National Board of Review Declares Mad Max: Fury Road Best Film of 2015
The National Board of Review has named Mad Max: Fury Road their best picture of the year, a not insignificant deal for a film that promised to be a fun romp and turned out to be something nearing a visceral masterpiece. While the National Board of Review doesn't have the name recognition, nor the clout, of some of the other, early award-giving bodies, like the Director's Guild or the New York Film Critic's Circle or Los Angeles Film Critics Association, it's still a decent prognosticator of what to expect at the Academy Awards. The films that the NBR has picked as their top choice have gone on to compete for a Best Picture Oscar 12 times in the past 14 years (it chose A Most Violent Year as its' best picture in 2014, a great film, but one that wasn't nominated, ditto Quills in 2000). The NBR's choice of Fury Road gives hope to everyone who feels George Miller's road warrior fever dream deserves, at minimum, to be mentioned in the same category as inevitable best picture nominees Spotlight and The Martian.
As we wrote earlier today, one of the many appeals of Miller's film is how lovingly crafted it was, with practical effects (those polecats) and performances that managed to be instantly iconic, none more so than Charlize Theron's bad-ass, axle grased covered, one armed Furiosa. Miller's film transcended mere spectacle by being so brilliantly conceived and executed, with every detail lovingly pored over by artists at every stage of production. One such filmmaker, art director Jacinta Leong, explained to us how she and her team made Miller's automotive dreams come true by fusing multiple cars together, for instance, and ensuring that every insane creation you saw on the screen could actually drive. Yet it wasn't just the Gigahorse Furiosa's War Rig that made the film so special, nor was it simply the relentless action and fantastic stunts—as Leong explained, it was also how committed Miller and the filmmakers were to creating a waterless, choked world in which even the character's many tics, abnormalities and diseases were researched over the many years of pre-production, a hold up that now look like something of a lucky break.
Mad Max: Fury Road would have a credible claim to belong in a Best Picture category with only five nominees, but now that ten films are chosen, there's no way this film doesn't get that honor (it's still a longshot to win, however). The National Board of Review is the first legitimate film organization to make the case that Fury Road belongs in contention with the types of films that usually get nominated, and win, best picture. They chose Fury Road as their best film over those very films, from Lenny Abrahamson's claustrophobic and heartrending Room, to Ridley Scott's operatic, highly enjoyable sci-fi rescue fiml The Martian, to Tom McCarthy's brilliant, brutal Spotlight, and over Steven Spielberg's Cold War-era Bridge of Spies. These are all very good films, as is Fury Road. That's why this feels like a big deal.
Here's the full list of NBR award winners.