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OSCARS: Deconstructing the NBR Winners and What it Means to the Oscar Race

As you’ve likely seen already, “Manchester by the Sea” took home four prizes this afternoon from the National Board of Review, picking up citations for Best Film, Best Actor for Casey Affleck, Best Original Screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan and Breakthrough Performance (Male) for Lucas Hedges. Co-distributors Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions must be feeling excellent at the moment as it kicks off a stunning start for their campaign. Past winners for the prize have included “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Her,” “Hugo” and “The Social Network,” all of which went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The last NBR winner for Best Film to go on to win the Oscar for Best Picture was “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008, following another Best Picture winner, “No Country for Old Men.”

Barry Jenkins made history, becoming the first African-American director to win at the National Board of Review. His film “Moonlight,” which just swept at the Gotham Awards on Monday evening, had been hailed as a critical favorite, and if you’ve been paying attention to the Oscar Predictions around here, is considered a serious threat to take it all in February. “Moonlight” star Naomie Harris pushed by big names like Viola Davis and Michelle Williams to nab Best Supporting Actress.

Picking up one of her first prizes of the season was Amy Adams, who won Best Actress for her stunning work in Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” which also landed on the NBR Top 10. With another strong turn in “Nocturnal Animals,” which was shut out from the group, this could be her pony to ride into a very competitive Best Actress race. Paramount Pictures must be feeling pretty good about their chances for both. Also from Paramount, Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” which still hasn’t screened for critics, won Adapted Screenplay for writer Jay Cocks. The film also snuck into the NBR Top 10.

Jeff Bridges landed himself into the thick of an unpredictable Supporting Actor race with his notation for “Hell or High Water” from David Mackenzie. Bridges, who won an Oscar in 2009 for “Crazy Heart,” has been hailed by many pundits to be a spoiler for his second Oscar. Will CBS Films be able to ride this wave?

Big misses of the day included Denzel Washington’s “Fences,” which was shut out of all categories, as was Jeff Nichols’ “Loving.” It’s worth noting that a lot of  eventual Oscar contenders never show up on the NBR Top 10 list. They have had notable omissions over the years including “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which would go on and sweep the Oscars with 11 trophies. Other notable misses were “Jackie” from Fox Searchlight Pictures, “Florence Foster Jenkins” from Paramount Pictures and “Lion” from The Weinstein Company.

Where does this place us in the Oscar race? NBR acting winners are typically not 4 for 4 in Oscar nominations translation. Last year was the first time since 2009 that all NBR winners went on to an Oscar nomination. If you are looking for a “weak link” in the four acting winners of today’s announcement, evidence would point to either Adams or Bridges. Adams could be easily edged out due to competition and Bridges may not be able to muster enough good will for his film overall to take him to the finish line, or he could find himself in the same lane as a past hopeful like Michael Shannon in “99 Homes.”

The games have begun. If you are keeping prediction score, Awards Circuit correctly predicted 3 out of the 4 acting winners from the NBR, along with the winners for Animated Feature (which went to “Kubo and the Two Strings“) and Cast Ensemble (which went to “Hidden Figures“).

Oscar Predictions will be updated accordingly by Friday to reflect the week’s awards. Next up, New York Film Critics Circle and Critics Choice Nominations on Thursday. In the case of the latter, BFCA ballots are due by midnight TONIGHT.

Look at the full list of NBR winners below the predictions linking.




Best Film:  Manchester by the Sea

Best Director:  Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actor:  Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress: Amy Adams, Arrival

Best Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress:  Naomie Harris, Moonlight

Best Original Screenplay:  Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, Silence

Best Animated Feature:  Kubo and the Two Strings

Breakthrough Performance (Male): Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

Breakthrough Performance (Female): Royalty Hightower, The Fits

Best Directorial Debut:  Trey Edward Shults, Krisha

Best Foreign Language Film:  The Salesman

Best Documentary:  O.J.: Made in America

Best Ensemble:  Hidden Figures

Spotlight Award: Creative Collaboration of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg

NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  Cameraperson

Top Films

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight
  • Patriot’s Day
  • Silence
  • Sully

Top 5 Foreign Language Films

  • Elle
  • The Handmaiden
  • Julieta
  • Land of Mine
  • Neruda

Top 5 Documentaries

  • De Palma
  • The Eagle Huntress
  • Gleason
  • Life, Animated
  • Miss Sharon Jones!

Top 10 Independent Films

  • 20th Century Women
  • Captain Fantastic
  • Creative Control
  • Eye in the Sky
  • The Fits
  • Green Room
  • Hello, My Name is Doris
  • Krisha
  • Morris from America
  • Sing Street


What do you think?

72 points
Film Lover

Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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