Australian filmmaker George Miller’s chances of scoring another Oscar have soared, with Mad Max: Fury Road earning a top Hollywood honour.
The latest chapter in Miller’s Mad Max series was the surprise winner of the National Board of Review’s best film of 2015.
The awards are one of the earliest significant indicators for February 28’s Oscar ceremony.
After its release in May this year, The New Daily hailed Miller’s masterpiece as “the best Aussie movie ever” and it turns out the film may soon be up there as one of the best in the world.
Mad Max: Fury Road beat Oscar best picture frontrunners Spotlight, Brooklyn, The Revenant, Carol, The Danish Girl and The Martian to the top award.
Few film critics and Oscar experts had the film in their top 10 movies of the year.
Miller, a former Sydney emergency room doctor, won the animated feature Oscar in 2007 for much different fare, Happy Feet.
The original Mad Max, released in 1979, starred a then-unknown Mel Gibson and resulted in two sequels starring Gibson.
But this year’s fourth chapter, Mad Max: Fury Road, was made without Gibson and instead starred English actor Tom Hardy and South Africa’s Charlize Theron.
Miller planned to shoot it outside of Broken Hill, but unseasonal rains left the outback locations covered in beautiful flowers unsuitable for his story about post-apocalyptic survivors.
The shoot moved to the African nation of Namibia.
The film had a $US150 million budget and made $US375 million at the box office globally, enough for Miller to consider a sequel to Fury Road.
The film was also one of the best reviewed of the year, with a 97 per cent rating on top film review site rottentomatoes.com.
The Oscar race will become clearer in the next fortnight with other award shows, the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes, announcing their nominees.
While Australian actors like Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman have had a long history of claiming the golden statuette, Aussie films haven’t fared as well in the Best Picture category.
Only a handful of Australian-made films – or movies directed, produced or acted in by Aussies – have been nominated for Best Picture.
Those include: The Piano in 1993, Babe and Braveheart in 1995, Shine in 1996, The Thin Red Line in 1998, Moulin Rouge! in 2001, Master and Commander in 2003, District 9 in 2009, The King’s Speech in 2010 and The Tree of Life in 2011.
Of those, only Braveheart and The King’s Speech won.
Although Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t strictly an Austraian film – it was made overseas and distributed by an American production company – much of the cast and crew is Australian.
Along with Australian lead actors Abbey Lee, Angus Sampson, Courtney Eaton, Richard Carter, Hugh Keays-Byrne and Josh Helman, Fury Road had an Australian writer, cinematographer, director and production designer.
– with AAP