In my reaction article of the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, I asked if this year could actually see an exciting and competitive Oscar season (as opposed to the annual trend of the same films and performances winning the same awards over and over again), and if the recent National Board of Review (NBR) award winners are any indication, the answer to my question is a resounding yes! Similar to the NYFCC, the National Board of Review further catapulted Zero Dark Thirty’s Oscar prospects, but the similarities pretty much end there, as the NBR awarded a slew of different yet deserving movies and performances. Read on to get the full list of NBR winners, including their full top 10 list for the year, plus our thoughts on how this latest awards announcement is shaking up the Oscar race:
National Board of Review Winners:
Best Film: Zero Dark Thirty
Top 10 Films: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Looper, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Promised Land, Silver Linings Playbook
Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Actor: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, Compliance
Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Looper
Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, Argo
Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, The Impossible
Breakthrough Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Directorial Debut: Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Foreign Language Film: Amour
Top 5 Foreign Language Films Barbara The Intouchables The Kid With a Bike No War Witch
Documentary: Searching For Sugarman
Top 5 Documentaries Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry Detropia The Gatekeepers The Invisible War Only the Young
William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 Years of Bond Films
Ensemble: Les Miserables
Spotlight Award: John Goodman (Argo, Flight, ParaNorman, Trouble With the Curve)
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Central Park Five
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Promised Land
Top 10 Independent Films: Arbitrage, Bernie, Compliance, End of Watch, Hello I Must Be Going, Little Birds, Moonrise Kingdom, On the Road, Quartet, Sleepwalk With Me
Effects On Oscar Race:
1) Zero Dark Frontrunner?: Just a week ago, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty was an Oscar dark horse, a film with a prestigious pedigree (it’s the entire team behind The Hurt Locker) and a powerful plot (the decade long manhunt for Osama bin Laden) that no one had really seen yet. Now, however, ZDT is quickly becoming an Oscar frontrunner, repeating its NYFCC wins for Best Picture and Best Director here with the NBR. What’s most important is the fact that the NBR usually picks the early Oscar favorite as its Best Film (2011’s Hugo, 2010’s The Social Network, 2009’s Up in the Air), and I thought for sure that Ben Affleck’s Argo would take the prize given its early lead as an Oscar frontrunner since its release in early October. However, the fact that the NBR went with ZDT, a film that is still 2 weeks away from being released and one that many critics haven’t even weighed in on yet, is an extremely promising sign for the film’s Oscar chances, and at this point I’m calling Bigelow’s latest the current frontrunner for both Picture and Director
2) Chastain Breaks Out: Though the NYFCC surprisingly awarded Best Actress to Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea), it’s pretty much a done deal that the Oscar for the same category is a duel between the feisty Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook and the strong-willed Jessica Chastain of Zero Dark Thirty. I have yet to see Chastain, but her win here over the incredible Lawrence definitely gives her the slight edge at the moment, though it’s still extremely early to call either lady a frontrunner at this point.
3) Welcome to the race, Mr. DiCaprio: Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained has been a huge question mark when it comes to the film and its Oscar chances, but DiCaprio has been quietly boiling under the radar for quite some time thanks to what will probably be a wickedly twisted supporting performance as the film’s villain (think exactly what Inglourious Basterds did for Christoph Waltz). By taking the NBR win here, DiCaprio has firmly put his foot down in the category, and while it’s a bit too early to call him a frontrunner, early favorites Tommy Lee-Jones (Lincoln) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) should be a bit worried.
4) Frontrunners are M.I.A.: Take one quick look at the list of NBR winners and you’ll probably notice that a lot of early frontrunners are nowhere to be found. The biggest shock is seemingly in the Best Actor race, where Silver Linings Playbook star Bradley Cooper (it was is easily his best and most powerful screen performance thus far) took the prize over heavyweight favorite (and probable winner) Daniel Day-Lewis (is Cooper really better than Day-Lewis? Of course not! But it’s truly nice to see Cooper get some well-deserved recognition!). Other “upsets” can be found in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, where David O. Russell’s Silver Linings beat out Lincoln’s Tony Kushner, and in the Best Supporting Actress race, where frontrunner Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) was left off again in favor of Ann Dowd, a beloved character actress who garnered strong reviews for her performance in the summer indie, Compliance. If anything, these NBR winners prove that the Supporting Actress race is far from a done deal – how exciting is that?
5) New Categories Emerge: Though the main categories are always the most publicized, the Oscars are home to a bevy of minor awards and, unlike the NYFCC, the NBR is starting to make some of those smaller fields more clear, particularly Best Animated Film and Best Original Screenplay. Since Pixar’s annual effort, Brave, was safe to the point of utterly forgettable, this year’s Best Animated Film category is wide open, and though Tim Burton’s brilliant Frankenweenie took the price with the NYFCC, the NBR awarded the equally as enjoyable and rather ingenious Wreck It Ralph, a move that confirms this will be a tighter race than we’ve ever seen. Also of notice is the first Best Original Screenplay award of the season, which the NBR surprisingly gave to Rian Johnson’s mind-bending futuristic thriller, Looper, a film that, despite garnering great critical praise, hasn’t been viewed as a big Oscar contender thus far. All of that has obviously changed now, and Looper could definitely emulate its success in this category in the future.
Are you guys satisfied with the National Board of Review winners? Are you guys just as stoked that the Oscar season is shaping up to be on hell of a competitive race? What films and which performances are your early favorites? Let us know!