Sunday, December 7, 2014

National Board of Review Winners

It's still early days this awards season but it's so far looking like an actual race to the Oscars this year with recent winners from critic groups like New York and Boston Online as well as the Gotham Awards not yet coalescing into a sweeper, which is good all around. In fact, I hope this season in particular the critic groups take a page from Boston Online and really go crazy and champion smaller out-there films. With that said, the same could be said about this past week's National Board of Review winners. Yes, they did their usual Clint Eastwood worshiping and some of their choices were downright odd, but bully for them!

Best Film
A Most Violent Year

Top Ten Films
American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The LEGO Movie

Only industry insiders and intrepid film fans have actually seen A Most Violent Year which releases for the general public on the last day of the year (ugh) so I think more than a few people were surprised by its big win here topping Oscar front-runners Birdman, Boyhood, and The Imitation Game which all made it in. Their Eastwood obsession continues with American Sniper and Brangelina are well represented, but can we just talk about the inclusion of The LEGO Movie? I really liked the film, but who knew? Does this mean there's a chance Chris Pratt could actually be in a Best Picture nominee for four years in a row (Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, Her)? Fun, if remote, possibility!

Best Actor (TIE)
Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year
Michael Keaton, Birdman

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor
Edward Norton, Birdman

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Breakthrough Performance
Jack O'Connell, Starred Up and Unbroken

Best Ensemble

Last year, this group's acting winners went on to collect in total just one Oscar nomination, but I have a feeling it's going to be different this year with Moore, Norton, and Keaton seemingly locks for their respective categories. This does give a much-needed boost for Isaac and Chastain. As for O'Connell, I think this will be just one of many, many breakthrough awards he wins this season. I don't think it's enough to catapult him into Best Actor race, but it won't be for lack of films on his part!

Best Director
Clint Eastwood, American Sniper

Best Directorial Debut
Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child

Best Adapted Screenplay
Inherent Vice

Best Original Screenplay
The LEGO Movie

Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon 2

There's a lot of intriguing choices here. Again, their Eastwood love is showing hard with that pick, but Robespierre's small film did well to show up here and The LEGO Movie winning a major award like this outside of Animation is pretty shocking. At the moment, it IS the frontrunner to win Animated Film at the Oscars so it is curious to see it lose to How to Train Your Dragons 2 here.

Top 10 Independent Films
Blue Ruin
A Most Wanted Man
Mr. Turner
Obvious Child
The Skeleton Twins
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Starred Up
Still Alice

Great list with some inspired choices in Locke, Obvious Child, Skeleton Twins, and Snowpiercer all of which I've seen and loved. It'd be great if critic groups (and the major award bodies) actually champion these smaller films more.

Best Foreign Language Film
Wild Tales

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!

Best Documentary
Life Itself

Top Five Documentary Films
Art and Craft
Jodorowsky's Dune
Keep On Keepin' On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam

Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of these films and even more shamefully I've only really heard of four of them including the Cannes-winning Force Majeure and the Rogert Ebert documentary Life Itself. Time to step up my screening game!

Spotlight Award
Chris Rock for writing, directing and starring in Top Five
William K. Everson Film History Award
Scott Eyman

NBR Freedom of Expression Award

As I said up top, it's still at the point where anything and everything can happen. I hope that it does.

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