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.
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.