The National Board of Review said its annual awards gala will be Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. Last year the critics group gave its Best Picture award to Zero Dark Thirty, one of the first awards-season honors for the Kathryn Bigelow-directed pic that eventually earned a Best Picture nomination.
With its one-two punch now of Best Film and Best Director wins from the first two voting bodies on the so-called critics awards circuit — the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review — Sony‘s Zero Dark Thirty directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal is establishing itself as a powerful and promising early force in the race and only stands to add to the total as a tsunami of critics awards are unleashed over the next couple of weeks (including LA, Boston, etc, later this week). In many recent years critics groups have tended to follow each other like lemmings, and sometimes — especially if it is a nearly unanimous choice like Bigelow and Boal’s The Hurt Locker in 2009 (although NBR virtually ignored that one) – it can definitely have an impact on Oscar voters. Academy voters at the very least will be rushing this year to see everything they think they should see in time for the earlier voting period starting December 17 through the holidays to January 3rd. Big early wins like this won’t go unnoticed.
Of course there can also be a great divide as we saw in 2010, when critics groups (including NYFCC and NBR) almost in lockstep chose Sony’s The Social Network right through to its victory at the Golden Globes (the HFPA often likes to go with a perceived winner). That film was then completely upended at the Producers Guild and subsequent industry awards by upstart The King’s Speech, which of course went on to win four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for Tom Hooper.
Although Sony should be feeling very good about the way things are going right now, this studio which had high hopes based on that torrent of critics awards for Social Network was obviously none too happy as that season played out the way it did — especially since it looked so good in December and most of January. My guess is with that in mind they are going to grab this early momentum for Zero Dark Thirty and run with it. It recently hired Michael Kupferberg of Strategy PR as a consultant. Isn’t it ironic that again one of their major competitors is a Hooper film, Universal’s Les Miserables. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate Sony bummer if he were able to come along and again rain on the studio’s parade when the guild shows roll around?
Katheryn Bigelow‘s hunt-for-bin Laden pic has won the National Board of Review‘s Best Film honor, its second victory in three days after New York Film Critics Circle voted it the year’s top film Monday. Bigelow also repeated her NYFCC Best Director win and Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jessica Chastain won Best Actress from the group, comprised of a select group of film enthusiasts, filmmakers, professionals, academics and students who watch more than 250 films throughout the year. The Weinstein Company’s Silver Linings Playbook also showed well in today’s announcement, taking Best Actor for Bradley Cooper and Best Adapted Screenplay for writer-director David O. Russell. Leonardo DiCaprio won Best Supporting Actor for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and Compliance‘s Ann Dowd won Best Supporting Actress.
Zero Dark Thirty has been under the microscope from the beginning, with some groups claiming that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were given access to classified documents by the Obama administration while making the film, which chronicles the manhunt that led to the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden in a Navy SEAL raid. The filmmakers have denied they received such info. The Sony war drama, which stars Chastain, Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton, will be released in the U.S. on December 19 and now has plenty of momentum as awards season kicks into high gear. Bigelow and Boal’s previous film, the war drama The Hurt Locker, won six Oscars in 2010 including Best Picture, and made Jeremy Renner a star.
Last year, the NRB voted Hugo its Best Film, with the Martin Scorsese 3D fantasy going on to earn an Oscar nomination.
The National Board of Review’s awards will be handed out January 8 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City in a gala hosted by Meredith Vieira. Here is the complete list of today’s winners, which includes the NBR’s top lists of films in several categories in alphabetical order:
Best Film: ZERO DARK THIRTY
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, ZERO DARK THIRTY
Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED
Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, COMPLIANCE
Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, LOOPER
Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Best Animated Feature: WRECK-IT RALPH
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, ARGO
The National Board of Review has weighed in and announced its vote on the year’s best picture will be announced December 5. This follows the New York Film Critics Circle declaration this week that its vote will be taken December 3. This puts the groups in the tight proximity that existed (NBR is usually first) before the NYFCC last year moved their vote to November 29 to be first, which meant the voting critics couldn’t factor Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close into the mix. Here’s the NBR’s announcement:
Based on the mixed bag out of the New York Film Critics, National Board of Review and Gotham Awards winners along with the announced nominees for Independent Spirit Awards, this year is completely, completely wide open. But then you knew that already.
The New York Critics so wanted to be first and “influence” the Oscars that they advanced their voting date up two weeks and prematurely presented a list of winners Tuesday that seemed downright conservative and very “Academy friendly.” After honoring harder edged films in the past, they went for a delightful black and white silent film as their Best Picture (The Artist) and Director (Michel Hazanavicius) plus big stars Meryl Streep (in another biopic — as Margaret Thatcher this time) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball) both playing real-life characters, something Academy voters have tended to favor in many of their recent acting winners. It was Streep’s fifth acting honor from the NYFCC. The group moved their voting up in order to beat everyone else, particularly the National Board of Review which is normally first, and in effect forced Sony to show them David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by agreeing to move their voting date back a day (and then ignored the film). They also miscalculated Warner Bros’ willingness to show Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close before it was completely finished and ready to be seen by some of the nation’s most “important” (at least in their own minds) critics. So that one wasn’t part of their deliberations. The Broadcast Film Critics Association (I am a member) and the Los Angeles Film Critics among others will be able to see Dragon Tattoo starting Friday. Neither has changed its voting schedules (about 10 days out) in order to jump the gun and will be able to see everything before weighing in on the year’s best. That seems like the right course for critics groups instead of trying to force the hands of filmmakers in order to pursue their own delusional quixotic quest for influence.
Paramount’s Martin Scorsese film Hugo received a major shot in the arm for its Oscar hopes when the National Board of Review named it the 2011 Best Film of The Year and tapped Scorsese as Best Director. Today’s vote comes two days after the New York critics voted the Weinstein Co’s black-and-white silent pic The Artist as its top film and shut out Hugo altogether. “Hugo is such a personal film by Martin Scorsese,” said National Board president Annie Schulhof in a release announcing the winners. “It is a tribute to the early years of cinema that uses today’s cutting-edge technology to bring the audience into a completely unique and magical world. It is visually stunning and emotionally engaging.” The National Board also went with George Clooney (The Descendants) as Best Actor and Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin) as Best Actress, also different from the NYFCC, which went with Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep. Here’s the National Board’s full list:
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants
Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser, 50/50
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Breakthrough Performance: Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Breakthrough Performance: Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Debut Director: J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Best Ensemble: The Help
Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, X-Men: First Class)
NBR Freedom of Expression: Crime After Crime
NBR Freedom of Expression: Pariah
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise – A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film
There’s new intrigue surrounding the race to be first among critics groups in announcing film awards. In a pre-emptive move that should send shudders down the spines of the National Board of Review — normally always first to announce — and the Los Angeles Film Critics — which normally gets a one-day jump on their New York counterparts — the New York Film Critics Circle has just announced that it will vote for their choices of the year’s best films on Monday, November 28, immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday. “As the nation’s pre-eminent critic’s group, we are excited about kicking off the annual end-of-year discussion with our new early voting date,” says new chairman John Anderson, who replaced Armond White as head of the group. (See the full release below.)
The surprise chess move puts the other groups racing for influence in the Oscar race in a tough position as they would likely have to advance their voting dates to pre-Thanksgiving to beat NYFCC to the punch — a tough task when studios and distributors probably haven’t screened all year-end contenders at that point, especially those with tight post-production schedules. It’s known that some of them rush contenders just to meet the early December voting date of the National Board of Review, so anything before the 28th could be stretching it.
New York critics were likely frustrated last year following the gang of groups crowning The Social Network best picture and thereby looking like they were following the pack. The National Board of Review chose the film first on December 2, and the LAFCC followed suit December 12, a day before NYFCC announced it as their choice December 13. In between all that, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced their nominations.
It will be especially interesting to see what the National Board of Review does now. This is not a critics group but rather a “film society” that is placated by studios with special treatment because they are always first to announce. Even officials of this group have admitted to me in the past that the reason their choices get so much scrutiny in the entertainment media is because they are first. L.A.’s critics also like beating their East Coast rivals, but from what I hear have already planned to select their picks that weekend of December 10.
With lots of talk about the Oscars moving up a full month as early as 2013 (although I am told until they figure out how to do electronic voting, no decision is being made), today’s NYFCC move will only add to the discussion. Is it only a matter of time before one of these organizations announces their nominees on Halloween?
Here’s the NYCFF release that came out this morning: