Oscars 2016: Winners

Posted on February 29, 2016 at 12:10 am

Best Picture: “Spotlight”

Direction: “The Revenant,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”

Actress: Brie Larson, “Room”

Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”

Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”

Adapted Screenplay: “The Big Short,” Charles Randolph and Adam McKay

Original Screenplay: “Spotlight,” Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy

Cinematography: “The Revenant,” Emmanuel Lubezki

Production Design: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson (set decoration)

Film Editing: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Margaret Sixel

Visual Effects: “Ex Machina,” Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett

Costume Design: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Jenny Beavan

Makeup: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin

Sound Editing: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Mark Mangini and David White

Sound Mixing: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo

Score: “The Hateful Eight,” Ennio Morricone

Song: “Writing’s on the Wall,” from “Spectre,” Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Foreign Language Film: “Son of Saul” (Hungary)

Animated Feature: “Inside Out”

Documentary Feature: “Amy”

Animated Short: “Bear Story”

Documentary Short: “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”

Live Action Short: “Stutterer”

Copyright Open Road Films 2015
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2015 Awards — Online Film Critics Society

Posted on December 13, 2015 at 10:09 pm

I’m proud to be a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and proud of our 2015 awards.

Best Picture:
Mad Max: Fury Road

Copyright 2015  Pixar
Copyright 2015 Pixar

Best Animated Feature:
Inside Out

Best Film Not in the English Language:
The Assassin (Taiwan)

Best Documentary:
The Look of Silence

Best Director:
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Best Actor:
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Copyright Drafthouse Films 2015
Copyright Drafthouse Films 2015
Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Best Supporting Actor:
Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)

Best Supporting Actress:
Rooney Mara (Carol)

Best Original Screenplay:
Spotlight (Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Carol (Phyllis Nagy)

Best Editing:
Mad Max: Fury Road (Margaret Sixel)

Best Cinematography:
Mad Max: Fury Road (John Seale)

Non-U.S. Films (Alphabetical Order):
Cemetery of Splendor
The Club
The Lobster
Mountains May Depart
Mia Madre
Right Now, Wrong Then
The Sunset Song

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Interview: Junkie XL, Composer of “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

It was a treat to talk to Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg), the award-winning, multi-platinum producer/composer who created the sensational soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road, ranging from orchestral to heavy metal, and now available for purchase. Coming up next, he is working on the remake of “Point Break,” “Black Mass,” and “Batman v. Superman.”

Junkie XL told me about working side by side with writer/director George Miller and about the unexpected member of his household who is heard on the soundtrack.

I’ve been listening to the score and the track called “Escape” sounds Metallica if its lead singer was a Tyrannosaur Rex.

It’s a part of the movie where Max breaks loose from his capturers but this is a really strange world. It’s so over the top, the scenery is so intense, all the detail that goes into the set and the costumes, what these people looked like, the cars, it’s unheard of. And so the music needed to live up to that standard. I said to George, “Let’s do this insane rock opera where everything clashes and there is like choir and there’s sound design and there’s mad drums and mad electronic sounds and over the top strings and very small strings and very emotional little things and he said, “Yeah let’s do it.”

And so “Escape” was one of the earlier cues that I started on and it needed to be crazy. Max in this case is a very troubled character. He’s not the stable, funny guy that we know from the earlier Mad Max movies in the 80s. He’s been through this so many times and he’s got post-traumatic stress and whatever he has, he’s very troubled. And so the music needed to be very troubling too.

Is that all together electronically? did you have an orchestra?

There’s an orchestra in there but I actually set with the string players and the bass players and we created these really crazy tones that normally do not come out of these instruments. They have to play them in a certain way. They have to get really out of tune. There’s that whole string section in there with a really haunting motif which was very inspired on the great late 40s, 50s, 60s, the golden era of Bernard Hermann and some other classical composers. It’s really like a golden time period and we really have to record it multiple, multiple times to get the right feel and the right tone.

Yes, some of the tracks are very lush and orchestral.

I grew up classically trained and I have a really strong relationship with pieces written, let’s say from 1850 to 1950/1960 and it was played a lot around our house. George is very familiar with that time period too and he loves that style. So that is what we use when there are parts of the film where these characters step out of that dystopian madness and they actually warm up to one another as human beings. That’s when we need to go to that tone. That’s when we need to go to that musical language and again we discuss the 50s, late 20s, 50s early 60s and we took best elements out of that era and we use it in a very modern film score.


Everything in the films looks like it has been assembled from pieces in a junkyard. How do you reflect that aesthetic in the music?

It’s like there’s a lot of sounds used in the score that actually come from a metal cans, oil drums, all kinds of metal objects that I sampled and did some sound design on that are being used. I mean, generally, in music, I come from a world where you sample bits and pieces from other records so you compile it together into what then becomes a dance track. That’s the world that I come from, so when George starts talking about creating objects out of other objects I was like, “Oh I know that world.”

What were some of the more exotic sounds that you sampled in the soundtrack?

Animals. There’s a lot of those sounds are in the score. The sound that you hear right at beginning of “Escape” is coming from my dog. You need some electronic treatment, and then you get it pretty far. He’s the sweetest dog in the planet. But if he bark and you treat that a certain way, yeah it becomes really scary.

The last time we talked it was about “Divergent.”

“Divergent” is quite different. It was this movie about a young girl that grows up and becomes this heroine. In “Mad Max” you get thrown into the film. You see all these really tough characters that tried to survive had to find their own methods of surviving. So we meet Furiosa played by Charlize Theron, who did a stunning job playing this character, and you meet these other extremely tough women. It’s almost like the reverse. We start with all that violence and throughout the film we warm up with these characters as we get to know them. Whereas in “Divergent” we definitely know the characters and then once we know the characters we go through the story and she becomes this really powerful heroine at the end.

How closely did you work with writer/director George Miller?

It was a remarkable process. George and I worked really intensely on this. It was a true collaboration where he got inspired by the music and to change certain things with the scene and then I got inspired because he did that and then I would do something else and we went back and forth like that multiple times. Eventually I packed up my studio with my assistants and my family and music editors and we all went shooting for eleven weeks roughly and worked with George from early morning till late at night until we were really satisfied. He’s fantastic and we have two things in common. One is we’re extremely precise and we put the bar really high for ourselves and we won’t rest until all the details are right. I drive my assistants to absolute madness and when I was in Nerv in my artist era, I would drive my fellow band members completely to madness because I wanted to do it again and I want to make it different, I wanted to try something else and then back and George is exactly the same thing, the same way. So we really admire that with one another, that you can only strive for the best constantly. You constantly have to second guess, “Is this the best I can do?”

And the second thing is we’re both extremely curious. So when certain things work out a certain way we always start wondering why and we want to know why and then when we know why we apply a little theory to it. We try to understand why it’s so great and then we apply that theory on another scene of the film. Could this be potentially as great as we did there? And how should we do that? Constantly being curious is frustrating but it also enriches your knowledge and your work ethic and also ultimately your results.

At Comic-Con last year, George talked about how excited he was to use the Edge camera car. How did that affect the way you thought about the score?

The first thought is how can we make this experience as thrilling for the audience as possible? So the fact that these cameras make the audience almost part of what you’re going to be seeing on screen, and that goes for the music too. When I saw the movie I know there’s no way I can get away with a cello and a flute.

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Composers Interview

Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted on May 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Constant, intense, and graphic violence, guns, explosions, crashes, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 15, 2015

Copyright Village Roadshow  Pictures 2015
Copyright Village Roadshow Pictures 2015

Mad Max (Tom Hardy, taking over from Mel Gibson) stamps on a two-headed lizard and then chews its head off. And that’s just in the first minute. That master of apocalyptic junkyard anarchy, George Miller, is back, bigger, wilder, madder than ever with this fourth of the Mad Max movies, all set in a post-apocalyptic desert dystopia of deprivation, chaos, rust, and brutality. In this world, all anyone has ever known is loss and despair. There is no hope, no thought of any possible way to learn or create. At one point, a character points to something completely unfamiliar to him, calling it “that thing.” It is a tree.

The first three films were about the fight for gasoline to fuel the vehicles pieced together from the wreckage. This one is about another, even more precious fluid: water. Other precious fluids come into the story as well, including blood and breast milk.

A brutal dictatorship has taken over, controlling access to all of that. All are the preserve of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, with the right crazy eyes for the role), who lives literally above everyone else in a place known as The Citadel, maintaining control with his army of War Boys, all with shaved heads and powder-white skin and all convinced that their destiny is to die for Immortan Joe and be transported to paradise in Valhalla. Immortan Joe also maintains a harem of impossibly long-legged, lovely young woman. His chief lieutenant is Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a fearless woman with a mechanical arm, so much the central focus of the film that it should have been named for her. When Furiosa escapes with Immortan Joe’s women, including his pregnant “queen,” Joe and his peers come after them, in a convoy of tricked-up vehicles, all made to destroy. Everything is in shades of burnt-out umber except for the bright red suit of a guy shredding an electric guitar to keep everyone angry.

One of the War Boys is Nuz (Nicholas Hoult), who has brought along his “blood bag.” That would be Max, who was captured by Immortan Joe’s troops and kept alive only to serve as a blood donor. Nuz did not want to be left behind but had not yet finished getting his transfusion. So Max is manacled and attached to the front of Nuz’s car. Max ends up with Furiosa and the young women, who are seeing the “green place” where Furiosa was born.

Miller is a master of cinema, and his staging and cinematography on the action scenes are shot through with throbbing, raging, adrenalin that contrasts with the stoicism of Max and Furiosa. Miller has said that the Edge camera car is the most exciting technological innovation in his career. It allowed him (he operated it himself) to put the camera in the middle of the action. He does not like to use CGI, preferring “practical” (real) effects, and the grittiness is so palpable we feel we are inhaling dust.

Hardy is excellent, though, as with Bain, his face is masked for much of the film. Theron is more incendiary than the film’s mountainous fireballs, creating a character with a rich, complicated history in the way she fights, in the determined set of her brows, in the way she looks at the helpless young women, thinking about where she has been and what she has seen. The action makes our hearts beat harder, but Miller’s ability to create characters that transcend the crashes and explosions and themes that resonate all too sharply with contemporary conflicts, are what can make them beat more fiercely.

Parents should know that this film has non-stop apocalyptic action, peril, and violence with many characters injured and killed and several graphic and disturbing images, as well as some strong language, some nudity, and references to domestic abuse.

Family discussion: Why won’t Max tell Furiosa his name? Why did society become so savage? Why was one community different?

If you like this, try: the first three “Mad Max” movies and Welcome to Wherever You Are, A Documentary Celebrating the MAD MAX Mythology

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