The National Board of Review awards are back at the head of the pack after last year’s COVID-related delay. Although they only have a modest influence on Oscar, they are an influence, nonetheless. Their Best Film choice has made the Academy’s final ten (or final five as it was from 1944 to 2008) about 90% of the time – an average of one NBR choice per decade being ignored by the Academy.

The significance of this organisation is surprisingly difficult to ascertain. We know that it can trace its origins all the way back to the dawn of the US movie industry, when, in the year 1909, the New York Board of Motion Picture Censorship was created by Charles Sprague Smith and others. In 1916 the name was changed to the National Board of Review. In addition to its air of mystery, the other peculiarity of the NBR is unnatural affinity for anything produced or directed by Clint Eastwood. However, in the year of “Cry Macho”, even they had to turn the other cheek!

Turns out they loved “Licorice Pizza” ( MGM/United Artists Releasing with Focus Features/Universal) giving it Best Film and Best Director (Paul Thomas Anderson) and a shared Best Breakthrough Performance by the film’s leads Alana Heim and Cooper Hoffman but strangely withholding the Best Original Screenplay for writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero” (Amazon Studios) which was also their choice for Best Foreign Language Film (Iran). Their announcement also marks a great starting point for Will Smith’s journey to the Oscar podium in “King Richard” (“Warner Brothers”) with his Best Actor and costar Aunjanue Ellis Best Supporting Actress wins. Ciaran Hinds begins his journey to Oscar by being named Best Supporting Actor for “Belfast” (Focus Features/Universal) while Joel Coen’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay (“The Tragedy of Macbeth“: Apple Original Films/A24) brings him a little closer to being the second person, after Kenneth Branagh, to be Oscar nominated for adapting Shakespeare. “Macbeth“ also picked up Best Cinematography for Bruno Delbonnel’s black and white lensing. The only modicum of surprise was Rachel Zegler’s Best Actress nod for Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story“ (20th Century Studies/Disney). In a packed field, this award should put her in the running for an Oscar nomination. Best Documentary went to director Ahmir Thompson’s “Summer of Soul“ (Searchlight Pictures/Disney). The appearance of Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket” (one of their Ten Best), Michael Sarnofski’s “Pig” (Best Directorial Debut) and Jeymes Samuel’s “The Harder They Fall” (Best Ensemble) will help, if not with Oscar, then certainly with the Independent Spirit Awards nominating committee.

If there is any shock value, even disgust, associated with this year’s NBRs it is the list of good, even great films that they totally ignored? You ask how Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter” could sweep The Gotham Independent Film Awards a few nights ago and not get a single mention here, not even in their 10 Best Independent Films list. Ditto for Rebecca Hall’s “Passing”. Also missing in action: Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog”, Aaron Sorkin’s “Being The Ricardo’s”, Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer”, Joe Wright’s “Cyrano” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Tick, Tick ..Boom” and, in both the Best Film and Best Foreign Language categories, Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers” and Paulo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God” resulting in the NBRs looking like they often do: ridiculous and, for the most part, meaningless.

With the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) due to release their choices tomorrow Friday Dec. 3 and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) on Sunday Dec. 19, the shape of this year’s Oscars will quickly start to coalesce.

Best Film

Below is the full list of winners:

Best Film: “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
Best Actor: Will Smith, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
Best Actress: Rachel Zegler, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
Best Supporting Actor: Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
Best Supporting Actress: Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Apple Original Films/A24)
Best Original Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, “A Hero” (Amazon Studios)
Breakthrough Performance: Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)
Best Directorial Debut: Michael Sarnoski, “Pig” (Neon)
Best Animated Feature: “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
Best Foreign Language Film: “A Hero” (Amazon Studios) – Iran
Best Documentary: “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Searchlight Pictures)
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “Flee” (Neon & Participant)
Best Ensemble: “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix)
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Apple Original Films/A24)

Top Films (in alphabetical order):

  • “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  • Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  • “The Last Duel” (20th Century Studios)
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • “Red Rocket” (A24)
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Apple Original Films/A24)
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
The Worst Person in the World

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order):

  • “Bendetta”
  • “Lamb”
  • “Lingui, The Sacred Bonds”
  • “Titane”
  • “The Worst Person in the World”

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order):

  • “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
  • “Attica” (Showtime)
  • “Flee” (Neon & Participant)
  • “The Rescue” (National Geographic)
  • Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” (Focus Features)

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order):

  • “The Card Counter” (Focus Features)
  • “C’mon C’mon” (A24)
  • “CODA” (Apple Original Films)
  • “The Green Knight” (A24)
  • “Holler” (IFC Films)
  • “Jockey” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “Old Henry” (Shout! Factory)
  • “Pig” (Neon)
  • “Shiva Baby” (Utopia)
  • “The Souvenir Part II” (A24)

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Voted on by hundreds of actors, most of whom are too busy waiting tables to see movies at all, and, if they do, their choice is EXTREMELY limited. Limited mainly to Friday night at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. Anything even remotely off the beaten track will not be seen or even heard of. Hence the hideousness of what is listed below. End of discussion. Movies only.

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It is Hat-Trick, as “Drive My Car” wins Best Picture from the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) following its triumphs in  NYFCC and LAFCA.

It is Hat-Trick, as “Drive My Car” wins Best Picture from the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) following its triumphs in NYFCC and LAFCA.

With the announcement of the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) choices, ‘Drive My Car” has now won the Best Picture award from all three major critic groups. This is quite an achievement and with its additional awards for Best Director, .Best Screenplay and Best Actor, it now stands an excellent chance of being Oscar nominated for Best International Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and to become the 11th Foreign Language Film to be nominated in the Best Film category following in the footsteps of…..

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