Two big surprises kicked off the National Board of Review’s award announcement, as Spike Jonze’s futuristic/romantic/intellectual hybrid Her was declared the year’s best film. It’s not Jonze’s first brush with NBR favor – they named his Being John Malkovich and Where the Wild Things Are, among the Top 10 movies in their respective years. This is his first Best Director citation from the group, however.
As with their counterparts at the New York Film Critics Circle, NBR success doesn’t automatically guarantee Oscar frontrunner status. But the NBR winner has at least gotten a Best Picture nomination in each of the last dozen years, and has only missed twice in the past 25. So this is a very, very good sign for a film that is currently trying to force a place for itself in a year-end conversation dominated by late-breaking films like American Hustle (yesterday’s NYFCC winner and completely absent here), The Wolf of Wall Street, and Inside Llewyn Davis.
Best Film: Her
Top 10 Films:
- 12 Years a Slave
- Fruitvale Station
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- Lone Survivor
- Saving Mr. Banks
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- The Wolf of Wall Street
Considering the glut of major, late-breaking contenders in this race, there are some surprises here. Which, in and of itself, isn’t that surprising. The NBR is the organization that threw a Top 10 citation at The Bucket List. So while mentions for films like Lone Survivor and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty won’t necessarily launch those films into the middle of the Oscar race, it might provide enough of a publicity boost to get voters to see them and consider them for tech categories. Ditto Prisoners, which might wrangle a Supporting Actor campaign for Jake Gyllenhaal yet.
The inclusion of Fruitvale Station is the most intriguing, particularly because the NBR could have easily thrown it in with the Top 10 Indies (listed below). That they included it at the grown-ups table indicates an enthusiasm for the film that could very easily translate into bigger successes throughout the season. I’ve been saying for months that Harvey Weinstein’s best horse to back this year is Fruitvale and its star Michael B. Jordan. In light of The Butler, August: Osage County, and Philomena all coming up empty here, I wonder if Harvey might get an idea.
Best Director: Spike Jonze, Her.
Best Actor: Bruce Dern, Nebraska. With Robert Redford winning at NYFCC and Dern here, it’s looking good that we could have a Great Gatsby reunion in Best Actor this year. (And maybe Leo can get an invite for Wolf of Wall Street, too.) As expected, Michael B. Jordan got Best Breakthrough Actor instead, so NBR could have their cake and eat it, too.
Best Actress: Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks. So no sweep for Cate Blanchett. This is a good pick-up, for Thompson’s nomination chances. She’s been tearing it up on the publicity circuit, so if there’s a dark horse in the Oscar race, it may well be her.
Best Supporting Actor: Will Forte, Nebraska. I’m still not sure I’m getting what others are in this performance, but Best Supporting Actor, beyond Jared Leto and Michael Fassbender, is still a fairly wide-open race for nominations, and Forte is suddenly looking as solid as anyone else.
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station. There’s a phenomenon where Oscar winners (especially those who came from out of nowhere) get a follow-up nomination shortly thereafter, for a performance that’s maybe not as flashy/impressive/memorable, but it kind of backs up the win as not a fluke. I always think of Charlize Theron’s North Country nomination that way. Or Marisa Tomei’s In the Bedroom nomination, which at the time felt very much like “SEE? Jack Palance didn’t just read the wrong name! She’s quite good!” Anyway, that’s what this Fruitvale nod for Octavia feels like.
Best Animated Film: The Wind Rises.
Best Documentary: Stories We Tell
Best Foreign Language Film: The Past
Best Original Screenplay: Inside Llewyn Davis
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Wolf of Wall Street
Breakthrough Actor: Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Breakthrough Actress: Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color
Best Ensemble: Prisoners
Top 5 Foreign Films:
- Beyond the Hills
- The Grandmaster
- A Highjacking
- The Hunt
Top 5 Documentaries
- 20 Feet from Stardom
- The Act of Killing
- After Tiller
- Casting By
- The Square
Top 10 Independent Films
- Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
- Dallas Buyers Club
- In a World…
- Mother of George
- Much Ado About Nothing
- The Place Beyond the Pines
- Short Term 12
- The Spectacular Now
[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Being John Malkovich won the National Board of Review Best Film prize in 1999, tied with Topsy-Turvy. That was the National Society of Film Critics prize.]