Late last year, the big studios began ramping up their Oscar campaigns. Warner Bros. had a handful of potential contenders, including the brutal gangster film “Black Mass,” starring Johnny Depp, and the Chilean mining drama “The 33.” Yet the film that became the studio’s top contender is none other than “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Warner Bros. sent out emails and screeners in November promoting the film — a bloody, cartoonish action film that is essentially a two-hour car chase — for the Academy Awards. The studio suggested nominations for seven categories, including cinematography, screenplay (despite a dearth of dialogue), leading actor for Tom Hardy in the title role and leading actress for Charlize Theron as a one-armed warrior named Imperator Furiosa. Shooting for the moon, Warner Bros. also suggested best picture. Lo and behold, “Mad Max” picked up that nod and others (mostly in technical categories), for a total of 10.

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A brief look at history will tell you that “Mad Max” is an unlikely best picture winner. The award has gone to musicals, comedies, war films and even a horror-thriller (1991’s “Silence of the Lambs”) but never to what you’d call a true action film. The closest comparison might be “Braveheart” or “Gladiator.”

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All that makes “Mad Max” one of the most unexpected titles at this year’s Oscars. There’s even a chance that George Miller, the 70-year-old director, could walk away with the statue.