By Katey Rich
The New York-based National Board of Review announced their award winners today, the first major group to do so. Though their favorites tend not to be Oscar's favorites-- Awards Daily put together a list that demonstrates that perfectly-- the awards are a way to boost buzz for certain projects while sometimes killing the spark for others. After all, Academy ballots haven't even gone out yet, and it's easy to only notice a film once a jury of your peers-- or some cinema-obsessed New Yorkers-- have singled it out.
In any case, some of the NBR winners are obvious, but others break open the field even more than it already was. Below, an examination of a few categories:
Top Ten Films:
(In alphabetical order)
THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
THE BUCKET LIST
INTO THE WILD
THE KITE RUNNER
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
What this list doesn't include is No Country for Old Men, which was named the best film of the year. So really, it's a top 11. Some of the titles on there-- Juno, The Kite Runner, Atonement, Sweeney Todd, Michael Clayton-- have been pegged as front-runners for weeks, while others-- Lars and the Real Girl, The Assassination of Jesse James, Into the Wild-- are dark horse candidates with passionate followings in some camps. It's a surprise to see The Bourne Ultimatum on there-- you mean that spy movie?-- but The Bucket List is the true wild card. Virtually no critics have seen it, and early word on the street is that it's heartwarming but nothing special. This is the group that honored The Devil Wears Prada last year, after all, but think of what they left out: American Gangster (still widely considered an Oscar front-runner), Zodiac, Hairspray, 3:10 to Yuma, Knocked Up, Ratatouille and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. OK, the latter two get their time to shine later, but there was room to include them. Hmm...
Top Independent Films
(In alphabetical order)
AWAY FROM HER
GREAT WORLD OF SOUND
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
A MIGHTY HEART
STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING
You know what's still not on that list? I'm Not There. Indeed, Todd Haynes' musical work of wonder was completely shut out of the awards, including strong Oscar contender Cate Blanchett (more on her later).
Best Foreign Film: THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
Best Animated Feature: RATATOUILLE
That's more like it. Though Diving Bell doesn't qualify in the foreign language race at the Oscars, so that doesn't tell us much, and Ratatouille is really hoping to make a run in the big leagues, and not just the animated feature category.
Best Actor: GEORGE CLOONEY, Michael Clayton
Best Actress: JULIE CHRISTIE, Away From Her
Best Supporting Actor: CASEY AFFLECK, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Best Supporting Actress: AMY RYAN, Gone Baby Gone
So that's Clooney over Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp, James McAvoy, Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe-- wow. And Julie Christie beats out Marion Cotillard, Keira Knightley, Ellen Page (though she gets her turn later), Angelina Jolie, Amy Adams-- double wow. Casey Affleck's nod for Assassination is particularly thrilling given that he did double-duty excellent work in that film and Gone Baby Gone, and same goes for Amy Ryan for the older Affeck's Baby as well as Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Still, Casey beat out Javier Bardem, the No Country powerhouse, and Ryan beat out Blanchett, who still pretty much seems unstoppable. Wow.
Best Director: Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
Best Ensemble Cast: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: EMILE HIRSCH, Into The Wild
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: ELLEN PAGE, Juno
Best Directorial Debut: BEN AFFLECK, Gone Baby Gone
Best Original Screenplay (tie):
DIABLO CODY, Juno and NANCY OLIVER, Lars and the Real Girl
Best Adapted Screenplay: JOEL COEN and ETHAN COEN, No Country For Old Men
I have nothing to add to this section except a big "Hooray!" I am so glad people in power are recognizing that Lars and Juno are both flawless screenplays, and that Ben Affleck proved himself an amazingly competent director, even if I thought the film had its flaws. Now if only they'd create a category for Lars' Bianca, something like "Best Supporting Doll," I'd be all set.
Awards Daily has the full list and, as always, heated debate.