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Oscars 2012 Update: National Board of Review Winners

I love the National Board of Review.

Most critics guilds, or whoever, when they list their top films of the year, I don’t pay any attention to it. It’s like, “New York Critics Name The Artist Best Picture.” And I’m like, “Great.” Of course, if I like the film in question, then I’m happier about the choice, but I never put much stock in the critics groups the way Oscar prognosticators do. I’m more about, “What’s in the race? Okay, here’s what I think is best,” then, “Oh, that’s what they nominated? Well, here’s what’s probably gonna win and here’s what I think should win.” So when all these groups announce their winners, I don’t immediately go and alter what I think is gonna happen, nor do I do, “Oh, well this means something.”

But for NBR, I do. And the reason I do is because — every year when I see their top ten list of best films, I agree with it. That’s not to say I’d make all the same choices, but, each year, I look at their list and agree with at least five or six of their selections (if not more), and of the remaining four, most of the time, I’ll go, “Yeah, I can see that.” I’ll never out and out go, “I don’t like that choice.” I may not like some of the films they chose, but I can at least agree with them choosing it. (And if not, it’s 1 out of 10, once every three years.) That’s why I like them. No other group has so consistently had such similar choices as me when listing the best films of the year.

I don’t even look at what they choose for their other awards. What I like best is their choice of top films. I like their choices so much that I actually made a list of every film they’ve ranked as their top films and am trying to have seen them all. That’s how much I respect their choices. (AFI too. I like AFI’s list. But I won’t talk about them until they announce their top ten for 2011.)

Also, just to show you how much I like their choices, here are the films they’ve listed as their top ten of the year for the past decade:

(Keep in mind, some films may not be on here because they didn’t screen in time. For instance, this year, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close didn’t get screened for them, so we don’t know if they would have included it or not. So just because something’s missing doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t like it.)

(Also, the first film listed is the film they’ve listed as their best film of the year. And up to 2005, they ranked 1-10. From 2005 on, it’s #1 film, then alphabetical order.)

2001 – Moulin Rouge, In the Bedroom, Ocean’s Eleven, Memento, Monster’s Ball, Black Hawk Down, The Man Who Wasn’t There, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Pledge, Mulholland Drive

You know what I like about that? They aren’t afraid to pick something that’s just awesome. Ocean’s Eleven is an awesome film. And the fact that they included it makes them cool.

Plus The Man Who Wasn’t There is amazing, and The Pledge is one of those choices that makes me go — “Oh, man, no one includes that film on a list of great movies, and it’s a great film!”

I don’t even care that they chose Moulin Rouge! as their best film. It’s a good film, and should be included. What makes me happy is that all the choices feel solid. I, of course, would not have the exact same list, but even a film like Monster’s Ball — it’s a good film, and I can understand why they put it on there.

You can always gripe about what wasn’t included, but in terms of what was, this is a very strong list.

2002 – The Hours, Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Quiet American, Adaptation, Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Pianist, Far From Heaven, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Frida

Here’s one where, I don’t necessarily like all the films they chose (mostly #1), but I like the list for two reasons: one, they chose smaller films like Rabbit-Proof Fence and Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, rather than go with the “big” films like Two Towers or even the Almodovar film he was nominated for. That and, they also do a really good job of hitting a fair amount of the Academy nerve. Notice how many Oscar nominees are on their list, either for Best Picture or the acting awards. (It’s even better now, with more than 5 nominees.)

2003 – Mystic River, The Last Samurai, The Station Agent, 21 Grams, House of Sand and Fog, Lost in Translation, Cold Mountain, In America, Seabiscuit, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

What I like about this is that they chose all solid, critically acclaimed films (Cold Mountain is a little — ehh — but it’s not a choice you go, “Fuck that.” You can understand it), and they chose In America and Last Samurai. Big fan of including those.

2004 – Finding Neverland, The Aviator, Closer, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Kinsey, Vera Drake, Ray, Collateral, Hotel Rwanda

Here — I might not like Vera Drake or Sideways — but the rest of the choices, look at how solid they are. They perfectly capture the Oscar season, and they throw on an awesome film like Collateral. This is why I love them. They offset the one choice I don’t like with a really awesome one. Lists like this either come fom hardcore doctoring or genuineness. Either way, I like it.

2005 – Good Night, and Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, A History of Violence, Match Point, Memoirs of a Geisha, Munich, Syriana, Walk the Line

Their number one film of the year (at least, Oscar-wise) was my number one film of the year. I like that. Again, solid choices. Not ones that feel empty, like if they put Pride and Prejudice on there, or this year, if they included The Help. Those, to me, feel like “blank” choices. The, “oh, okay,” and you move on. These, they feel like they have some meat to them. Some substance. A History of Violence — Syriana — these are films that were consensus best films of the year, yet the Academy largely ignored them. I like that NBR included them (it’s not surprising, I just like it).

2006 – Letters from Iwo Jima, Babel, Blood Diamond, The Departed, The Devil Wears Prada, Flags of Our Fathers, The History Boys, Little Miss Sunshine, Notes on a Scandal, The Painted Veil

Notice how The Queen isn’t on here. Nor is The Last King of Scotland. I like that. Everyone else would have put those films in. Instead, what did they put? The History Boys. The Devil Wears Prada. Again, I like that. (Though it’s apparent they have a huge boner for Eastwood, don’t they?)

2007 – No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bucket List, Into the Wild, Juno, The Kite Runner, Lars and the Real Girl, Michael Clayton, Sweeney Todd

This is the year that really sealed it for me. While there wasn’t any There Will Be Blood (maybe it screened for them, maybe it didn’t. Either way, I’m cool with it), there’s Assassination of Jesse James, Into the Wild, Lars and the Real Girl — The Bourne Ultimatum! Right there they came out and said it. The Oscars, what did they do? Only nominated it in Film Editing and Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. And they let it sweep all those. They couldn’t come out and say they liked it, so they gave it all the minor awards. NBR — they say that shit. “We loved Bourne.” This is why I like them. They get the good Oscar films, and make solid choices around them.

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire, Burn After Reading, Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Defiance, Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, Milk, Wall-E, The Wrestler

What a great list they have here, too. Pretty sure the only two I wouldn’t have put on mine were Changeling and Defiance. And even Changeling is a good choice. They really were totally dialed in to what the great films of this year were. (Notice how The Reader is not here.)

2009 – Up in the Air, An Education, (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Invictus, The Messenger, A Serious Man, Star Trek, Up, Where the Wild Things Are

Up in the Air beats Hurt Locker. No Avatar. Some (500) Days of Summer love. Where the Wild Things Are. The Messenger. I love their choices. (Though, really, with the Eastwood hard on.)

2010 – The Social Network, Another Year, The Fighter, Hereafter, Inception, The King’s Speech, Shutter Island, The Town, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Look at this one — take off the Clint (they’re gonna give it to him anyway) and the Mike Leigh, and you have a really great list here. For my money, 8 out of 10. Give me Blue Valentine and Black Swan instead, and you’ve got yourself a perfect list.

But that’s what I like about them. How, even though I disagree with choices — what is it? Two, three, tops? And even of those two or three, I can at least see where they’re coming from on almost all of them. (Even the Eastwood ones. We get it. You like him. I understand that.)

So that’s why I like the National Board of Review a lot. For me, they are the real standard for what the better films of the year were (once you get a sense of what their personal preferences are, so you can gauge their tastes next to your own).

That said — NBR just announced their 2011 winners. Here they are:

Hugo wins Best Film. I fucking love that.

And on top of it — here are the other nine films they chose as their top ten films of the year:

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

— look at those choices. I’ve seen only half of them, yet I love the list. You know why? No The Help. No Iron Lady. No Midnight in Paris, even though I loved the film. Those choices, to me, are empty choices. Yet they include Harry Potter, which was a great film (even though I don’t think it should get a Best Picture nomination. Though, against The Help…), and Tree of Life. J. Edgar is part of their Clint hard-on, and apparently they have a Clooney hard-on as well. Which I can understand. Honestly, I look at what I expect to see on my Top Ten list in a month, and I see at least 6 choices. And the other 4, they’re probably gonna end up in that first tier of movies below that — the 11-20 tier.

Honestly, the only omission that seems weird is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. But even so — the rest of the list is so good, I don’t even miss it.

That’s why I like the National Board of Review.

(They also gave Clooney Best Actor. They seem to have a Clooney hard-on too.)

Oh, and — this is pretty big for the Oscar race, too. Expect to see these films pop up major come awards time. The Globes will be huge, but for now, this is your basic rubric for what will get in and what won’t. Though this year we have that sliding scale bullshit, and no one knows what’s gonna happen.

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