Friday, December 3, 2010

Oscar Update: National Board of Review

Every year, we go through months of fairly meaningless speculation about what will be nominated for the Oscars. I am as guilty as anyone of this. But the truth of the matter is, nothing really matters all that much until the Precursor Awards come out – all those smaller awards before the Oscar nomination. They really tell you how things will go – because most of the time, you win precursors, you win the Oscars – and we’ve seen so called locks become also rans pretty quickly when they didn’t get that support (Cold Mountain, Dreamgirls, Charlie Wilson’s War, Sweeney Todd, Nine, etc). Missing one precursor doesn’t mean much – nor does winning one – it is more about the totality of the awards themselves. Take the precursors as one big group – and most of the time you’ll get your nominees – last year for example 9 of the 10 movies that won the most prizes on the circuit were your best picture nominees – the one anonamly was The Blind Side which ranked 42nd, but that rarely happens.

The National Board of Review is the first precursor that anyone really pays attention to. True, the Indie Spirits announces their nominees before the Board, as do the Golden Satellites, but neither is really paid all that much attention to – the former because of their elibility rules limit their cross over with the Oscars, and the later because they are a joke. The National Board of Review probably shouldn’t be taken all that seriously – I have no idea who makes up their membership, but they are because they have been around longer than anyone except the Oscars, and they always announce first. So they are.

All told, they are not a bad precursor for guessing nominees – not because they actually affect who the Academy votes, but because their tastes are similar. Last year for example out of Board’s top 11, 6 made it into the Best Picture lineup (including their number 1 choice, Up in the Air), and another was on their list of Indie films. All four of their acting winners (five actually, since there was a tie for Actor) went on to get nominated at the Oscars – although none of them won.

What does this all mean? Not much. Looking at their list of the Top 11 films of the year, I would say they all have a chance at being nominated at the Oscars, although of course, at least 1 will not be. They also went with fairly safe choices in the acting categories, as well as director, foreign film, documentary and animated film. One thinks to a certain extent, they just picked the frontrunners.

Who are the biggest winners? The Social Network obviously, since it won Picture, Director, Actor and Adapted Screenplay – and this is usually a group that spreads the love around (so more people will come to their award ceremony). Another Year is also helped by making their runner-up (and not being relegated to the Indie film category), and winning Best Actress. The Fighter made the list, and won supporting actor for Christain Bale as well.

The biggest winner may well be Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom though. I know the studio has been pushing her performance hard all year in a weak supporting actress field, yet I still feared that her amazing performance in this tiny movie would be overlooked. Everything that draws attention to her performance is good for me – and hopefully this is the start of a good season for her.

Getting little boosts were Shutter Island, which made the runners-up list, signifying that perhaps they really can push the film. True Grit, which the jury is still out on, since only a few reviews have trickled in, also gets a boost by making the list. And Winter’s Bone as well has to be happy they made the main list, and didn’t get bumped down to the indie one – and will most likely be happy that Jennifer Lawrence won the Breakthrough Performance award (last year, they did two of these, one male and one female, and the winners Jeremy Renner and Gaborey Sibide both got nominated).

On the flip side, The King’s Speech is probably a little disappointed they didn’t get anything more than a runner-up mention and 127 Hours will be disappointed they didn’t even get that.

Yet, I must caution that all of this is still early. No one “locked in” yesterday and no one’s hopes were dashed. This was the first of what will be well over 50 groups announcing awards. Winning here, as I’m sure winning anywhere, is probably nice for the victors and congrats to them. It doesn’t mean that they are locked for an Oscar – nor does it mean that James Franco can kiss his chances goodbye because he didn’t win here. It’s a long season – one just entering another phase – and we still have a long way to go.

The Winners were as follows:

Film: The Social Network
· Another Year
· The Fighter
· Hereafter
· Inception
· The King’s Speech
· Shutter Island
· The Town
· Toy Story 3
· True Grit
· Winter’s Bone

Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Original Screenplay: Chris Sparling, Buried
Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Ensemble Cast: The Town
Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Directorial Debut: Junger and Hetherington, Restrepo
Special Award: Sofia Coppola - Somewhere

Foreign Film: Of Gods and Men
· I Am Love
· Incendies
· Life, Above All
· Soul Kitchen
· White Material

Documentary: Waiting For “Superman”
· A Film Unfinished
· Inside Job
· Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
· Restrepo
· The Tillman Story

NBR Freedom of Expression:
· Conviction
· Fair Game
· Howl

Top Ten Independent Films
· Animal Kingdom
· Buried
· Fish Tank
· The Ghost Writer
· Greenberg
· Let Me In
· Monsters
· Please Give
· Somewhere
· Youth in Revolt

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