Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Kick-Off! NBR Favors "The Social Network", Shuns "127 Hours"

God, they get us every time! The National Board of Review has haters all over the internet but despite endless attacks on their legitimacy claiming that their choices are nothing but studio banquet-table-buying driven ... we (collectively speaking) still always let them kick it off.

Sometimes we get a kick out of it. Sometimes we just get kicked in the gut. It's totally an S&M relationship. But through it all we admire the way they've maintained their enviable kick-off mythos well despite the growth of movie awards in which they can no longer shouting "first!" like monosyllabic screen-refreshing trolls. (Gotham, EFA, BIFA, Satellite and Spirit Awards nominations have already come and gone after all... though most of them are not dealing with the whole pool of Oscar hopefuls the way the NBR does.)

The NBR prizes are usually a mix of "awesome! well done" and "aren't you embarrassed to publicly state that?" ...and this year? There's arguably more "awesome!" than "wtf" this time 'round including major boosts for Another Year, Animal Kingdom and The Social Network.

The Social Network
David Fincher, The Social Network

  • Four major prizes to The Social Network undoubtedly marks this as the film to beat for Oscar. I know that people are saying "The King's Speech!" But I believe that in the end, that film's appeal will be shorter-lived. Just my hunch as to how it plays out (though I expect the Globes and the BFCA will give The King's Speech a major boost very soon) There's still nearly two months before Oscar nominations let alone the time of full stop campaigning after that. Contrary to popular belief, the NBR Best Picture prize does not doom your Oscar chances. It's not totally correlative either but so what. To each (group) their own.

Lesley Manville, Another Year
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network (performance review)
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom (performance review)
Christian Bale, The Fighter

  • Of the acting prizes the NBR favor provides a major boost for Eisenberg and Weaver who are both difficult sells for traditional Oscar choices in some ways: Eisenberg because he's young for the category and the character is abrasive, Weaver because she's in a small film from overseas. But great choices by the NBR here. May this push at least a few dozen more AMPAS members towards careful consideration of these star turns.

Chris Sparling, Buried
  • This will have to count as the biggest shock, yes?
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Of Gods and Men, France
Waiting For Superman 
Toy Story 3

The Town
  • I enjoyed this movie alot and it's just the type that wins these "ensemble" prizes, given that it's a big cast of recognizable faces. But I prefer movies with more group interaction for these prizes -- a personal thing. This film has mostly one-on-one scenes other than what is for me the standout scene: that great accidental lunch meeting between Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner and Ben Affleck. Awkkkkkwward.

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington Restrepo
SPECIAL FILMMAKING ACHIEVEMENT (writing, directing and producing)
Sofia Coppola, Somewhere
Leonard Maltin
Fair Game, Conviction, Howl

And finally... the Lists.

Top Eleven Films (because a top ten isn't good enough for the NBR!)
(alpha order): 
Another Year
, The Fighter
, Hereafter, Inception
, The King’s Speech
, Shutter Island, 
The Social Network, 
The Town
, Toy Story 3, True Grit and 
Winter’s Bone

  • Tolda that Hereafter would be here, though it wasn't a difficult call at all. Despite the film's tepid reviews, NBR voters are ever faithful to their Eastwood. This is his 8th consecutive film to be so honored.

Top Ten Independent Films
(alpha order): 
Animal Kingdom, 
, Fish Tank, 
The Ghost Writer
, Greenberg, 
Let Me In
, Monsters
Please Give, 
 and Youth in Revolt
  • Another snub for Blue Valentine, which is having a rough week given the lack of Spirit Awards love, too. Either they withheld the film too long, the stupid MPAA rating scared people off or the film is just too brutal emotionally for ballot love. Shame. It's such a good movie.
Top Six Foreign Films
(alpha order): 
I Am Love, 
Life Above All
, Of Gods And Men
, Soul Kitchen
 and White Material

  • The buzz on Incendies is still just a low hum but the humming is fiercely tuneful. I keep hearing words like "astounding." So perhaps it's the film to beat for Oscar's foreign film competition. Note that Biutiful did not make their list.

Top Six Documentary Films
(alpha order): 
A Film Unfinished, 
Inside Job, 
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, 
, The Tillman Story and 
Waiting For “Superman”.

BIGGEST SNUB STORY: Black Swan, 127 Hours and The Kids Are All Right, which have all been winning major attention, were completely shut out. No prizes for any of them. Other films that maybe weren't destroyed but certainly weren't boosted by today's announcement were Rabbit Hole, Blue Valentine and all of those one week qualifying releases that were hoping for last minute attention (The Way Back, Barney's Version, Biutiful, Frankie & Alice).

BIGGEST BOOSTS: The Social Network (which was a gimme anyway), but more importantly Mike Leigh's Another Year (1 prize, 1 list) and David Michôd's Animal Kingdom (1 prize, 1 list)

MOST BORING DEVELOPMENT: The endless fawning over Waiting For 'Superman'. With so many fine documentaries this year, why that one? The Lottery, on the very same topic, is more focused and convincing (though it comes without any bells and whistles), if you must reward this topic.


Walter L. Hollmann said...

Personally, I always love the NBR. They let that freak flag fly unashamedly. Anyone giving Quills and Good Night and Good Luck a Best Picture award is fine by me.

Ryan said...

^yeah, but giving FINDING NEVERLAND Best Picture in the year of ETERNAL SUNSHINE, MDB, SIDEWAYS & CLOSER forever marred my view of them

my last minute predicts:

David Fincher
Colin Firth
Natalie Portman
Christian Bale
Helena Bonham Carter
The Social Network & King's Speech (screenplays)

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I can understand that, but I appreciate that it was their own opinion instead of trying to prognosticate the Oscars. Personally, I like Finding Neverland over Sideways, but I am aware that I'm in the minority on that one. Unless I was in the NBR.

Anonymous said...

adri said...

I'd love to see the season start off with something that wasn't considered a surefire front runner. Like Black Swan for Best Picture, or something like Never Let Me Go or I Am Love just to be truly divisive. And if they choose on their own opinion rather than prediction, then hurrah.

Anonymous said...

I would say that the winners for acting this year are deserving. Happy that Jesse Eisenberg, Lesley Manville, and Jacki Weaver won.

I was hoping for 127 Hours to be in the Top 10. Unfortunately, the board deemed Eastwood's Hereafter more deserving.

mrripley said...


They don't always do well predicting the oscar supporting actress though.

i think best actress will be


Marcin said...

Their every year love for Eastwood is boring.

Happy for Manville.

Ryan said...




okay, NBR i'll forgive the KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT/ BLACK SWAN snubs.


ryan -- yeah, Jacki Weaver is major points in their favor.

cinephile said...

I'm shocked that they shut out The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours and Black Swan completely, but I am disgusted that they chose The Town for Best Ensemble. WHAT?!?!? I mean, seriously, they were not brilliant together. They had no extraordinary chemistry or interplay, it was just a bunch of solid actors who weren't even together most of the time (it was mostly Affleck with someone else). To give such a film the best ensemble award over, say, The Kids Are All Right or Winter's Bone is just... a failure.

Kevin said...

Not even including BLACK SWAN in a Top 11 (ELEVEN!) is fucking ridiculous.

And what about TRUE GRIT, have they even seen it?

Unknown said...

"(toldja... not that it was a difficult call)"

Wow, you know how to hurt a Marsha when she's down.

Ryan said...

i'm sorry but i just can't get over the JACKI WEAVER win!

i mean, this is EXACTLY what she needed to really get on Academy member's radar. And once they've actually seen the performance... hell, we could have a consecutive 'monster-mom' win in the Best Supporting Actress category. ;)

i'm crossing my fingers the LAFCA, NYFCC, NSFC and BFCA all follow suit!

p.s. and congrats, Nat, on keeping her in your predicted top 5 for so long

SVG said...

I love the acting nods! And Buried- that's kind of fun, right? Hereafter though; I think that's the anti-fun.

alice said...

Rabbit Hole isn't in list also...

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I can't really defend the ensemble win for The Town. I agree that an ensemble win for Winter's Bone or even The Kids Are All Right (a film I didn't even like as much as The Town) would have been preferable. Isn't the problem that definition of "Best ensemble" kind of fast and loose anyway?

In your mind, Nathaniel it should involve how the cast are finding each other and interacting/performing splendidly as a whole, which certainly makes sense. By that reasoning, an ensemble win for Animal Kingdom would have been nice as well. However, some people may look at it as a movie with a deep cast of performances that they really like, regardless of the amount of interplay (case in point: The Town). My point is there can be many definitions of what "best ensemble cast" means in the minds of voters and they're clearly not going by the dictionary definition of the word "ensemble," which literally means parts performing as a whole...yes?

Mike McGuire said...

Some very good decisions on the NBR's part. I'm not surprised by the Kids Are All Right being snubbed--I found the film very mediocre, overall. Bening should get her awards for Mother & Child instead.

Bill_the_Bear said...

Let me add my name to the people squeeeing because of Jacki Weaver.

Also really happy to see "Incendies" make their top six foreign film list. did "The Ghost Writer" get to be an independent film?

NicksFlickPicks said...

I hafta say, I'm pretty into these selections. I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the Black Swan adulation; I think the movie world is more interesting for having stuff like this out, but its whole appeal is in being divisive, so why expect it to be on every list?

The King's Speech seemed so ideal for their wheelhouse that anything else winning comes as a surprise to me. And I am totally for The Town's Ensemble prize.


Nicks -- really? (on The Town). I get where you're coming from on Black Swan. But The Town? I liked it but like cinephile said it's just a series of two people scenes with Ben Affleck in all of them.

though i should say quickly that i thought he was much better than he's ever been since at least Chasing Amy. so i'm a little baffled that I read some digs about his performance when i thought it was completely what the movie needed.

Dean said...

Did Fox Searchight not screen for them or something? Strange that Black Swan and moreso 127 Hours got nothing.

Devin D said...

Did Bale just lock up his first ever nomination?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Charlie -- hmmm. I don't think Rush *isn't* the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor... though this boosts Bale undoubtedly. We're still way far from Oscar night and he's the type of performer the industry doesn't mind overrewarding ;)

Unknown said...

Aside from the snubs for The Kids Are All Right, Black Swan, and Rabbit Hole (which after seeing last night I thought was really well done for the type of movie that it is) I think this is a good roster, particularly for the NBR. Glad to see 127 hours snubbed as I think it was tremendously overrated (it wasn't terrible, but I just don't understand why everyone has such a hardon for Danny Boyle). Having The Social Network win was a welcome change for them as they almost never go with the critical consensus choice, even if its a frontrunner (except No Country For Old Men).

Also, I am really glad that this might cause people to catch their breath and reevaluate The King's Speech's frontrunner status. I never got why it was almost the consensus frontrunner and while it was better than I expected (and sure to get a nomination) I still didn't think it had what it takes to win Best Picture. It's a pretty small movie that while an intriguing footnote of history isn't "important." People just kept repeating that its the sort of movie that wins BP, but to be honest you would have to go all the way back to A Beautiful Mind in 2001/2002 to find a BP winner with similar qualities (small, easy to digest inspiring biopic). Regardless of what I think about The King's Speech, I think we can all agree that if any precursor group before the Golden Globes/Oscars would go for it, it would have been the NBR and they only gave it a top 10 listing and completely snubbed all of its actors (who, with the exception of Geoffrey Rush, are still frontrunners in their respective categories).

Unknown said...

Sorry I just wanted to add Rabbit Hole to my list of unfortunate snubs and deleted my original post by accident. I wasn't expecting to like it that much (I read the script last year and thought it was OK) but John Cameron Mitchell handled the material very well and the performances were great across the board.

Aaron said...

I'm very thrilled for The Social Network and David Fincher, and I'm totally fine with Jesse Eisenberg and Lesley Manville (who both are great and truthfully really needed these wins...maybe this will forever put to rest the "Lesley Manville needs to be put in supporting" gripes)...but THE TOWN for BEST ENSEMBLE???? That's a big no-no...I would've given this easily to the cast of Winter's Bone. The Kids are all Right would've been my second choice. Hell, I would've even accepted Inception, which in my opinion was more of an ensemble film than The Town.

I'm surprised that 127 Hours and Black Swan didn't make it, but what I'm really shocked about is the total absence of The Kids are all Right. Not only did I think Annette Bening would sweep best actress, but I was certain it would make the top 10 easily. The fact that it was ALSO snubbed in the Independent category (where they awarded TEN films) is insanely baffling as well.

No Bad Movies said...

People should not hold TOO much NBR and Satllites credence. I have been follwoing both of the ceremonies for a LONG time.
The definitely beat by their own drum. I think the critics of the newspapers ( LA, NY, Chicago, etc ) hold more sway than NBR and Satellite. Once those roll in, then the Critics Choice and Globes, you'll have a pretty good idea. And don't forget the one or two head scratchers you'll see at Oscar that seem to happen year to year.
I have a funny feeling Halle Berry and The Way Back could be late bloomers, as they haven't had overall proper screenings yet.

Mirko said...

What a pity they didn't select also a MALE BREAKTHROUGH along with Lawrence, they could help someone else to be noticed

caroline said...

I have to agree with The Town. I don't even recall Blake Lively and Jeremy Renner interacting, even though they were supposed to be brother and sister, and that might have been interesting to delve into.

Nathaniel, what are your thoughts about the HR Actors' Roundtable? I'm curious!

adelutza said...

The Town winning best ensemble is a joke. I haven't seen Another Year yet so I'll take Leslie Manville with a grain of salt but Jesse whatweverhislastnameis??? On a year with so many good performances? Who are these people? ( I ask this question every year :-) )
As much as Oscar gets it wrong, is better than NBR.


caroline -- i haven't watched it yet. is the whole thing online yet?

adelutza -- you didn't like Eisenberg? HERESY!

NicksFlickPicks said...

I don't think great ensembles are limited to those that have big group scenes and lots of alternations among the actors (though I love movies that work that way). I think it's a huge achievement, too, when everyone in a sizable cast manages to find the same tenor without being in scenes together, like six different people managing to pin the tail on the same donkey.

I just really dug The Town and found it punchy and affecting, when the script could easily have led to a disposable genre exercise. I might be overvaluing it, but I'm impressed how full and real its world felt to me, and I give the actors a lot of the credit for that. (Which is a little weird, because I was mixed about Hamm, and slightly mixed about Postlethwaite and Lively.)


Nick -- thanks for the clarification. I greatly agree that it's a real pleasure when a wide group of actors of different performative instincts all feel like they're in the exact same movie (a surprisingly rare pleasure actually) but I guess I found enough of The Town to be "disposable genre entertainment" that I can't really get behind what looks to be a healthy awards run.

I think the film really botched its landing for one. But the early scenes are strong and some movements with the final action-packed act really worked.

But anyway... I liked it but I'm already keenly aware of the possibility that in 20 years time Ben Affleck will be Clint Eastwood (the screen actor who is a totally solid director but people act like he's Ingmar Bergman / Alfred Hitchcock master-class and I will have to lose my mind all over again. And I'll already be so old and won't need the help pushing me towards senility ;)

Hayden said...

Really interesting. They definitely gave boosts to people who needed boosts/traction. I always doubt "unknowns" in the game until I see something like this.

Lisa said...

odd that the social network is not listed as one of the ten best films.


Lisa -- it is. it's in their "top 11" the first list within the post.

Styx said...

Waiting for Superman was excellent, so I'm glad it's on its way toward an Oscar win in Doc feature.

Can't say too much about the acting wins, since I haven't seen 3 of the four winners yet. Jesse Eisenberg winning had to be a surprise though. Good for him. Even better that this places The Social Network as the film to beat this year. It's risky to be the frontrunner so early in the season, but sometimes it's also necessary to establish yourself as the juggernaut and never let go. It's been the calling card for countless acting winners lately.

No love for "Black Swan"? Thought that they'd cream themselves over Natalie Portman. Not surprised that they snubbed 127 Hours. Wouldn't this have been the place for them to do something like reward both Moore and Bening in actress? They love their vet actresses more than most. But I'm oddly happy for Lesley Manville even though I haven't seen her film yet. It's a marvel how Mike Leigh consistently crafts these amazing female parts. Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Imelda Staunton, SALLY HAWKINS, and now Lesley Manville.

Rambling aside, I've always liked the NBR, mainly for officially kicking off the Oscar season. It's on now, kids!

Mark said...

what about documentary?? this year was AMAZING for docs. They mentioned The Lottery at the end - its the same topic as the one that won but better. Do poeple not care about the quality of the story over studio releases anymore? The music was so good in it too if you know TVOTR.