Why ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ does not deserve the Best Picture Oscar

Under the headline “Why ‘Fury Road’ deserves the Best Picture Oscar,” Entertainment Weekly writer James Hibberd attempts to counter the arguments against George Miller’s “Mad Max” reboot deserving the Best Picture Oscar: that it has no plot; it is wall-to-wall action without three-dimensional characters; and it is not serious or important.

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To that last criticism, Hibberd writes “What is Serious and Important anyway? And is ‘Fury Road’ any less serious and important than Best Picture winners like ‘Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,’ ‘The Departed,’ or ‘Silence of the Lambs’?”

Mentioning those three Oscar winners is not an argument; it’s a subjective judgment. Hibberd is saying he doesn’t believe that one of the greatest adaptations of a literary classic or a masterful crime drama about good and bad cops working side-by-side or a modern horror film featuring a pair of instantly iconic lead performances are not serious and important.

If I were to argue the resolution that “Mad Max: Fury Road” deserves the Best Picture Oscar, I would set aside the serious/important question and focus instead on style. Seriousness and importance are subjective and often a distraction to great filmmaking. The movie I would want academy voters to think about while considering “Fury Road” is “The Artist,” a French silent movie by a director and stars unknown to American audiences that dominated the Oscars in 2011.

“The Artist” was a pure exercise in style, a loving tribute to film’s past, and even without spoken dialogue it received two acting nominations and a best actor win for Jean Dujardin.

Who?

Jean Dujardin. (do-har-deen)

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“Fury Road” has one great, non-nominated performance from Charlize Theron, but there are few moments of real acting in it, and keep in mind that about 40 percent of academy voters belong to the actors’ branch. I have always maintained that actors judge acting in movies by the challenges presented by their roles and the changes in their characters through the arcs of their movies. In other words, do they think they could have played the roles as well?

Theron’s Imperator Furiosa does not change; she is a steely, one-armed wonder of a truck driver and a kick-ass answer to Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto in “The Fast and the Furious (Furiosa?)” franchise. If there was a parallel Oscars for action movies, she’d be the prohibitive favorite for Best Actress.

But there is no Action Oscars, and “Fury Road” must settle for 10 nominations it received in other categories, in some of which it will surely win. But is it serious and important?

No, and maybe.

A chase movie through a fictional landscape with little to no plot is not serious by any dictionary definition. Whether it’s important, suggesting great significance or consequence, we’ll see. A  Best Picture Oscar would give it significance but would not give it seriousness. In short, it is a joyride non pareil, but it’s not an Oscar movie.

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Photo: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Warner Bros.)

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