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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I was shocked to realize, as we watched this, that I hadn't seen it since I saw it (at least five times) in theaters. I bought the DVD immediately, obviously, but never sat down to watch it. I couldn't for the life of me remember why...until I was emotionally gutted by this incredible, taciturn action film.


2015 is such a blur for me. LOTS of big stuff going on in my life. I finished my theatre degree, I worked my first summer at what was my dream job, I finalized my (very long) divorce, I moved in with Ben, and at the apex of all of that, Fury Road came out and around that same moment, Ben taught me how to drive stick. Fury Road and learning stick are linked in my mind forever as I learned to shift and clutch while blasting the Fury Road soundtrack in the old VW Ben very kindly gave me. Crying when I stalled out at a busy intersection, "Brothers in Arms" shaking the dashboard with the bass. That soundtrack punctuated so many important moments that year. And, of course, the movie resonated deeply.


Because, what is Fury Road if not a thumping, screaming examination of grief and redemption? Hope and desolation? I had completely forgotten how raw the whole movie plays, even for Max who is arguably the least important character. The first time I saw it, I marveled at Charlize Theron's ability to keep her eyes glossy with tears, even in the desert, as Imperator Furiosa. It almost seemed at odds with her steely demeanor and it perplexed me but I have done so much living since that first viewing and now I understand. I understand what it is to keep pushing and keep achieving and keep going for others even when your tank is running entirely on anger and remorse. I don't mean to dramatize my experiences. Obviously the movie portrays a darker world (that we inch ever closer to) but I think most people have lived through times like that. I think it just took me a lot longer to recognize that. Anger was a Bad Emotion growing up. So much so that for a long time I didn't even recognize it fully in myself. Regularly saying to friends and partners, "I'm not angry, just upset." So much so that I still spend a lot of time telling my therapist that I'm angry and then apologizing for simply saying, "I'm angry." I think it's remarkable that George Miller and Charlize Theron managed to portray anger beautifully as part of survival/resilience. Because it is. And denying that it's part of that journey only makes the long road of healing longer.


I was deeply touched by Nux's storyline on this viewing. He's so young and damaged - both physically and emotionally - by the world he's inherited. Not that he has possession of it. Not by a long shot. But he didn't make this world either. He was sold a bill of goods and he has his eyes painfully, violently opened. And he sees. His willingness to help and learn ("Beyond that thing." "He means the tree." "Yeah, TREE!") and sacrifice is beautiful. Redemption is beautiful. I'm going to cry right now thinking about him whispering, "witness me," to Capable, even though she can't hear him, when he knows he's going to die. He's reappropriating the culture that did violence to him and he's asking to be seen. It is literally all we can hope for in and for ourselves.


And then there's Max. What a powerful way to reclaim a character from a shitheel actor I'd LOVE to forget exists. Surround him with powerful women, have them routinely show him up, have him regularly make space for them, and have him say SO LITTLE. I'm not generally a Tom Hardy fan but he does such great work in this. He has my heart forever just for that moment when he knows he can't make the shot so he hands the gun to Furiosa. Also the little thumbs up he gives Splendid. Really lovely moments.


George Miller is one of my directing heroes. I think Beyond Thunderdome is truly one of the best examples of visual storytelling I've ever seen and if he could deal with someone being SO ENTHUSIASTIC around him, I would love to learn from him. The action sequences are stupid good in this movie. Despite being a two hour car chase, it never gets old. He keeps finding new ways to frame, new obstacles to introduce, new weapons, new entanglements, new stakes. He also knows exactly when to release the tension without eliminating the constant sense of danger. It's masterful. Do not sleep on the man who directed Happy Feet. I know there's a lot of pushback on the frame rate that he used but you know what? He tried something. He thought (I assume), "I want the whole movie to have jittery frenetic energy so let's fuck with the frame rate" and I think that's neat. I also think it's super neat that he uses the action to direct your eye rather than primarily using the camera. Very theatrical, which is WILD for an action movie like this. (I am soooo looking forward to diving into the oral history of this movie later this month.)



Whheeeeeeeeeeeeeee


Paint and rhinestones on jean jacket.






Takeaways:

-I knew immediately that I wanted to do something on a jacket, partly because I anticipated turning the movie off Sunday night and finding out costume designer/personal hero Jenny Beaven won her first Oscar for costume design since she won for Fury Road. I think regularly on her Fury Road win, and her awesome bejeweled leather jacket that apparently people gave her shit for? which makes me angry? because she seems like such a fabulous lady and I aspire to her talent and cool. I have also been pondering painting one of my jean jackets for a bit and this seemed like a bit of *gesture with fingers from both hands meshing*.

-I DID NOT know, however, what I would put on the back. I went back and forth on a lot of things. Obviously it had to be Furiosa, but I just could not bring myself to paint her anguish in the desert. It's the obvious moment but as I examine my art and common themes I see that second to the sense of longing for adventure is a desire to protect strong female characters. I felt the same thing with Ripley in the Alien piece. I could not portray her pain. I hated thinking about immortalizing her in a horrible moment. So too, Furiosa. Started to cry whenever I thought of painting that moment. But all her moments are steeped in anguish in this film. Her life is anguish. So I had to invent a moment and golly did I struggle with that. And then I straight up wallowed in the creative block. Not a cute look. Really quite exhausting. Very glad to have broken through.

-I kept thinking about WWII nose art with pin up girls. I wanted that attitude but not that objectification. I like the idea of Furiosa having a moment of playfulness. I think I nailed that.

-I recently learned how to do rhinestones for Heathers the Musical (opening in a couple weeks! eep!) and I find it really really relaxing. I'm not actually much for rhinestones or glitter, despite my profession making it so that I am regularly covered in the latter, but in honor of Jenny Beavan, I had to add rhinestones. I was really really on the fence about actually stoning this painting, because I was so pleased with it and didn't want to ruin what I'd done. But I'm pleased with it!

-I'm so scared to wear this, pleased though I am. Something so odd about wearing my own art? And I do not want to invite conversation because people. But recently, I told my assistant on Heathers I was proud of her for having a tough conversation and she said, "Yes. I am so brave!" and I'm going to carry that energy with me whenever I can.

-I tried a stylized thing I'm not convinced worked but I tried it so yay. I didn't put as many details into the car as I did with Furiosa herself in hopes of literally bringing her into focus. Whether or not it's successful, I executed what I set out to.


I could go on and on about this piece and Fury Road but maybe I'll revisit it some time. I definitely won't wait seven years to watch it again.


You've got to be cussing me. Next week, my first(!?) Wes Anderson of the project, The Fantastic Mr. Fox.


I hope this next week treats you kindly and that you let out whatever you've been bottling up. Go scream in your nearest desert facsimile.

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