Thursday, February 4, 2016

What A Lovely Day: Why Fury Road should win Best Picture.

Look, Spotlight is a great movie. With fantastic performances from a stellar cast and a compelling story, it's almost certain to win Best Picture at the Oscars this year. However, there was another film released in 2015 that has stuck with me more than any other movie in a long time. If you read the title of this blog post you'll know that that movie is Mad Max: Fury Road.
Fury Road summarized in one image.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth film in director George Miller's post apocalyptic saga. It was released 30 years after the previous film in the series Beyond Thunderdome, came into theatres. To briefly summarize the movie for those who haven't seen it, Fury Road follows the titular Max (Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson) who joins a woman named Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), in transporting the slave wives of a warlord to safety all while being pursued by the Warlord. To someone who hasn't seen the movie, the plot can sound like a somewhat generic action movie. However, Mad Max: Fury Road is anything but. The movie excels in countless ways and becomes in this writer's opinion, a perfect action movie that should, even though it will lose to Spotlight, win best picture. Let's examine a few reasons why.

1. Editing.
One of the biggest faults the modern action movie suffers from is the editing. The movies are so concerned with action that the become nearly impossible to watch or even understand what is going on. 
Looking at you Michael Bay.
Just take a look at the gif above, or at this 20 minute video of all the fight scenes in Transformers. The action is all over the place and quickly becomes very hard to follow. The shaky camerawork and near constant explosions make taking in the action an overwhelming and difficult task that quickly becomes an eyesore. I'm just picking on Bay for this post but it happens with a lot of actions movies. However this is where Miller excels. Actually, I should say this is where Margaret Sixel excels, as she is the one who edited this movie. What makes the editing of Fury Road so interesting is that it isn't edited like an action movie. In fact, Sixel, who is Miller's wife, had never edited an action film before Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller, when asked why he selected Sixel to edit the film said that had it been edited by "the usual kind of guys, it would look like every other action movie we see" The result of Margaret Sixel's editing is high octane action scenes that are easy to follow.  

Look at this gif to the left. Important points are kept in the center so the audience doesn't have to search for them. Shot shots, while short, are long enough that we are able to see what is occurring in each one before the next shot comes along. Also notice how while there is slight directional movement with the camera, it is still steady enough for us to be enthralled by the action but not made motion sick by the blair witch level shakiness.

While this edited works great for these action sequences, it also improves the films watching as a whole. Film being a visual medium, and actions films doubly so, it is important that you can tell your film well with minimal use of dialogue to expose what is occurring on screen. Check out this video of several action films 12 times their normal speed. As many of the other films becomes a hard to follow muddled mess, more or less you can still tell what's going on in Mad Max: Fury Road. You could easily take all the sound out of Fury Road and besides missing an awesome score by Junkie XL you would still be able to understand the story and could pretty easily explain the major plot points of the film.  

2. Practical Effects
With CGI, almost anything is possible and for considerably less than it would cost to actually do it. think about it; If you were making a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road, you wouldn't spend all that time to actually build all those cars and then actually go out in the desert and film all those dangerous stunts full speed and end up destroying those cars, when you could do almost all of that with CGI right? Well George Miller did. Almost every single car in the film is a real, fully functioning vehicle. 
That includes this one.

This one

This one, which you may remember having a man playing a flame-throwing guitar which was also real, on top of it.

And countless other ridiculously awesome post-apocalyptic vehicles. All of these were actually built, functioned, and for most of them, destroyed in one of the final car chase climaxes ever. Miller did use CGI, but only to enhance. This is how CGI should be used, to enhance scenes, not to completely replace what could be made practically. 

Check out this great video which shows many of the CGI shots in the film before and after it was added. Notice how for the most part, things are done practically, when important. Scenes where shooting inside a moving vehicle would not have worked are done on green screen, but almost anything else is done with good old practical destruction.  

Here are a few other pre and post CGI/VFX shots from Fury Road.

3. Story/Feminist Action
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Mad Max is that Max is not the protagonist of the film, in fact, the story of Fury Road is not Max's. That honor goes to Furiosa.
Hands down biggest badass of 2015.
Furiosa's journey is what drives (see what I did there) the plot. Max is simply along for the ride. (see that I did there) The entire film has a strong feminist message. Furiosa is never a damsel in distress and is never seen as inferior to Max. In fact, she saves Max's ass a few times. Her character is given depth and important backstory which the plot gives proper attention to. She is not oversexualised or just made to be an object of male gaze. She is smart, independent, and very resourceful. What works well with the film is the mutual respect she and Max have for eachother. Max never assumes she is unable to perform a task, he is simply weary of her at first. Furiosa however is not the only female character in the film. Joining her are Immortan Joe's fives wives, also referred to as breeders, used to bring Immortan healthy sons. Each of the wives in the film stands out in their own way and is unique from the others. Again giving character development to them. They too are able to hold their own in a fight. the film easily passes both the Bechdel_test and the Mako Mori test. The film does such a good job with its female characters that a group of Men's Rights Activists, which is sadly a real thing, protested the film calling in feminist propaganda. I'm not going to give the link to the article, but if you can find it pretty easily. The story as a whole improves the film. Despite these many complex characters, the overall plot is simple. This benefits the film and allows the visual aspect and action to do the rest of the storytelling. There is no need for any subplots or things that go nowhere, the film simply tells one story and focuses entirely on that. 

In Conclusion
Mad Max: Fury Road excels in almost every aspect. It's beautiful to look at, has great characters who you wanna root for, and is fun as hell. The film is clearly made by someone who dearly loves film. One can even see multiple subtle references to the older Mad Max films, but we won't go into that now. Filmmaking is a craft, and the craft that went to making Mad Max is truly remarkable. Each aspect is equally important to the film working out. If it failed, the whole film would have too. From the editing to the script, to the practical effects, the utmost care was put into every detail of the movie. This is not to say that the other nominees are not deserving they are, and in Spotlight's case, they will succeed. None of the films however, accomplish what Mad Max: Fury Road did. For that Fury Road shall ride enteral, shiny and chrome.  

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