is not in that category.

      District 9 is probably the most apt comparison...and even then...Mad Max is it's own animal, really.

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    2. Oh, I don't disagree. In fact all of the films I mentioned above were merely as close as I could come to the critiera you were talking about, and I don't think any of them get closer than sort of in the ballpark...maybe.

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    3. Yeah, this is such a strange film to be so far out in front of this race.

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  8. I'm not ready to call it a lock either. I'd be psyched if it got one, it's not my favorite film of the year but it's very good and I never imagined myself liking it. But you're so right, it's not an Academy movie. Those old dudes might not get it. lol

    I actually think of they're going to vote in a genre movie for Best Picture, Star Wars will get it. They have a better shot than Fury Road, IMO.

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    1. Yeah, I've been flirting with the Star Wars nom, but I also wonder if the BFCA move hurt it's chances. That was such a widely publicized, especially among the industry, 'bad move' and it could make Oscar voters less inclined to vote for the film in BP.

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  9. I've seen a lot of very good movies this year. Do I think Fury Road deserves a nomination? I'd say yes. But who am I prepared to boot out to make sure it gets it? That's a harder question.

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    1. I have a feeling that the Oscar voters could be thinking the same thing...

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  10. You make some great points. I've had a bit of a time grappling with the universal acclaim of Fury Road, in general, let alone for an Oscar Best Picture. Okay. I know I'm in the minority, but I did not connect to this film in any emotional way beyond the first few Wow! How the hell did they do that without CGI!!? moments.

    Now, would it be cool if this got the nod, or even won? I think yes. I'm not so much of a purist to think that Oscar shouldn't step out of that tight little bubble and go with the popular opinion. It is quite clear this and Spotlight are the favorite movies of the year.

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    1. I'm not entirely sure this is a film you need to emotionally connect to. In many ways, I feel all this acclaim is steeped in the 'wow' aspect more than anything else.

      It has a lot of wow, that's for sure...but wow doesn't always take you all the way with Oscar. They want to feel you're important. Spotlight will give them that.

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    2. True. But for me, the emotional response is everything, as I know you know. I have to remember the way a movie made me feel when I left. I left Mad Max not underwhelmed by any stretch, but I quickly forgot about it. That doesn't seem to be the case with most people. Something about it just didn't work.

      Spotlight is much more important and a better movie for my particular tastes. As is The Big Short, which I saw Monday. That movie is the fucking shit! It is like number one of the year, no question.

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    3. I really liked The Big Short...but not that much :-P

      Bale is incredible, though, and I really hope he pulls off that Oscar nom.

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  11. I am with Kevin on this one. I truly enjoyed the movie and was more blown away by the lack of CGI instead of the opposite with most movies like it. It was entertaining, but I felt that some of the background was lost on me being someone who had no prior knowledge of this franchise (can it be called that?). I did think the acting was great. Really top notch actor, even or maybe more appropriately especially, Tom Hardy with his lack of dialogue for so long. Very Bane-like. If it continues to get more awards-talk, I will continue to be surprised.

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    1. Hardy and Theron are certainly great here, as is Holt. It's a well oiled machine, for sure.

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  12. I have not seen it but I have not seen most of the movies you mentioned which is typical for me nowadays. For some reason i feel totally out of the loop with movies for this year.

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    1. I'm right there with you! Finally playing catch up.

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  13. I would love to see Mad Max defy the odds and sit alongside the more traditional BP nominations. I mean, people are really keen to place it up there with landmark films like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings (maybe a little prematurely, sure) and they both got BP nominations. Here's hoping, but like you said, it's a longshot.

    P.S. I saw the poster for Trumbo the other day and just sighed. It just looks like the embodiment of Oscar filler. I would hate to see Fury Road (or even The Force Awakens!) miss out to something so bland.

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    1. Trumbo proves that when AMPAS can't vote for their own...they find a way to vote for their own. Initial reactions for that film were so tepid, but once the more buzzed traditional Oscar bait fell on its face, awards bodies embraced Trumbo as the only other alternative.

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  14. I've heard arguments for Star Wars getting in, and I wonder if either (or both?) could happen. In no way is Fury Road a lock, but I'm also predicting it right now.

    And, getting back to Star Wars: it's grossed over $600 million in the U.S. in two weeks. Will the Oscars bite? I'm more confident in Mad Max, but I wonder...

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    1. I just don't see Star Wars getting nominated for BP...I really think BFCA could have hurt any chances it had.

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