Oscar Moment: National Board of Review Winners

3 12 2009

The first big awards of the season are here!  Below are the winners of the National Board of Review’s 2009 awards.

Best Picture: Up in the Air

Top 10 List (does not include the winner of Best Picture):

An Education
(500) Days of Summer
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man
Star Trek
Where the Wild Things Are

Best Director: Clint Eastwood, Invictus

Best Actor: (tie) George Clooney, Up in the Air and Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education

Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, The Messenger

Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air

Best Original Screenplay: A Serious Man

Best Animated Film: Up

Best Documentary Film: The Cove

Best Ensemble: It’s Complicated

Breakthrough Male Performance: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Breakthrough Female Performance: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

(For a full list of winners, see the National Board of Review’s release on their official website.)

Now here’s some more in-depth analysis on the results.

First, you’re probably want to know who decides these awards.  According to the group’s official website, the awards are voted on by a “selective group of knowledgeable film enthusiasts, academics, film professionals, and students” in the New York area.  These aren’t a bunch of snobby critics who watch foreign art-house movies all day; they screen around 300 movies per year, and their list usually reflects a wide array of interests.

So now to the big story: the domination of “Up in the Air.”  Taking four major categories, I think this soldifies its status as the front-runner and my conviction now has support.  The National Board of Review’s top film has won Best Picture at the Oscars the past two years; however, they were in accordance with just about every critics group in the country.  In more divided years, they tend to pick the movies that get plenty of nominations but not as many wins.  We don’t know what this year will look like quite yet, but the good news for Jason Reitman’s film is that you have to go back a decade to find the National Board’s last winner that didn’t get a nomination. I think it is safe to call “Up in the Air” a lock for a Best Picture nomination.

It should not come to the surprise of anyone who follows this group’s picks that Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus” had a strong showing in the awards.  The National Board of Review is the Clint cult that many people perceive the Academy to be.  They put both of his movies on their top 10 list last year, crowned him Best Actor for “Gran Torino,” made an out-of-the-blue selection of “Letters from Iwo Jima” as their Best Picture of 2006, included “Flags of our Fathers” in their top 10 that same year, gave him a Special Achievement Award for “Million Dollar Baby,” and named “Mystic River” their Best Picture in 2003.  So who really knows if these awards for the movie mean much?  Morgan Freeman’s tie with George Clooney gets me excited for the Best Actor race, assuming that Alan Arkin syndrome doesn’t kick in and everything goes to Jeff Bridges.

Surprisingly absent was “Precious,” only winning the Breakthrough Performance for Gabourey Sidibe.  I don’t think we need to worry about the movie’s chances though.  It is not necessary for a movie to appear on the National Board of Review’s top 10 list to be nominated for Best Picture.  This group did not include “The Reader,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “The Queen,” but you have to go back to 2003 (“The Lord of the Rings”) to find a Best Picture winner that didn’t make their list.  I’m not so sure that we should be fretting the omission of “Nine,” either.  “Dreamgirls” didn’t make the cut in 2006, yet “Chicago” did and “Moulin Rouge” took home the Best Picture prize.

Something worth nothing: the two main acting prizes for ladies both went to 24-year-olds, Carey Mulligan in leading for “An Education” and Anna Kendrick in supporting “Up in the Air.”  This is a group that usually does not celebrate young talent, but maybe are seeing a gradually changing dynamic – Anne Hathaway won Best Actress at 26 for “Rachel Getting Married” last year.  The Oscars do not have a consistent tradition of rewarding older or younger women, but the latter usually fare better in the Best Supporting Actress category.

And it looks that I may have underestimated top 10 list inclusions “The Messenger” and “A Serious Man;” the former also winning Best Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson, the latter, Best Original Screenplay for the Coen Brothers.  It’s now time to take Harrelson seriously as a contender.  As for the Coens, this is a group that has awarded their work fairly consistently, so I still remain a tad skeptical as to how the Academy will receive their much stranger piece.

“It’s Complicated,” Nancy Meyer’s light comedy, took Best Ensemble.  I know it didn’t wind up on the top 10 list, but I still think this is a big accomplishment.  This is an award that has been won by movies like “Doubt,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “The Departed” in the past few years.  By no means am I reinforcing my previous statements, but perhaps my Best Picture pick isn’t quite as crazy as some might say it is.

On a personal note, I am absolutely thrilled by this list.  I do not have a problem with a single movie on the list, and I couldn’t be happier with the inclusion of non-traditional Best Picture fare like “(500) Days of Summer,” “Star Trek,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Up.”

So, what are your thoughts on these awards?   Do you agree?  Disagree?  Does this get your blood pumping for awards season, or at least for “Up in the Air” to come to your town?



One response

27 12 2009

iiiiinteresting. go carey!

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