The National Board of Review (NBR) has traditionally been first in the awards season kick off over the past few years. For the past two however, NYFCC has stepped in front to be “first” in line to name the best and brightest of the film year.
What makes NBR all the more dynamic is their naming of the top ten films of the year. They even venture off into the top ten of Independent films and top five of animated and documentaries. Last year, one day after NYFCC named Zero Dark Thirty Best Picture of the Year, the 104-year-old group followed suit. Bigelow’s film won three awards including Best Director and Best Actress for Jessica Chastain. The group has the power to thrust a film into the race and “legitimize” it for the rest of the season. When films like Good Night, and Good Luck as well as Finding Neverland surprised with their wins, they became default Best Picture nominees by Oscar nomination morning. What film needs a boost like that this year?
Before we get into that, it is worth noting that NBR also does throw a wrench that doesn’t stick every now and again. Films like Quills and Gods and Monsters failed to get cited by Oscar. With the field expanded to (up to) ten nominees, it would be rather difficult for NBR to choose something that AMPAS chose to ignore. The group tends to be moved by heavier, more complex material. They like to reward the film that has lots of moving parts like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo or a film that has moral complexities like Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River. Only three films since I have been alive have failed to translate to Oscar recognition.
This year, Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years a Slave inhabits the social significance and emotional intricacies to find room within the group. They don’t shy away from the film that is “too hard” or “too dark” to see. The Social Network and No Country for Old Men had no trouble wiggling their way in. Alfonso Cuaron‘s Gravity is a film they may be admired as a monumental achievement in filmmaking, juicing up the ballots to fall its way. If they act on emotion, Captain Phillips is a tear-jerking, heart-tugging movie that would benefit IMMENSELY from a mention. If we are in store for a curveball, I would start looking at something like Dallas Buyers Club or Nebraska.
On the performance levels, they’re a bit more inconsistent in what they select. Bradley Cooper and Chastain both won Actor and Actress last year, both moving on to the Oscar ceremony without a blink. In Supporting however, Leonardo DiCaprio won for Django Unchained while Ann Dowd was cited for her role in Compliance, both failed to get enough Oscar traction to go the distance. At least one of their acting choices in the last three years failed to get nominated for an Academy Award. Two years ago Tilda Swinton and Shailene Woodley seemed like assured bets for their works in We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Descendants, while the year before Lesley Manville became a victim of category fraud for her work on Another Year.
I foresee a standard Best Actor pick like Robert Redford or Bruce Dern. Their Lead Actor choices have skewed for the elder statesmen often enough. Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and George Clooney (x2) are good examples of this. Tom Hanks could also factor in with a combined notice for Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks.
When it comes to the Lead Actress race, Cate Blanchett and/or Sandra Bullock could be too safe of choices. Someone like Emma Thompson or Judi Dench may give them more incentive to be reward. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a tie occur for Blanchett and Bullock a la Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in 1991.
In the supporting categories, this group loves the body of work. Jim Broadbent and Joaquin Phoenix are two examples of this in the early 2000’s. Bradley Cooper may fit this criteria for American Hustle and The Place Beyond the Pines, two outstanding performances. The group as a whole doesn’t typically like their villainous roles, at least in the full-fledged evil sense so I don’t expect Michael Fassbender to pop up this time around. I guess that puts Barkhad Abdi out of the conversation but a Breakthrough Performance mention wouldn’t shock either.
Supporting Actress looks semi-built for someone like Oprah Winfrey or June Squibb. However, someone like Octavia Spencer or Sally Hawkins can put themselves firmly back in the race if they managed wins tomorrow. After today’s semi-surprising win from NYFCC, I guess we have to look at Jennifer Lawrence as a viable threat. Someone unexpected like Jennifer Garner could pop up too.
The full list of predicted winners are below. Last year, they started announcing winners at 12:00 pm Eastern time so I expect them to follow the same pattern. Include your own predictions in the comment section:
BEST DIRECTOR – J.C. Chandor for All is Lost
ALTERNATE: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity
BEST ACTOR – Bruce Dern for Nebraska
ALTERNATE: Robert Redford for All is Lost
BEST ACTRESS – Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks
ALTERNATE: Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Bradley Cooper for American Hustle/The Place Beyond the Pines
ALTERNATE: Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Oprah Winfrey for Lee Daniels’ The Butler
ALTERNATE: Jennifer Garner for Dallas Buyers Club
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Joel Coen & Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn Davis
ALTERNATE: Bob Nelson for Nebraska
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Tracy Letts for August: Osage County
ALTERNATE: Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope for Philomena
BEST DOCUMENTARY – The Square
BEST FOREIGN FILM – The Past
ALTERNATE: The Hunt
TOP FIVE FOREIGN FILMS:
- Blue is the Warmest Color
- The Broken Circle Breakdown
- The Hunt
- The Past
BEST CAST ENSEMBLE – American Hustle
ALTERNATE: August: Osage County
TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR
- 12 Years a Slave
- Blue Jasmine
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- Lee Daniels’ The Butler
- Saving Mr. Banks
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE (MALE) – Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station
ALTERNATE: Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE (FEMALE) – Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
ALTERNATE: Brie Larson for Short Term 12
- Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
- Before Midnight
- Blue Caprice
- Crystal Fairy
- Frances Ha
- In a World…
- Short Term 12
- The Spectacular Now
- Upstream Color
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – Frozen
ALTERNATE: The Croods
TOP FIVE DOCUMENTARIES
- The Act of Killing
- The Square
- Stories We Tell
- We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AWARD – Fruitvale Station
ALTERNATE: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
What do you see happening?