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Posts Tagged ‘Mad Max’

I have now seen all the Best picture nominations, probably more than most of the voting academy members can truthfully say! Being a part time amateur film blogger doesn’t earn academy membership so rather than voting I get to sit on the outside looking in and bitching about poor choices.  If I did have a vote for the Best Picture Oscar I would struggle to chose between five films, my favourite five films eligible for this years Oscars.  Unfortunately three of my choices haven’t been nominated, making it a straight choice between two films.  Interestingly my two favourite nominated films are polar opposites; one is the most low key and down to earth, the other is the boldest, brightest, brashest and most outlandish.  In a few words, here are my thoughts on the nominated movies and their chances of picking up a little gold man on February 28th.

Spotlight: The comparisons with All the President’s Men (1976) are obvious, however where the Watergate movie was edgy and cinematic, this is a more staid and old fashioned film.  That said it is fantastic, if the was an Oscar for best ensemble cast it would be a shoe in! It would be a worthy winner and had a lot of positive buzz a few weeks ago but that seems to have passed. Like  All the President’s Men, I think it will have to settle for a nomination.Spotlight

The Revenant: Where Spotlight is very introspective and contained, The Revenant is all about the wide open spaces.  When I first saw it I thought it would win but no one seems to agree with me.  This makes me think it won’t win, it should however get cinematographer and best actor.The Revenant

Room: Not a bad film but beyond a fantastic lead performance I am not sure why it is getting so much love.  I think it is making up the numbers.'Room' is a journey out of darkness, director says

Brooklyn: The period setting makes it a very Oscar friendly film.  However I don’t hear it being mentioned in Oscar conversations, like Room I think it is making up the numbers.Brooklyn

Bridge of Spies: I am really glad to see this get a nomination as it is so much better than many people are giving it credit for.  Unfortunately it isn’t being talked out about so its probably another one making up the numbers.Bridge Of Spies

The Martian: A sci-fi film with a lot of comedy in it, how did the academy let this upstart slip in?  The simple reason, it is fun and hugely entertaining, it may not be the best motion picture of the year but it is probably the most fun.  I don’t think it will win, but if it does, it will probably be because it is lots of people second or third choice on the ballet. the martian

Mad Max: Simply my favourite film on the list but it is so un-Oscar I don’t see it having a chance, but it would be so great if it did.mad max tom hardy

The Big Short: The film seems to have divided opinion, a comedy about people who profited from the housing market crash.  The word we hear a lot of at this time of year is momentum, and this film has lots of momentum.  I really liked the film but don’t think it is the best film on the list, but I think it is favourite to win.The Big Short

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“People don’t believe in heroes anymore”

With all the coverage received by the new trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road I thought it was time to look back at the original 1979 movie.  Many people associate Mad Max with the sequels Mad Max 2 (1981), subtitled The Road Warrior in America, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and have forgotten the original movie. 

“A few years from now” in a unspecified place the MFP are the traffic police who maintain order on the streets.  Cop, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) becomes the target of a biker gang after he is involved in the pursuit of an escaped killer calling himself The Nightrider (Vince Gil).  When he  loses everything, Max goes out to seek revenge.Mad Max

As described in the opening title card, the film is set “A few years from now”, it isn’t the apocalyptic world where the desert has reclaimed the world.  A lot of Mad Max is set in relatively lush green scrubland.  It is the beginning of the “maelstrom of decay” described in Mad Max 2.  The world isn’t going out with a bang, humanity is slowly giving up as the gangs take over and the world is tearing itself apart.  Is the film set in a dystopia on fringes of society or in a future on the brink of collapse?  This is never really made clear, but in many ways the film is all the better for it.  In a vast landscape filled with nomadic motorists the traffic cops are the only thing keeping the world in check and hanging on to civilisation, they are the heroes that Fifi (Roger Ward) refers to.Mad Max

So the film isn’t an apocalyptic nightmare, that’s the second and third films, but is it the violent revenge thriller that it is labelled?  It does have its violent moments but most of those aren’t actually shown, they are surprisingly off camera, probably for budgetary reasons.   I am not convinced if released now it would receive the 18 certificate it got on its original release.  Is it then an observations on the effects of the 70’s oil crisis’ on Australian motorists? Is it an existentialist look at what people do to cling to their humanity and the idea of society?  The film is less than ninety minutes long but still manages to devote more than ten minutes to the opening chase scene. Only the final twenty minutes makes up the revenge story that the film is known for.  Any meaning we may be looking for is most clearly observed in the scene where Max wants to quit, he admits to Fifi that he is scared, not scared of what could happen to him, but scared that he may start to enjoy it, scared that he is going to become a “terminal crazy”, this is kind of what we see.    As Max, the innocent and good man gives up on society in favour of revenge, society itself gives up and we see the results in Mad Max 2.  So does that make it a cautionary tale against lawlessness?  Am I reading too much into it, at it is merely a visceral tale loss and revenge designed just to entertain on the most base of levels?Mad Max opening chase scene

Director, George Miller claimed the films budget was around $400,000.  Made in a pre CGI time this resulted in a very inventive movie that makes the most of its money.  This is what I love so much about the film, it’s a genre film like Roger Corman and early Walter Hill, it’s a film that is improved by its limitations not constrained by them, it is a film directors like Michael Bay, McG and James Cameron should revisit, they could learn something.  The real draw for the film is Mel Gibson, at 23 he was an unknown, with one movie and a couple of TV credits behind him.  Given the baggage he now carries with him, it is easy to forget what a charismatic and likeable star Gibson was back then.  Demonstrating the lighter and comic part of the film with the same ease as the more hollow shell of a man set on a path of revenge.  He manages to bring a sense of despair and melancholy to the part.The Rover and Mad Max Posters

The legacy of Mad Max and the apocalyptic movies set in sand covered landscapes that have imitated and been inspired by it probably belongs to Mad Max 2 and not to this film.  In the 35 years since its original release there hasn’t been another film quite like Mad Max, not even its sequels.  With David Michôd’s The Rover just opening and Fury Road due out next may, now is a perfect time to remind yourself of the original Mad Max. 

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As I’m sure you are aware tomorrow will see the end of the world. We survived the end of the world and at the end of 1999 and again on 21st. May 2011 just as our ancestors survived a previous predicted end of the world in 999. This latest End of the World relates to the Maya calendar, but which Maya calendar, I have heard of at least three different ones quoted and that’s before we get to all the new age bullshit. So what happens at the end of the world? To be honest the Maya doomsday theory is little more than the end of their calendar, and what happens when the calendar ends? A new one begins! The end (or near end) of the world is a subject many filmmakers have explored.

Like many movies on the subject, (plot spoiler) Planet of the Apes (1968) explores what happens to survivors after the end of a man made apocalypse. Mad Max (1979) and its sequels (1981 & 1985) is vague about the events that led to the end of the world as we know it instead concentrating on the increasingly crumbling society. The Terminator (1984) uses time travel to try and avert an apocalypse. Hardware (1990) is a story of a small group of survivors living in a city living off the scraps of the dead and decaying civilisation. The Matrix (1999) combines idea of all the above movies and uses glossy Sci-Fi as a juxtaposition to the grim reality of the dystopian future. We never really find out what exactly happened in The Road (2009) but the world is clearly dieing in this chilling and melancholic story.The Terminator

Averting the end of the world is a mainstay of sci-fi, like The Terminator (mentioned above) Millennium (1989) and 12 Monkeys (1995) resorts to time travel to try and save the world after the event. More proactive in their approach, Sunshine (2007) sees a team of astronauts attempts to re-ignite the dying sun. the opposite is happening in (the terrible) Knowing (2009) as solar flares from an overactive sun burns away the atmosphere and incinerates the surface of the Earth. Both films have religious themes in their ending. Melancholia (2011) turns the destruction of the earth as a metaphor for depression. The under seen Last Night (1998) forgoes explanation and simply tells us the world is ending and concentrates on how people spend their last day.sunshine

Roland Emmerich seems to be trying to corner the market in world destruction. After flirting with aliens in Stargate (1994) he went for all out alien invasion in Independence Day (1996). No sooner had we survived that than America came under monster attack from Godzilla (1998) (if you haven’t seen it, don’t bother, just go for the Japanese original 1954 Gojira). Then the weather struck in The Day After Tomorrow (2004) before the Maya doomsday prophesy of 2012 (2009).the day after tomorrow

Following in the footsteps of WALL·E (2008) two of the biggest and most bankable stars in Hollywood return to an uninhabited future earth. Oblivion sees Tom Cruise as a drone repairmen on an abandoned and devastated earth after a war with an alien race. In After Earth Will Smith’s return to earth isn’t planned. This time earth has been abandoned for a thousand years until Smith and his teenage son (played by his teenage son Jaden) crash land and have to fight for survival. My only reservation, it is directed by M. Night Shyamalan who I have been less than complimentary about, except the underrated Unbreakable (2000).After Earth and Oblivion

Lets hope we all survive the apocalypse and get to see them.

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In the twenty plus years that Mad Max 4 has spent in Development Hell George Miller has never given up. Mad Max 4: Fury Road as it had become known as by that time was set to go into production two years ago in Broken Hill, New South Wales, the setting for the original movies. The location was chosen ahead of the other option, South Africa thanks to government tax breaks in Australia. Unfortunately heavy rain delayed the shoot for several months then caused the desolate desert landscape into a lush green flower filled garden making it aesthetically unsuitable. Production has since started in Namibia. Based on the locations used in Richard Stanley’s B movie masterpiece Dust Devil I think this should be a suitable alternative. Rumours suggest the film will be set a few years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome telling the story of what happened to Max after he helped the kids escape. It appears Tom Hardy will be taking over from Mel Gibson as the eponymous antihero Max Rockatansky. There have been a couple of interesting set reports one involves the addition to the cast of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, best know as Megan Fox’s replacement in Transformers 3. The other involves hair, it appears while Hardy has been growing a bushy beard, Charlize Theron has had her head shaved for the part.

As much as I love the franchise so far and am looking forward to seeing what Miller will do with the story, I am not convinced there should be another film following Thunderdome. It was the weakest of the trilogy and there was a sense that they had run out of ideas and decided to increase scope and scale to make up for it. I would rather see something more along the lines of a reboot. There are two ways to do it; the first would be set a few years from now and not when the original film was set. This would allow the financial crisis and oil related wars of recent years to be used as a background to the collapse of society as we know it. The other would be set around the same time as the original movie, possibly even in the time between the first two movies. The twist and the way to shoehorn the movie into the continuity is that the movie would be set in a different part of Australia. It would tell the story of a different group of MFP cops and different gangs. As well as aiding the continuity it also avoids the pitfall of expecting a new actor to live up to Mel Gibson’s Max.

The direct sequel they have planned or either one of these reboot ideas would require a new story to avoid just rehashing what has gone before. It would depend greatly on which idea was taken up as to what direction the story would take; one ting that is important is to manage the scale and the scope of the idea. The reason Mad Max works so well is the intimate nature of the story, it is a revenge story about a lone man pushed over the edge, not by the crumbling society itself but by the actions of men within that society. In the original movie Max is part of a group, as he becomes a vigilante, he isolates himself from society, from the group. Throughout the next two movies becoming reintegrated with societies but always ends up alone. As such Max is a walking metaphor for the breakdown and possible renaissance of society. This is a theme that that any new movie should incorporate.

A little like a Ridley Scott movie within the Alien universe, whatever they come up with, I will always be up for a George Miller directed Mad Max movie.

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Catching up on an old episode of The Matineecast got me thinking about movies set in dystopian futures. Ryan referred to dystopias that are not that far in the future, and via the movie Pleasantville (1998) he and his guest Sasha James Talked about how a nostalgic view of America in the 1950’s could be a dystopia for people from the present day. My first thought was that we could now be living in what would be the dystopian future that people in the 50’s feared. With dwindling natural recourses, and rising costs, losses of civil liberties and an over reliance on technology coupled with the threat of war and terrorism, we are probably closer to dystopia than utopia. With this in mind I have avoided movies set in an unrecognisable world to concentrate on dystopias that are not that different to the real world.

Movies like Gattaca (1997), V for Vendetta (2005) and In Time (2011) exist in a society that has adopted practices that oppress the masses and it is through rebellion that people are able to find a better life. There are other films like1984 (1984), Brazil (1985) and Code 46 (2003) that revel in their desperation and futility by pulling rug from under the hero, and the audience with it. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and Children of Men (2006) find a happy balance where the despair is tempered by a glimmer of hope. The brilliance of Fahrenheit 451 the way we see a character comes to distrust what he has been taught to believe in and chooses to fight the system from within. We see a similar idea explored in the interesting if a little overrated Equilibrium (2002), set in a society where emotions are outlawed it also explores what it is to be human. Both these ideas are explored in the underrated and misunderstood RoboCop (1987). In there own way the characters in Rollerball (1975) and Death Race 2000 (1975). This is very different from District 13 (2004) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) whose protagonists are and remain outsiders. An interesting case is The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) whose main protagonists desire is only to escape the system but her desires bring her into the sphere of those who are trying to change things.

When you mention Mad Max many people think of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, in some ways the best film in the trilogy, but the original low budget Mad Max is actually equally as good in its own way. Set in a near future world were society is crumbling and law & order has begun to break down people will do what it takes to keep moving to stay on the road. It was relevant in its day but it has found new relevance in recent years. If we think about the glue that holds society together, it is not fear of prosecution, but a moral belief of right and wrong, if you take that bond away the world as we know it will crumble. We see the early days of this in Mad Max, and the subtlety with which this idea is displayed within a violent revenge thriller is why it is possibly the best dystopian movie. This breakdown of society is in the background of neo-noir Trouble in Mind (1985) and retro-future comic book inspired Streets of Fire (1984) but lacks the despair of Mad Max. The other movie that perfectly depicts society at a tipping point is Strange Days (1995). Made in the mid 90’s with LA’s troubles fresh in the memory and set just five years in the future, now more than a decade in the past, some would argue the world is a worse place now than what was depicted. Given the reality TV obsession of the last dozen years and current distrust of media and governments, The Running Man (1987) now seems strangely prophetic. Battle Royale covers some of the same ground but is all the more shocking in the way it casts children against society.

It is human nature to try and change and shape society, but some movies have taken this to an extreme. By travelling back in time from a dystopian future to change the present and reshape the future, their present. This is handled in different ways in different movies, the hero of Twelve Monkeys (1995) is haunted by memories of his own death and with it his failure to save the future. Millennium (1989) takes a different point of view as the characters from the future battle to hide the existence in the present through fear that it will change and potentially destroy the future with the effects of the paradox of time travel. While Millennium is afraid of the effects of paradox, The Terminator (1984) exists within a paradox. It is only within an effort to kill the hero who can save the world that he is conceived. The one thing all these movies have in common is the way they only give us glimpses of the dystopian future, a future created in the present.

One thing that is clear, there are as many differences as there are similarities within the genre, but the movies that are the best and that age the best are the ones that have a deeper relevance. This can be an overt plot, a subtle subtext or just a theme that anchors the story in reality.

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Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I watched a lot movies America’s new wave, it is therefore no great surprise that the 1970’s featured heavily in my thoughts when picking “My Movie Year”. Here are a few that I considered but didn’t make the final cut:

1971: A Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry, Vanishing Point, The French Connection, Two-Lane Blackto

1972: The Godfather, Deliverance, Cabaret, The Getaway, Silent Running

1973: American Graffiti, The Sting, Enter The Dragon, Don’t Look Now, Mean Streets

1974: Chinatown, The Godfather Part II, Blazing Saddles, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

1979: Apocalypse Now, Alien, Mad Max, Life of Brian, The Warriors

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