Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Kick-Off! NBR Favors "The Social Network", Shuns "127 Hours"

God, they get us every time! The National Board of Review has haters all over the internet but despite endless attacks on their legitimacy claiming that their choices are nothing but studio banquet-table-buying driven ... we (collectively speaking) still always let them kick it off.

Sometimes we get a kick out of it. Sometimes we just get kicked in the gut. It's totally an S&M relationship. But through it all we admire the way they've maintained their enviable kick-off mythos well despite the growth of movie awards in which they can no longer shouting "first!" like monosyllabic screen-refreshing trolls. (Gotham, EFA, BIFA, Satellite and Spirit Awards nominations have already come and gone after all... though most of them are not dealing with the whole pool of Oscar hopefuls the way the NBR does.)

The NBR prizes are usually a mix of "awesome! well done" and "aren't you embarrassed to publicly state that?" ...and this year? There's arguably more "awesome!" than "wtf" this time 'round including major boosts for Another Year, Animal Kingdom and The Social Network.

The Social Network
David Fincher, The Social Network

  • Four major prizes to The Social Network undoubtedly marks this as the film to beat for Oscar. I know that people are saying "The King's Speech!" But I believe that in the end, that film's appeal will be shorter-lived. Just my hunch as to how it plays out (though I expect the Globes and the BFCA will give The King's Speech a major boost very soon) There's still nearly two months before Oscar nominations let alone the time of full stop campaigning after that. Contrary to popular belief, the NBR Best Picture prize does not doom your Oscar chances. It's not totally correlative either but so what. To each (group) their own.

Lesley Manville, Another Year
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network (performance review)
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom (performance review)
Christian Bale, The Fighter

  • Of the acting prizes the NBR favor provides a major boost for Eisenberg and Weaver who are both difficult sells for traditional Oscar choices in some ways: Eisenberg because he's young for the category and the character is abrasive, Weaver because she's in a small film from overseas. But great choices by the NBR here. May this push at least a few dozen more AMPAS members towards careful consideration of these star turns.

Chris Sparling, Buried
  • This will have to count as the biggest shock, yes?
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Of Gods and Men, France
Waiting For Superman 
Toy Story 3

The Town
  • I enjoyed this movie alot and it's just the type that wins these "ensemble" prizes, given that it's a big cast of recognizable faces. But I prefer movies with more group interaction for these prizes -- a personal thing. This film has mostly one-on-one scenes other than what is for me the standout scene: that great accidental lunch meeting between Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner and Ben Affleck. Awkkkkkwward.

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington Restrepo
SPECIAL FILMMAKING ACHIEVEMENT (writing, directing and producing)
Sofia Coppola, Somewhere
Leonard Maltin
Fair Game, Conviction, Howl

And finally... the Lists.

Top Eleven Films (because a top ten isn't good enough for the NBR!)
(alpha order): 
Another Year
, The Fighter
, Hereafter, Inception
, The King’s Speech
, Shutter Island, 
The Social Network, 
The Town
, Toy Story 3, True Grit and 
Winter’s Bone

  • Tolda that Hereafter would be here, though it wasn't a difficult call at all. Despite the film's tepid reviews, NBR voters are ever faithful to their Eastwood. This is his 8th consecutive film to be so honored.

Top Ten Independent Films
(alpha order): 
Animal Kingdom, 
, Fish Tank, 
The Ghost Writer
, Greenberg, 
Let Me In
, Monsters
Please Give, 
 and Youth in Revolt
  • Another snub for Blue Valentine, which is having a rough week given the lack of Spirit Awards love, too. Either they withheld the film too long, the stupid MPAA rating scared people off or the film is just too brutal emotionally for ballot love. Shame. It's such a good movie.
Top Six Foreign Films
(alpha order): 
I Am Love, 
Life Above All
, Of Gods And Men
, Soul Kitchen
 and White Material

  • The buzz on Incendies is still just a low hum but the humming is fiercely tuneful. I keep hearing words like "astounding." So perhaps it's the film to beat for Oscar's foreign film competition. Note that Biutiful did not make their list.

Top Six Documentary Films
(alpha order): 
A Film Unfinished, 
Inside Job, 
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, 
, The Tillman Story and 
Waiting For “Superman”.

BIGGEST SNUB STORY: Black Swan, 127 Hours and The Kids Are All Right, which have all been winning major attention, were completely shut out. No prizes for any of them. Other films that maybe weren't destroyed but certainly weren't boosted by today's announcement were Rabbit Hole, Blue Valentine and all of those one week qualifying releases that were hoping for last minute attention (The Way Back, Barney's Version, Biutiful, Frankie & Alice).

BIGGEST BOOSTS: The Social Network (which was a gimme anyway), but more importantly Mike Leigh's Another Year (1 prize, 1 list) and David Michôd's Animal Kingdom (1 prize, 1 list)

MOST BORING DEVELOPMENT: The endless fawning over Waiting For 'Superman'. With so many fine documentaries this year, why that one? The Lottery, on the very same topic, is more focused and convincing (though it comes without any bells and whistles), if you must reward this topic.

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