Oscars 2017: National Board of Review Awards
Every year at this time, I post about how much I love the National Board of Review and their choices historically. The group is as old as the Oscars are, so there’s a lot of history to go by. They’re the one group who, every year, when they name their ten best films, at least 8 of them are in my top 25. And of the other two, one I go, “Yeah, that was really good,” and the other I go, “Wasn’t quite for me as much, but I get it.” With them, you know, they like auteurs. For years, Clint Eastwood automatically got on. Sully made it on last year. This year, I can tell you at least 60% of the list, sight unseen. That’s just how they are, that’s why I love them.
The quick history — NBR started as a bunch of theater owners and distributors in 1909, right when states were getting upset about the immorality of the movies. They got together to put a seal of approval on movies they thought were artistic. Then in 1930 (so like 2 years into the Oscars), they started putting out their list of ten favorite movies a year. The best thing about them is that they’re not just a critics group. I find that critics groups can start buying into their own tendencies and get very pretentious and or bandwagon-y. NBR is made up of critics and professors and students and film lovers and an assortment of people who just love movies.
In a way, this is the unofficial kick-off to Oscar season. NBR always announces first, and while they don’t have a huge impact on the race necessarily, it is really cool to see which way they go.
Here’s how they’ve gone the past decade:
- 2016: Manchester by the Sea
- 2015: Mad Max Fury Road
- 2014: A Most Violent Year
- 2013: Her
- 2012: Zero Dark Thirty
- 2011: Hugo
- 2010: The Social Network
- 2009: Up in the Air
- 2008: Slumdog Millionaire
- 2007: No Country for Old Men
Every one a Best Picture nominee except A Most Violent Year (which was a Most Violent SNUB if you ask me!!! *backs away slowly and moves to another table to try the pun out on them*). Also, really terrific choices. Sure, Zero Dark wasn’t my favorite movie that year, but it was really good and was a choice I can be cool with. Also, every single one of those movies, outside of Zero Dark and Manchester were in my top ten. And the other two are top 25, probably top 20.
And then, looking at the straight up top ten for the last five years:
- 2016: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hail Caesar!, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Moonlight, Patriots Day, Silence, Sully
- 2015: Bridge of Spies, Creed, The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, The Martian, Room, Sicario, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton
- 2014: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, Fury, Gone Girl, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Lego Movie, Nightcrawler, Unbroken
- 2013: 12 Years a Slave, Fruitvale Station, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor, Nebraska, Prisoners, Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wolf of Wall Street
- 2012: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Lincoln, Looper, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Promised Land, Silver Linings Playbook
Every year has that one where I go, “Ehh… okay.” Last year was Patriots Day (what?). 2015 I had no real problem with. Straight Outta Compton I liked a lot but put on a tier below the rest. But sure. 2014 — Lego Movie? I get it, but really? 2013, wasn’t the biggest fan of Fruitvale, but again, sure. 2012, Perks of Being a Wallflower? There’s always the one, and the rest are either movies that are gonna be in my top ten or are just outside it. Or are just really solid films I can get behind.
So yeah. This year, their winner for best film was:
Spielberg. As you can imagine, they like him a bunch. Also I wonder if the political climate had something to do with that decision. Still, it’s a choice that makes sense. I’m seeing it on Sunday, so I currently have no opinion on it as a choice.
As for the rest of their top ten:
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
The Florida Project
I’ve seen almost this entire list. Call Me By Your Name I’m also seeing this weekend, and I haven’t seen Downsizing yet. But I have seen the others and can speak to them.
Before I get into specifics on that, let’s just point out: Edgar Wright, Christopher Nolan, Alexander Payne, Paul Thomas Anderson. They do like them some auteurs. Those ones were established. Then you have Sean Baker and Luca Guadagnino, less established auteurs but the work definitely makes sense. Gerwig also makes total sense, and of course Get Out was on their list. Get Out will also be on AFI’s list and the PGA Best Picture list. That’s just how that works. The Disaster Artist is a surprise, but fuck it, let’s live.
Now, as for each of these movies — I think at the moment, the public at large has been able to see everything on their list so far except The Post, Phantom Thread and Downsizing. Oh, and I guess Disaster Artist is out this week too. So most people dialed in would have had the opportunity to see these movies in the theater. I don’t feel as bad for having seen most of these weeks or months ago.
Right now, I don’t think there’s a movie where I’m out and out like, “Really?” The movie I liked least on this list was Get Out, which I still enjoyed the hell out of. As much as I think it isn’t as good as the public at large is saying, I’m not at all as curious about its place on the list as much as I was with something like Patriots Day. And then Downsizing, even at worst I’ll think it’s a decent movie.
I also can say, without spoiling too much, that based on the 8 movies I have seen of the 11 total, we’re likely continuing the trend of their tastes being similar to mine.
I would also be very curious to see how close this list is to the eventual list of Best Picture nominees. Last year, they had 7 of the 9 nominees.This year, first glance, 5 or 6. But that’s before anything’s come in as far as precursors. Still, I’d be happy with most of these as nominees. I think we know Baby Driver won’t happen. Logan won’t happen (even if it gets a PGA nomination). The Disaster Artist probably won’t happen by sheer math, but who the hell knows. Downsizing — let’s see how that gets received upon release. The rest seem like solid candidates or outright locks at this point. So we’ll see.
Here are the rest of the winners from the NBR awards:
Top Ten Independent Films
Beatriz at Dinner
A Ghost Story
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
Seen 9 of the 10. Still need to see Menashe. Of the 9, totally cool with most of them. Not a huge fan of Beatriz at Dinner. Still ambivalent about A Ghost Story But the rest I think are great choices and all of them are films I either liked a lot or straight up loved. Huge fan of the choices here.
Best Actor: Tom Hanks, The Post
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Post
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Best Director: Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Love the supporting choices. Unable to comment on leads. Gerwig is an interesting choice.
Best Original Screenplay: Phantom Thread
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Disaster Artist
Best Cast Ensemble: Get Out
Best Directorial Debut: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Breakthrough Performance: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Those seem like B.S. awards. Like that extra shit Cannes hands out just to get stuff acclaim. But sure.
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best Foreign Language Film: Foxtrot
Top Foreign Films
A Fantastic Woman
Only seen A Fantastic Woman here, so can’t really comment.
Best Documentary: Jane
Top Five Documentaries
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Brimstone & Glory
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars
Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS
Spotlight Award: Patty Jenkins & Gal Gadot
Freedom of Expression: Let It Fall: Los Angeles, 1982-1992 & First They Killed My Father
Whatever makes you guys feel better.
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But yeah. I like their best film choices and especially their indie choices. Not sure what separates one from either list. So, if they liked Wind River just a bit more it would have been in top ten, but since they didn’t they put it in the indie list? No idea. But whatever. The list is good, and I’m excited to finish these out.
Final thoughts — no Big Sick, no Shape of Water. Those are really the only two. I think Mudbound’s exclusion has to do with the whole Netflix bias. Still, can’t award ’em all. I think they did a good job.
It’s coming guys. Oscar season is almost upon us.
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