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What chance does Mad Max: Fury Road have of Oscar nominations for best picture and director next month?
At the start of Hollywood’s awards season, there was very little likelihood that an action movie released seven months ago would be a contender in the two main categories at the Academy Awards.
Even three weeks ago, when Short Cuts reported on a Hollywood experts poll that predicted Fury Road could land seven Oscar nominations, they were all for behind-the-scenes roles – best cinematography, editing, production design, make-up and hairstyling, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects, with an outside chance of costumes as well.
But after a slew of awards and nominations, George Miller’s fourth Mad Max film has surprisingly firmed strongly in the top two categories.
In an updated poll, 21 out of 26 pundits from such publications as Variety, Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Entertainment Weekly are now predicting Fury Road will be nominated for best picture.
Earlier this month, just four out of 21 expected that to happen.
And an even higher percentage of experts – 19 out of 23 – are predicting Miller will be nominated for best director. Three weeks ago, just three out of 22 considered that likely.
The Hollywood Reporter is not quite so optimistic about Mad Max’s chances in the top two Oscar categories.
After naming 10 films as “front runners” for a best picture nomination, it has Fury Road as a “major threat” at No. 11. And after five “front runners” for best director, Miller is also “major threat” at No. 6.
But having won an Oscar for best animated feature with Happy Feet, Miller won’t be getting too carried away by all the predictions.
“Having been there before, the dumbest thing to do is to buy into that speculation,” he said after the film dominated the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards this month.
“There are some extraordinary films that have come out this year and I’m just happy to be in the mix because this a very, very atypical movie for the Oscars. The fact that even people are having a conversation about it is deeply gratifying.”
Miller said the real satisfaction lay elsewhere after finally finishing Fury Road despite years of setbacks.
“To get the response that you do with audiences is what we enjoy most,” he said. “It’s the reward.”
Australia’s Oscar chances also include Cate Blanchett, who is a raging favourite for another nomination for the lesbian romance, Carol, and Robertino Zambrano, who co-directed the animated short Love in the Time of March Madness, which is down to a shortlist of 10 contenders.
John Boyega as Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.Star Wars’ remarkable weekend
There has not been a weekend like it in Australian cinemas in recent years.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens set all sorts of records including widest release (941 of the country’s 2000-odd cinema screens), highest opening day ($9.4 million) and highest opening weekend ($27.2 million).
In four days, The Force Awakens beat what the final Hunger Games movie has taken on its fifth weekend ($27.2 million) and was closing fast on what Spectre has taken on its sixth weekend ($32.9 million).
On the way to what is bound to be a record opening week – that title is held by the final Harry Potter movie with $29.3 million – director J. J. Abrams’ reboot of the classic sci-fi series did something else remarkable.
It was responsible for 83 per cent of the box office takings for the top 20 films on the weekend.
When Avatar opened on the way to its record-breaking gross of $115.6 million just before Christmas six years ago, it captured just 69 per cent of the top 20 box office take.
But James Cameron’s sci-fi pic kept running and running, staying on top of the box office chart for eight weekends in a row then selling tickets until almost the end of May – a run of 23 weeks.
As the counter-programming begins with a batch of new releases on Boxing Day, The Force Awakens is expected to dominate the box office over the holidays.
Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker. Photo: Kate GeraghtyCamel film for Wadjda director
A groundbreaking Middle Eastern filmmaker with a strong connection to Australia, Haifaa Al Mansour is kicking on after her impressive drama Wadjda two years ago.
Variety reports that the first female director from cloistered Saudi Arabia is developing a new animated movie called Miss Camel with financing from the Doha Film Institute.
It centres on “a teenage Saudi camel who challenges the deep-rooted restrictions of her culture by travelling across the kingdom to compete in the Miss Camel beauty pageant in Doha”.
And Al Mansour is also reportedly preparing to shoot an ambitious English-language Mary Shelley-Percy Bysshe Shelley drama, A Storm In The Stars, with Elle Fanning (Maleficent) and Douglas Booth (Noah).
Wadjda, about a 10-year-old Saudi girl who wants to ride a bicycle even though it is forbidden for her in her country, won many fans when it screened at Sydney Film Festival then had a cinema release.
At the time, Mansour said a year studying for a master’s degree in film at the University of Sydney gave her the confidence to tackle her first feature.
“I had a great time,” she said. “I had my first son. I went to school when I was pregnant and my professors were very supportive.”
When she shot Wadjda on the streets of Saudi Arabia, Al Mansour often had to sit inside a van and speak to her actors via walkie-talkie lest she be visible.
In a segregated country that did not allow cinemas, conservative relatives were so concerned about her directing films that they wrote letters to her father suggesting she was being corrupted.
Inspiring new partnerships … Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.Screen Australia’s enterprise funding
The creative teams behind planned co-productions with China, the horror film Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and the Chris Lilley’s television comedy series will share $2.6 million in funding through Screen Australia’s Enterprise Industry program.
The agency has announced that 12 companies have been funded, including Arclight Films International, which plans to co-develop, co-finance and co-produce Australian-Chinese feature film projects through a new division called Chinalight.
Also backed are Guerilla Films, which aims to develop a slate and establish partnerships after making Wyrmwood, and Princess Pictures, makers of Summer Heights High, Jonah from Tonga and It’s A Date, which will develop a comedy incubator for new projects.
“The Enterprise Industry program rewards ambitious and innovative development programs and gives companies the extra funding they need to broaden their existing talent and skills,” says Richard Harris, Screen Australia’s head of business and audience.
“This extraordinary group of applicants have come to Screen Australia with ideas for growth that will not just advance their own businesses but this industry as a whole,”
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