My opinion on the National Board of Review changed when I interviewed Roy Frumkes, writer of the immortal classic Street Trash, and learned that he was a member. I went from thinking that the NBR was a pointless, starfucking group to thinking it was a pointless, starfucking group with at least one guy who finds the idea of playing keepaway with a man’s severed penis hilarious.
The NBR is the group that gives out the first batch of awards for the year, and even though most of their membership is made up of people who know nothing about film, they get treated like royalty by the studios and celebs. They get special screenings of just about every movie, and they get them very early (even the kinds of films that have no hope of winning any awards), plus they often get special meet and greets with stars and directors. The NBR’s list is considered by most to have no actual bearing on the big races, all of which are meant to give movies momentum towards the Oscars, but their announcement is like the starting gun on awards season. And this year they haven’t done too much to piss me off.
They named No Country for Old Men as the best film of the year, and good for them. Here’s the rest of their top ten, in alphabetical order:
"The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford"
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Bucket List"
"Into The Wild"
"The Kite Runner"
"Lars And The Real Girl"
I haven’t seen a couple of these yet – The Kite Runner and The Bucket List – but their picks go between the safe and obvious and the wonderful. Bourne, Juno, Jesse James and Into the Wild make me happy. Michael Clayton isn’t a movie I liked, but expect to see it emerging from the pack in the coming weeks as we move closer to the Oscars.
The rest of their awards:
Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd"
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Supporting Actress:Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly"
Documentary:"Body Of War"
"No Country For Old Men"
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor:
Emile Hirsch, "Into The Wild"
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress:
Ellen Page, "Juno"
Best Directorial Debut:
Ben Affleck, "Gone Baby Gone"
Best Original Screenplay (tie):
Diablo Cody, "Juno" and Nancy Oliver, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Joel and Ethan Coen, "No Country For Old Men"
Top Five Foreign Films:
(In alphabetical order)
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS
THE BAND’S VISIT
LA VIE EN ROSE
Top Five Documentary Films
(In alphabetical order)
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON
TAXI TO THE DARKSIDE
Top Independent Films
(In alphabetical order)
AWAY FROM HER
GREAT WORLD OF SOUND
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
A MIGHT HEART
STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING
William K. Everson Film History Award
Career Achievement in Cinematography
The BVLGARI Award for NBR Freedom of Expression
THE GREAT DEBATERS and PERSEPOLIS
Amy Ryan and the Affleck Boys, as well as Emile Hirsch, are standouts on this list. Ryan’s work in Gone Baby Gone is fucking amazing, and I have been wondering if she would be getting noticed at the end of the year. For the last couple of years I was a member of the New York Film Critics Online, and I could have at least argued for her at our awards, but this year I’m just a bystander. And as a bystander, she has my full rooting power. Meanwhile, Once has been ghettoized into the top ten independent films. But at least it gets recognized.
And now for a word from Jeremy Smith, a certified Guru O Gold (2.0):
And here I was thinking Robert Osborne would never win the William K. Everson Film History Award…
I know it’s just the National Board of Review, but I’m a little stunned. These selections, they… make sense. They please me. They’re indicative of good taste. Well, except for The Bucket List, which I have not seen, but c’mon.
And this is sad because I know it’s foolish to read too much into Casey Affleck’s Supporting Actor win for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which also made the NBR’s top ten list). At best, it means a Best Supporting Actor nomination isn’t completely out of the question (last year’s winner, Djimon Hounsou, was one of the Academy’s final five), but even that’s a reach. Besides, no one thinks Affleck’s completely out of the Oscar running anyway. Not yet, at least.
As I mentioned the other day, the most reliable barometers are the Guild nominations, which won’t be coming until later this month. Until then, dream of a world where The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Gone Baby Gone are frontrunners. And wonder how in the world that reverie started with the National Board of Review.