Maximum Oscar Winning Movies

Mad Max: Fury Road's massive Oscars win is a huge moment for Australian cinema

George Miller,Just imagine: George Miller, kitted up in a black tuxedo and standing in front of a vista of famous faces – looking at them through his distinctive brown-tinged circular specs, connected via neck chain – accepting the best director Academy Award for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Related: Oscars 2016: Spotlight shocks as DiCaprio wins actor and Mad Max scorches competition

Miller looks – as he has for a little while, in the best possible way – a little like one of the characters from his signature franchise: the dystopian, desert-set explode-a-palooza about a certain man with a certain name and a certain kind of cranky disposition. Particularly when the film-maker dons his leather jacket.

The 70-year-old maestro would have thanked his wife, editor Margaret Sixel (who worked on the film and won best editor at Sunday’s ceremony). He would have thanked his crew of crazies who slaved away to blow the world – more specifically, the desert in Namibia – so spectacularly asunder.

Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller gives two thumbs up as he arrives at the 2016 Oscars. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Sadly that moment was not meant to be. Miller didn’t win best director or the other category he was nominated for, best film (as a producer).

But Mad Max: Fury Road nevertheless took home an Immortan Joe-sized bounty of golden statuettes, sweeping up awards for best costume design, production design, makeup and hairstyling, editing, sound editing and sound mixing. At this year’s ceremony Fury Road not only scored double the number of Oscars of any other film in competition (six in total, The Revenant runner-up with three) but double the number of Oscars of any Australian movie in history. The previous record was 1993’s The Piano, which won three.

This is an extraordinary achievement for several reasons. Most impressively, perhaps, that a third sequel in a bat-shit crazy series made by gung-ho Aussies has been recognised in such a resounding way by the world’s most prestigious awards ceremony.

Everybody knows we should take the Academy Awards with a grain of salt, but there is something undeniably cool about Uncle/Aunty/Old White Man Oscars dishing out mega gongs to a band of trigger-happy foot-to-the-floor petrolheads.

A scene from Mad Max: Fury Road – ‘the best damn action movie from anywhere in the world since at least the turn of the century’. Photograph: Jasin Boland/AP

Let us take a moment to savour what Fury Road’s Oscar success means in a symbolic sense for Australian cinema. A chorus of commentators, this critic included, have long championed Australian genre film-making – partly to counter a steady stream of stories involving downers such as cancer, STDs and drug addiction.

Great genre films may come and go without much love at the local box office (recently The Babadook and These Final Hours). But these films invariably demonstrate value in other ways, especially in the grooming of talent who graduate to bigger and better things.

The story of George Miller and Mad Max is the epoch of that narrative, and the franchise now the most jewelled of the Oz genre crown. If nothing else, its success reminds us that Australians make great badass genre movies, our cinematic teeth cut in the heady years of 70s and 80s Ozploitation flicks, of which Mad Max was a part.

Related: Record night at Oscars for Australia as Mad Max: Fury Road triumphs

Also, more specifically, that Australians make great bad-ass car movies. There’s a reason Quentin Tarantino, in the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, remarked that Australian film directors “manage to shoot cars with a fetishistic lens that just makes you want to jerk off”. For further reading/watching consult The Cars That Ate Paris, Roadgames, Stone and Backroads.

This year’s #FuriousOscars (to coin a phrase or, er, hash a tag) are also a recognition of Miller himself, even if he didn’t get a chance to stand behind the podium.

In a sense the film-maker’s career mirrors George Lucas’s, but with the best of twists. Both directors began with experimental films, moved on to enormously successful long-running franchises and built production companies (Kennedy Mitchell Miller and Lucasfilm respectively) that grew many more careers than their own.

But in Miller’s case the prophecy came true. While Lucas’s creative integrity waned with time, Miller’s only grew. When Lucas re-revisited the franchise that made him famous, it was a disaster (the Star Wars prequels). When Miller re-revisited his, three decades after 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, it was ... well, it was Mad Max: Fury Road – the best damn action movie from anywhere in the world since at least the turn of the century. Congratulations George; congratulations team. This year’s Oscars will go down as a huge moment for Australian cinema.

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