Oscars 2012 Update: National Board of Review Winners

I’ve always been a fan of the National Board of Review. (In fact, at some point, possibly even today, though I wouldn’t count on it, I’m probably going to talk about NBR and how I’ve always liked their choices throughout history. Mostly in the Best Picture section. I don’t really care about the acting categories at all.)

In case you didn’t know, the National Board of Review started in New York in 1909 to basically champion films (since they were relatively new at the time, and they wanted to recognize them as an art form and not as escapist entertainment, as the public saw them at the time). And in 1930, they became the first critics group to list their ten favorite films of the year. Their awards are determined by sending out ballots to their members (who are film enthusiasts, academics, filmmakers and students, who all live in the New York area) and having them tabulated by accountants.

They’re usually very good at picking high quality films. I find myself able to agree with them most of the time. In most years, I usually disagree with only one or two of their choices, and the rest I can understand from a taste standpoint. (Or the fact that they always vote for certain people’s films.) So when they announce their winners, I’m paying attention.

Just so you can gauge how you feel about the National Board of Review, here are their chosen films from the past decade:

(Note: The first film on the list is the one they awarded Best Picture to.)

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

This list — not my favorite. I haven’t seen Rabbit-Proof Fence or Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. So I can’t comment on those. They hit four of the five Best Picture nominees (leaving off Two Towers. They left all the Rings movies off their lists, which could be because they didn’t see them in time or because they didn’t want to waste the space. I don’t know). Everything else is solid enough to where I can understand its inclusion. This feels like a pretty classy list, all around.

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

I really like this list a lot. Not a fan of the Mystic River choice, but whatever. You’ll see that they love Clint and will always vote for him regardless. So I don’t mind that. I love Last Samurai, I love In America, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander, House of Sand and Fog — I haven’t seen The Station Agent. Everything here feels classy enough to where I can’t fault them for their opinion. And I like that. I like when people give an opinion I can mostly agree with and can’t go, “WHY?!” (like most people). The most I can say is, “Well I didn’t really love Cold Mountain, but I get it.”

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

Can’t really fault much here. And I love the inclusion of Collateral. Any disagreements I have are a matter of taste. But these films are pretty collectively liked, by both critics and audiences, so I’m totally cool with it. You know my list wouldn’t have Vera Drake or Sideways on it, and I’d almost definitely swap out Finding Neverland (and that’s off the top), but, looking at their list, I don’t see those and cringe. I go, “Well all right. That’s fair.” Again, I never really disagree with them often. I see them more as my friend who has his/her own taste in movies that’s different from mine, and not some idiot whose opinion I don’t respect. I can understand this opinion.

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

Huge fan of this list. This is one of those that made me go, “Damn… I like them.” Because I like all nine of the movies here I’ve seen, and I can understand Geisha‘s inclusion. (And who knows… when I see it, I may really like it too.)

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

This one — I don’t love a few of them, but I understand them. This is one of the only years I felt they were kind of weak with, but then again, 2006 was probably the weakest year of the 2000s next to 2001 (though their 2001 list was really solid). So I’m okay with this one.

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: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

This list is almost perfect. Never saw The Kite Runner and The Bucket List is a little weak, though I understand it. Other than that, the list is perfect, and they get major points from me for the inclusion of The Assassination of Jesse James.

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

Another one. They’ve been on a roll the past five years. No problems with this list at all. The two choices I’d consider faulting — one’s Eastwood (notice… two Clints on this list), and the other is Ed Zwick, who they’ve shown they like. So I understand them. (At least The Reader isn’t here… right?)

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

This is one people enjoyed, because of the (500) Days of Summer inclusion. I like the inclusion of The Messenger and Where the Wild Things AreStar Trek is a fun choice, and the only one on here that is “meh” for me is Eastwood again. Who they love. So I totally get it.

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

Love this one too. They clearly love Mike Leigh, so that makes sense (haven’t seen the movie, though), and there’s another Eastwood. Everything else — great choice.

2011: Hugo, The Artist, The Descendants, Drive, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Ides of March, J. Edgar, The Tree of Life, War Horse

This one I love. The only weak link is J. Edgar, which is Clint again. It’s gonna happen no matter what. Otherwise, it’s great. This is the list where I went, “Damn… I should check out all their other lists, if they’re consistently this good.” And that’s what I did. I have a list of all their winners and constantly check it now to make sure I see them all. They get some real hidden gems in there.

So that said… let’s get into who they voted for this year. It’s early for them. (Though maybe not. I never pay much attention to when they vote.)

Let’s start with the big list. First, the National Board of Review 2012 Best Picture winner was:

Zero Dark Thirty

That’s two big wins for this film in two days. It won the New York Film Critics Circle yesterday. (Though, honestly, these are both New York based. If you didn’t think this was gonna happen, you’re crazy. What other area of the country would this film most relate to if not New York?)

I’ve yet to see it, but I imagine it’ll be really strong.

And then, here are the other nine films they voted for:


Beasts of the Souther Wild

Django Unchained

Les Misérables



The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Promised Land

Silver Linings Playbook

There’s really only one movie on here that makes me go, “What the fuck?” (I mean, Django seriously?)

But actually… I don’t understand the Wallflower inclusion at all. That said, I’ve actually seen almost all the films on this list (save Silver Linings, Django and Les Mis), and all the rest of them are either films I’ve loved, or films that make perfect sense to be on this list.

Which is why — again — I still love the National Board of Review. Every year, my top 20 and their list has a very high probability of overlap. And for a group of many people voting on shit — that’s rare.

Oh, also, and to take care of the other stuff…

They voted Bradley Cooper as Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook. This tells me two things. First — I think Russell knew this when he cast Cooper instead of Wahlberg here. I think he knew there was this possibility and didn’t think Wahlberg had the chops in him to get there. And second — this motherfucker has a serious chance to win. I find it hard to believe that Daniel Day-Lewis is just gonna walk away with this one. I think of him like Brando — either you give it to him every time, or you give it to him when something is so good you can’t ignore it. And, while I thought he was incredible as Lincoln, I don’t think this was the type of electrifying performance as he had in There Will Be Blood. So I don’t think he’s such a lock after all. And Cooper might actually have a legitimate shot at this. (Again, though, this is before I’ve seen the movie, so I’m just guessing. When I see the movie, that’s when I’ll decide my opinion on the performance. And P.S. Don’t tell me yours. It’ll only spoil my viewing experience.)

Best Actress went to Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty. Which I think is funny, since I said last year she should have won for The Help and also qualified her loss by saying, “It’s all right. I bet she’ll have a lead one before too long.” Looks like I may be right about that sooner than I expected.

Best Supporting Actor went to Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained, which makes me crazy excited for that movie (if it was even possible to get any more excited than I already was). I thought his character was the weakest character in the script and was wondering if Leo’s casting would only make that seem worse. But apparently Tarantino said he worked with Leo on the character, so I’m really excited to see what they did with it. If he’s actually a legitimate contender for this award, that would make me insanely happy.

Best Supporting Actress went to Ann Dowd for Compliance, which I applaud them on. I liked that movie and I thought she did a good job. Oscar-worthy? Maybe not. But from a “critics” group — great job. Good for them.

Best Original Screenplay went to Rian Johnson for Looper and Adapted Screenplay went to David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook. If the Oscars went this way, I’d be happy. Since I think both those guys are tremendous writers and really wouldn’t care what they won for, based on their respective bodies of work.

Best Ensemble went to Les Misérables, which makes me really interested how the SAG Awards are gonna go. Since their top award is Best Ensemble. And I’ll tell you right now — it’ll be Les Mis, The Hobbit (probably, right?), DjangoZero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings — they’re gonna have some good shit up for that award. This is shaping up to be a really exciting Oscar season.

Best Animated Feature was Wreck-It Ralph, which all but sews up the Oscar category (since I’m pretty certain Brave isn’t winning).

Best Foreign Language Film was Amour, which is all but setting up for that film to lose (if you remember, Haneke’s last film, The White Ribbon, was a huge favorite going into Oscar night, and lost to… The Secret in Their Eyes, I believe). Though this film has the kind of support A Separation had last year, so it seems like an easy winner, this far out. (Interesting, though, is that The Intouchables was also nominated and didn’t win. That’s curious to me. Very interested to find out what ends up on that shortlist.)

Best Documentary went to Searching for Sugarman, which my boss loved, so I’m assuming it’s pretty good and will be nominated in the Documentary category at the Oscars (which… more on that tomorrow).

And they gave other awards, recognizing certain achievements… like John Goodman, for his performances this year. And the kid in The Impossible and the girl in Beasts of the Southern Wild. And then a special achievement to Affleck for Argo and a “Freedom of Expression” award for Central Park Five and Promised Land. (Which — check out Promised Land, if/when you can. It’s really strong.)

Oh, and they also listed their favorite independent films, which were:




End of Watch

Hello, I Must Be Going

Little Birds

Moonrise Kingdom

On the Road


Sleepwalk with Me

I loved Arbitrage, I thought Bernie was okay, but nothing special (but Linklater is the king of independent movies, so that makes sense), Compliance was really strong, End of Watch was surprisingly really solid (though that Best Picture talk is a little crazy. Let’s stay focused here, people), Moonrise was fucking spectacular (and I’m surprised it didn’t make their main list. What, do independent films not count among the other stuff?), On the Road was okay, but I get it, and I hear great things about Quartet and Sleepwalk with Me. I haven’t seen the rest. I haven’t seen Little Birds and know nothing about it, and I remember hearing decent things about Hello, I Must Be Going, so this list makes sense.

So that’s NBR for 2012. Can you see why I like them so much?

– – – – –

Tomorrow I’m gonna go over the Documentary Feature shortlist and also throw on something else I never talked about and figure I should — the Independent Spirit Awards. They mean nothing, but they’re good fodder for the second half of an article.


One response

  1. JamDenTel

    Major fan of the NBR, and I’ve been trying to watch some of the more obscure picks from over the years (some of the stuff they picked in the 60s and 70s is weird as hell…The Day of the Dolphin? What?)…honestly, I would totally do an NBR blog if I had the time, and one of these days I just might start it.

    As for this year’s list…I dunno. Of the four films I’ve seen on this list, I thought three (Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Looper) were seriously overrated, and the other (Lincoln) was quite good, but it’s nowhere near my own top 10. I’m really glad to see Django here (and the NBR put Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Inglourious Basterds on the top 10 lists of their respective years, so its presence isn’t that strange), and I definitely want to see Perks of Being a Wallflower. ZD30 (which I predict will win the Oscar now) could be good, Les Miserables could go either way…Promised Land and Silver Linings Playbook don’t excite me, really; the former seems like pretty generic issue-film Oscar-bait and the latter looks too twee for my tastes. I’ll still try and watch all of them.

    December 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm

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