Surrender 78: Mad Max: Fury Road

Tonight it was time to watch the 2nd of the eight Best Pictute nominated films. I chose Mad Max: Fury Road. I was a fan of the original Mad Max trilogy, featuring a young Mel Gibson, that released 1980-1985, and I looked forward to checking out this reboot. 


Mad Max: Fury Road stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee, Hugh Keays-Byrne and Nicholas Hoult. This action packed adventure film was written and directed by George Miller. It has a 2 hour run time and carries an R rating for intense sequences of violence. 

Mad Max was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and in technical categories such as sound, editing, make up and costuming. Although it didn’t win for Best Picture or Best Director, it garnered six wins. 


Years after the apocalypse, a tyrant called Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne) rules the wasteland, building and maintaining his motley empire with ruthless rules and slave labor. One of his warriors, Imperator Furiosa (Theron), makes off with Joe’s wives (Huntington-Whiteley, Kravitz, Kepugh, Eatin and Lee). The young women are used as breeding stock, and Furiosa seeks to liberate them. 

Furiosa flees toward her childhood home, called the Green Lands, with Joe and his War Boys in pursuit. She forms an uneasy alliance with Max (Hardy), who has just escaped from Joe’s Citadel, and a young War Boy (Hoult) who inadvertently finds himself switching allegiances.  


It’s a mad, intense, perilous chase across desolate lands, with Max and his group maneuvering in a massive War Rig that needs frequent mechanical adjustments. They encounter deadly storms and pockets of survivors scrabbling to live, while their relentless pursuers gain on them. 

This was a wild and fun two hours of movie viewing! I wondered how this version of Mad Max would live up to the original…and it certainly did. In my opinion, it’s a difficult task for any actor to top the brooding, manical performance of a 1980s Gibson. But Hardy gives a great performance as well, relying primarily on facial expressions and well timed grunts and groans. He plays Max as a man of action, with few words. 


The real hero of this story is Furiosa, played brilliantly by Theron. She perfected “the look” that can stop a truck or silence a War Boy. She has purpose, and a plan, fueled by the desire to get her charges to a safe place and return home. And I was pleasantly surprised that the five wives became so much more than eye candy, forming an effective female guerrilla band. 

Having last watched The Martian, I found it interesting that both of these movies deal with survival. One man, alone, must use ingenuity to survive on a hostile planet. The other struggles to survive among hostile people on a planet that has become almost inhabitable. There are lessons to learn from both films. 

After two hours of nonstop action, Mad Max: Fury Road ends nicely set up for a sequel. I look forward to the next adventure featuring Max Rockatansky. Let me catch my breath first! 


Day 134: Her


Today’s first, watching Her, is also a last. The DVD released yesterday and the timing was perfect. I have really enjoyed this extended experience, for the first time ever watching all the Best Picture nominated films. In fact, I enjoyed watching them so much that I intend to do this every year. Amazingly, six of the nine movies were based on true stories that depicted courage, perseverance, hope, addiction, and sorrow. All the films touched me in some way, making me think, making me feel a range of emotions from sadness to great joy, disgust to delight.

Her stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Pratt and Rooney Mara. It was written, produced and directed by Spike Jonze. Her was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Design, Best Original Song “The Moon Song”, Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. It won for Best Original Screenplay. The film is rated R, for language, brief nudity and sexuality, and has a run time of 2 hours and 6 minutes.

All I knew about this movie was that Joaquin’s character, Theodore, falls in love with his computer’s operating system. I learned from watching Gravity that none of these nominated films were light weights so I didn’t expect Her to be froth either. It certainly was not.

Set slightly in the future, in the year 2025, the movie focuses on Theodore, a lonely man going through the recent breakup of his marriage. While he writes beautiful letters at work for others, capturing in ink emotion, affection and love, he falters when it comes to expressing emotion in his own relationships. Theodore sees an ad about OS1, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system that’s “not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness” and purchases it. His OS takes on a female persona, going by the name of Samantha, voiced by Scarlet Johansson, and suddenly, Theodore’s whole life shifts and opens up.

Telling Samantha about his failed marriage, Theodore says, “I think I hid myself from her, left her alone in the relationship.” With Samantha, there is no reason to hide, or be alone. She is smart, funny, adaptable, present when he needs her to be, and has no expectations. She is evolving, thinking, feeling. Theodore and Samantha bond during their talks about life and relationships and fall in love.

While that sounds like the basis for a quirky movie, part sci-fi and part romantic comedy, Her is so much more than that. This is a story about balancing an evolving relationship with personal growth and shifts. It’s about recognizing, as Theodore’s friend Amy, played by Amy Adams, does that we are only here briefly and in this moment, we need to allow ourselves joy. It is a love story about a man and an operating system. Yet this sweet, soulful film made me smile as I watched Theodore awaken to himself and life and joy and it stirred something deeper in me as Samantha learned and expanded and leapt forward in her consciousness, experiencing emotions, writing music,  and connecting with others like herself.

As with most relationships, as each person grows and shifts, the relationship must grow and shift as well or come to an end. For Samantha and Theodore, the time comes when Samantha evolves so much that she must live and continue to grow elsewhere. The relationship, though, has prepared them both to continue on down new, albeit separate, paths. Theodore helped her realize that she could want and ultimately go after what she wants. And Samantha disproved Theodore’s fear that he has felt everything he is ever going to feel and that he will never feel anything new.

Her is beautifully done, hauntingly so, with an amazing performance by Joaquin Phoenix, whose eyes often tell as much of his story as his words. I rented the DVD for watching today.  But this movie is a keeper for me and I’ll be purchasing it so that I can watch it again and again and delve deeply into it, or perhaps, allow it to delve deeply into me.

Day 127: 12 Years a Slave


Another late evening as, for my first today, I watched number 8 of 9 Best Picture nominated movies, 12 Years a Slave. I had hoped to save this movie for last, since it won the Oscar for Best Picture. But the movie Her doesn’t release until next Tuesday. Although the timing is great, last movie out, last movie to watch, the late release date meant that tonight, I watched this winner.

12 Years a Slave stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o and Brad Pitt. It was directed by Steve McQueen. This epic tale was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Costuming, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Fassbender, Best Actor for Ejiofor, Best Actress for Nyong’o and Best Picture.  It won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Picture.  The movie is rated R and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutres.

Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, played by Ejiofor, the movie follows the life of this American born free black man who is kidnapped in 1841, at the age of 32, and sold into slavery. Torn away from his family, friends and life, Northup, who is given the name Platt, is sold or traded among the plantations of northern Louisiana. Treated cruelly by most of his owners, Solomon nevertheless determines that he will do more than survive, he will live. A very intelligent man, raised by free parents and highly educated, Northup struggles to adopt the “be silent and lay low” attitude held by the other slaves, bringing wrath upon himself and often, severe punishment.

He meets and becomes the protector of a young slave woman named Patsey, played by Nyong’o in her film debut. Patsey has drawn the unwelcomed attention of plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Fassbender. Northup’s care of Patsey enrages Epps and nearly costs him his life. Although he never ceases to think of his wife and family back in New York, and makes several attempts to get a letter back home, asking for help, it isn’t until Northup meets itinerant carpenter Samuel Bass that hope arises. Bass, played by Brad Pitt, is from Canada and is anti-slavery. He listens to and believes Northup’s story and ultimately, is his rescuer.  Sending letters on Northup’s behalf, Bass prompts the legal powers in New York to at last secure Northup’s release, allowing him to return home to his wife and now grown family. In 1853 Solomon Northup wrote his memoirs, 12 Years a Slave. For the rest of his life he spoke against slavery and was active in the abolitionist movement.

That’s the story. The movie was gripping and very well acted, especially by Chiwetel Ojiofor, whose performance was powerful and gut-wrenching, at the same time. And although I haven’t seen the last movie, Her, for comparison, I can see why 12 Years a Slave won for Best Picture. How can anyone watch this film and not be affected? All that being said, this was a very difficult movie for me to watch. I cannot stand injustice. I cannot understand how one human being can treat another human being in such horrific ways. From his kidnapping until he secured his freedom, I watched Solomon’s story with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Northup was a good man, a talented musician, a compassionate friend. Having spoken this week about living as our shimmering self, rather than hiding behind false selves, I noticed how Northup, in spite of his attempts to disappear behind a blank expression and unassuming demeanor, couldn’t help but shine. His magnificent self would rise, a true testament to human dignity, courage and perseverance. He did do more than survive, he lived. He lived to become a free man once more and emptied himself in fighting for the freedom of all people.

I was deeply impacted by this movie. And lest I point a finger at another and cry “injustice” and “prejudice”, I examined my own heart and thoughts. To see anyone else as “other”, whether because of skin color, gender, age, accomplishments, ability or for any reason, is to isolate myself and label someone else. To grow and learn from this film is to glance inward to abolish any critical spirit or thought that I am more deserving than anyone else or that anyone is less than I am. We are One is more than a sentiment to me, it is my belief. To love myself is to love another. We are the same.