In anticipation of the Academy Awards, we polled our contributors to see who they thought should win the Oscar. Once we had our winners, we asked various writers to make the case for our selection in each category. Glenn Kenny writes about our landslide pick for the Best Director of 2015, Mr. George Miller.
Critics and cinephiles like to call their favorite directors “visionaries,” but let’s have some real talk: all the vision in the world isn’t going to amount to much on the screen if craft is absent. And contemporary cinema is packed with would-be visionaries who wouldn’t know a 28mm lens from a novelty shot glass. George Miller’s return to live-action directing, reconfiguring the action hero who made his low-budget name all the way back in 1979 with “Mad Max,” is a dynamic combination of craft and vision. Upon release, more than one top filmmaker was heard to comment, in an interview or on a social media thread, that Miller was once again showing everybody in film “how it was done.”
And how was this mind-blowing action movie done? Despite popular perception, Miller was not 100 percent “old-school” in his approach. Like any really good conscientious craftsman he took into account all the latest innovations in shooting, editing and effects technology and he picked and chose those elements that could best serve his, yes, vision. Because his cutting is so coherent, it’s said that he abjures the apparently much-hated kitchen sink pyrotechnics of what many refer to as “chaos cinema.” Yes and no: Miller clearly understands the exhilaration potential of a particular visual barrage but chooses—insists on—contriving it in a way that makes sense to his eye, to his particular rhythm. It’s the painstaking realization of a way of seeing that makes “Mad Max: Fury Road” the most distinctive piece of film direction of 2015.