Yesterday, we went through a rather elaborate, thoughtful dissection of what the National Board of Review might pick for Best Film. After much deliberation, we went with "The Descendants" just barely over "The Artist." And then we ended with a throwaway comment: "We can't wait for tomorrow when we find out the group picked 'Hugo.'" The prophecy has been fulfilled: They just announced that "Hugo" is their Best Film.
This is the first time the organization has ever given their top prize to a film by director Martin Scorsese, who also won Best Director. In case you're wondering, "The Artist" and "The Descendants" both ended up in NBR's 10 best list, which really means top 10 English-language films. (There's a separate list for foreign-language films.)
George Clooney grabbed Best Actor for "The Descendants," and Clooney's "Michael Clayton" co-star, Tilda Swinton, won Best Actress for "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Christopher Plummer was Best Supporting Actor for "Beginners," while Shailene Woodley earned Best Supporting Actress for "The Descendants." (If you don't recognize her name, she's the older of the two daughters.)
While the National Board of Review is generally dismissed, their awards do help start the Oscar conversation. (Before 2011, they were the first major group to sound off on the year's best films and performances.) But with the New York Film Critics Circle stealing their thunder by announcing on Tuesday, there seems to be a little less excitement surrounding NBR's selections than is normal. Still, picking "Hugo" where NYFCC went with "The Artist" suggests that this year's Best Picture race remains as wide-open as we'd suspected. We think that's a good thing. It's annoying to already know the two or three movies battling it out for the big prize.
Of NBR's winners, Swinton was probably helped the most. "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is a great but bleak film, and although she's been mentioned as a Best Actress possibility -- she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Michael Clayton" -- her NBR recognition gets her name into the minds of Oscar voters.
As far as "losers" go, we wouldn't say that "The Descendants" is in terrible trouble, but you'd have to think that Fox Searchlight would feel a lot better if the movie would finally win one of these lead-up prizes. Yes, "The Descendants" snagged Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, but to be considered an Oscar front-runner it's sure helpful if critics organizations give the film its top prize. That hasn't happened yet.
2011 National Board of Review Awards (partial list):
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"
Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Best Supporting Actress
Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"
Best Original Screenplay
Will Reiser, "50/50"
Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
Best Animated Feature
Best Foreign Language Film
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"
Hugo Named Best Film by NBR [AwardsDaily]