And things were looking so super extra competitive this year! Just a few days ago Les Miz, Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty all seemed to be on somewhat equal footing and to a lesser extent Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi had all received enough warmish embraces from critics, audiences and Oscared corners of the showbiz culture that we could look forward to a real competition once the Oscar nominations were announced on January 10th. But with the one-two-zero-dark punch of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, the Oscar race suddenly looks a bit less like a clusterfuck and a ltitle more like a done deal. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's engrossing account of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, is suddenly apparently way out front.The NBR generally attempts to spread the wealth but not so this year since they gave ZDT three of their top prizes (Pic, Director, Actress)
Will enough critics groups and precursors disagree or is this just one of those years that seemed competitive and then suddenly wasn't... like, oh, so many years in the past!
NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW WINNERS
- Best Film: ZERO DARK THIRTY
- Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY
- Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
- Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, ZERO DARK THIRTY
- Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED
- Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, COMPLIANCE
- Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, LOOPER
- Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
- Best 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
- Best Directorial Debut: Benh Zeitlin, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
- Best Foreign Language Film: AMOUR
- Best Documentary: SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
- William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 YEARS OF BOND FILMS
- Best Ensemble: LES MISÉRABLES
- Spotlight Award: John Goodman (ARGO, FLIGHT, PARANORMAN, TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE)
- NBR Freedom of Expression Award: CENTRAL PARK FIVE and PROMISED LAND
The most delightful consequence of Zero Dark Thirty's sudden lead is seeing Jessica Chastain vault forward ahead of Jennifer Lawrence in the Best Actress race. Lawrence does amusing but hardly statue worthy work in Silver Linings Playbook so she always seemed like an odd frontrunner apart from the 'crown the new movie princess!' factor. Bradley Cooper is stronger in the film -- or at least has a fuller character to play -- so it's nice to see him winning this recognition since it'll be tough for him to find a window into the stacked Best Actor race.
My favorite notice here is for Ann Dowd in Compliance. Though she's really a lead, I knew early on -- and told her team as much -- that supporting would be the way to win her attention. It seems to be working. The most surprising win has to be the best Original Screenplay for Looper.
For the first time I'm amused by the title of their "SPOTLIGHT" award which is really just an excuse to get someone else to attend their awards dinner here in NYC. It's amusing because John Goodman's most vocal detractors this year would surely say the problem is the spotlight... that he's egregiously stealing scenes in films that don't necessarily benefit from such showy focus-pulling.
In addition to their actual awards they also offer up alphabetical top this and top that lists.
- BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
- DJANGO UNCHAINED
- LES MISÉRABLES
- THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
- PROMISED LAND
- SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
That's only nine but Zero Dark Thirty completes their top ten. Surely the biggest head scratcher would be the inclusion of Promised Land (as they didn't need to give a low profile film two prizes to get them to the awards dinner (since they already won the Freedom of Expression prize). But kudos for the recognition of the tender well played Perks of Being a Wallflower which isn't a film that's been really shaking the Oscar Buzz tree.
Lincoln's sole placement here in "top films" is interesting though not particular telling since there's no telling what the NBR will do each year.
Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
- BARBARA (Germany - Michael's Review)
- THE INTOUCHABLES (France)
- THE KID WITH A BIKE ()
- NO (Chile - Nathaniel's Review)
- WAR WITCH (Canada)
Though they only include 9 films in their "top ten" since Zero Dark completes it, weirdly their "top 5" foreign films is a full five titles so it's actually a top six since AMOUR was considered the very best. All of these films but for The Kid With the Bike are in the Oscar submission list for Best Foreign Film this year.
Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)
- AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY
- THE GATEKEEPERS
- THE INVISIBLE WAR
- ONLY THE YOUNG
Only "Only the Young" is not in the running for Oscar's best Documentary nomination.
Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
- END OF WATCH
- HELLO I MUST BE GOING
- LITTLE BIRDS
- MOONRISE KINGDOM
- ON THE ROAD
- SLEEPWALK WITH ME
I recently screened End of Watch which I had missed during its release and I'm thrilled to see it pick up anything since it was roughly thrice as good as I imagined it could be. I wish I had championed it during its theatrical run. Also very happy to see Hello I Must Be Going pick up a citation since Melanie Lynskey is wonderful in the leading role -- a role that really ought to convince Hollywood to stop cramping her to tiny roles.
What's your big takeaway from this year's NBR awards?