Thursday, December 4, 2008

National Board of Review....And the Winners are

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Actress: Anne Hathatway in Rachel Getting Married (Holy Shit!!)
Best Actor: Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin in Milk
Best Foreign Film:
Best Documentary:
Man on Wire
Best Animated Feature:
Best Ensemble Cast:
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor:
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress:
Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Best Directorial Debut:
Courtney Hunt, Frozer River
Best Original Screenplay:
Nick Schenk, Gran Torino
Best Adapted Screenplay (tie):
Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire” and Eric Roth, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

The top ten (in alphabetical order):

Burn After Reading
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Gran Torino
The Wrestler

Thoughts: No really huge surprises here, honestly. National Board of Review has always been a mix of obvious contenders and a few out left field citations that have no shot in hell at Oscar nominations. 2007's acting prizes were completely a rare occurrence, in that all of the acting winners went on to get Oscar nods. I think the weak link here is Josh Brolin in Milk. Of all of the supporting performances in the film, his impressed me the least. As far as the top ten, the absence of Rachel Getting Married really diasppoints me. I know it was silly to expect a big, ass-kissing voting body like the NBR to get behind a film like Rachel Getting Married, but I had such high hopes. And it's not for lack of seeing, because Hathaway took away their lead actress prize. As far as the rest of the top ten goes, it's respectable enough, I suppose. I can see Defiance and even Gran Torino or Benjamin Button getting shut out of the eventual final five though. And The Changeling will probably see it's one and only top ten mention of the season, unless I'm seriously missing something here.

This is Good News for:

Anne Hathaway in
Rachel Getting Married. Why? Not since 1990 has a National Board of Review Best Actress winner NOT gone on to receive a best actress nomination at the Oscars. And let's face it: Mia Farrow not getting an Oscar nod for Alice was pretty crazy. They rarely go out of left field in a big way with their lead acting awards. The problem is that not a huge number of them go on to wins, especially not of late. At any rate, this is exactly the type of citation Hathaway needed to make her an almost lock for a nomination, which is great. She was never going to win an Oscar for this type of performance anyway. It's too good, too layered. Not enough gimmick.

Milk. An acting award and a top ten citation. A best picture nomination isn't locked up, but these are all positive steps in the right direction.

Slumdog Millionaire and possibly Dev Patel (?). Could Patel land a supporting actor nod for this film? If it captures the zeitgeist, all things are possible. As far as the film goes, yes NBR picked the eventual Oscar Best Picture winner last year as their best film, but that rarely happens. Before No Country for Old Men, the last time it happened was with American Beauty. But a nomination is all but assured, right? Maybe...I have no opinion until I see Slumdog Millionaire this weekend.

Viola Davis in Doubt. Her first big mention of the season. Her name is now on the lips. We'll see if the buzz can sustain her till Oscar nominations are due.

Clint Eastwood and Gran Torino. Because they can't really have the Oscars and not invite Clint to the party if he's done work that year. Well, they could but then the world would collapse in on itself. Ugh, if Clint starts sweeping from here on out, I'm going to sleep.

This is Ambiguous News for:

The Dark Knight.
Only one measley top ten mention. A step in the right direction? It looks like Ledger isn't going to sweep in the technical sense of the word, though an NBR oversight didn't stop Javier Bardem from sweeping last year. We shall see.

A top ten mention is great, but there is only whispery buzz about this film at this point. Either it's setting itself up for fail, or it's a sleeping giant. Either way, only time will tell.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
. Sure, it has a directorial win and a top ten citation and a screenplay prize. But the NBR doesn't really have a good track record when it comes to picking best director winners that match up with Oscar (not that predicting the Oscar should be their goal, though we all know it is and shouldn't pretend otherwise...). It could go either way for this film at this point. I'm still not sold that it's a lock. Not one bit.

The Wrestler. It needed the top ten citation. A best actor win for Mickey Rourke would have sweetened the deal though.

This is BAD News for:

Aside from a best ensemble mention and Viola Davis's breakthrough award, the film pretty much got shut out. No top ten. No other acting awards. I was never counting on Doubt being a best picture nominee anyway, but this is not good. Not good for its chances at all.

Revolutionary Road, The Reader and Kate Winslet. Nary a mention for either. And with Kate double-dipping, no less! What does this mean? Honestly, probably nothing for Winslet. They can only choose one best actress or best supporting actress winner and they didn't choose her. She's still good for a nomination and maybe even a win for either of these films. But the fact that Revolutionary Road, The Reader and Doubt all got shut out of the top ten is kind of telling...sort of. For the past few years, at least four out of the five eventual best picture nominees were contained in the NBR top ten. In 04 and 05, all five were there. But in 00, 01, and 03, only two were there. What does this mean? It could mean nothing. But, statistically speaking, one or more (or all) will be shut out of the best picture race. Who will survive? What will be left of them?

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