“Hugo” Makes a Statement with NBR Win

Well, we’re really into it now (finally), with the third major awards announcement of the week. If there are people reading my blog who somehow don’t care about this stuff, don’t worry, I’ve still got a backlog of things to review and I’ll be working on cranking those out over the next week, while we have a bit of a reprieve from new releases.

The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures is a curious institution, comprised not of critics but various film enthusiasts, academics, filmmakers and students in the New York metropolitan area. It’s not entirely clear to me why this particular group of amateurs and scholars is given the same amount of attention as other various precursors, though they do get serious points simply for longevity, having been founded in 1909 and starting to give their annual awards in 1929.

Whatever their influence, the NBR do give an interesting early look at how the season could go: the NYFCC tried to sweep the NBR’s thunder by moving up their announcement to Tuesday, but after the critics went with “The Artist” for their big winner, I think the attention on NBR actually ratcheted up a notch: another win for the silent stunner in the same week could’ve meant another steamroller season was in the cards after all.

Thankfully for all of us who like a little more intrigue to their Oscars, that was not the case. The NBR instead gave their top prize to “Hugo” instead, sending out a firm message that Scorsese’s magical film is going to be very much in the hunt. I’ll be giving my full thoughts about “Hugo” in a review sometime within the next week, but I’ll let it slip now that I’m extremely pleased with this selection. “The Artist” still found its way into their Top 10 list, so it’s hardly going anywhere. The Top 10 was pretty interesting in general, with unusually discerning inclusions of both “Drive” AND “The Tree of Life.” They did, however, reveal their more populist roots with a spot for the final “Harry Potter” (obviously a cumulative recognition, given the Special Achievement in Filmmaking also awarded to the series as a whole). And the NBR, notoriously unable to resist anything that Clint Eastwood touches, found space for “J. Edgar.” Even “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” barely completed earlier this week, popped up, so all the NBR is really showing us is that season will probably be as varied as we hoped.

(Side note: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was still not available for screening, so we have THAT lurking around to consider.)

Meanwhile, George Clooney picked up his first of what will surely be numerous wins (just in case you were worried that he was somehow going to get snubbed), while Tilda Swinton charged back into the Best Actress field with a win for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” It would be wonderful for her to stay in the picture, though the NBR gave its award last year to a very deserving Lesley Manville for “Another Year,” a performance that unfortunately fell by the wayside by the time the season was out. I love the screenplay win for Will Reiser and “50/50” as well as the continued momentum building for “Margin Call,” which suddenly looks like this year’s little-indie-that-could. Suffering again was “M^4,” which couldn’t even find a place in the Top 10 Independent Films list.

Once again I’ll leave the discussion up to you, dear reader(s): anything catching your eye among the NBR winners? The various lists at the end are all in alphabetical order.

National Board of Review awards:

Best Film: “Hugo”

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Best Actor: George Clooney, “The Descendants”

Best Actress: 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, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”

Best Animated Feature: “Rango”

Breakthrough Performance: (tie) Felicity Jones, “Like Crazy” and Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Debut Director: J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”

Best Ensemble: “The Help”

Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender (“Jane Eyre,” “A Dangerous Method,” “Shame,” “X-Men: First Class”

Best Foreign Language Film: “A Separation”

Best Documentary: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “Crime After Crime” and “Pariah”

Special Achievement in Filmmaking: the Harry Potter franchise – a distinguished translation from book to film

Top Films:

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • Drive
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • The Ides of March
  • J. Edgar
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

Top 5 Foreign Language Films:

  • 13 Assassins
  • Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
  • Footnote
  • Le Havre
  • Point Blank

Top 5 Documentaries:

  • Born to Be Wild
  • Buck
  • George Harrison: Living in the Material World
  • Project Nim
  • Senna

Top 10 Independent Films:

  • Another Earth
  • Beginners
  • A Better Life
  • Cedar Rapids
  • 50/50
  • Margin Call
  • Shame
  • Take Shelter
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Win Win

2 thoughts on ““Hugo” Makes a Statement with NBR Win

  1. I’m a little surprised by the tie between Felicity Jones and Rooney Mara. As much as I love Felicity and haven’t seen “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” yet, I just feel like Mara’s role is so much more attention-grabbing and intense compared to Jones’, who is receiving so much praise and attention for a good, but not spectacular, performance (and role, really) in “Like Crazy.” I thought she was good, and I thought she and Anton Yelchin were great as a couple, but I’m just continually surprised by the amount of praise. Not that I’m complaining, really.

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