Yes, sure, November 29 is far too early to be giving out awards for the best films of the calendar year, and someone should write an article about it. But the films and performances honored yesterday by the National Board of Review are worth at least noting, since it’s such an enigmatic organization (the Board’s membership, which its website only describes as a “select group of film enthusiasts, filmmakers, professionals, academics, and students,” is a pretty well-kept secret), and because its choices are usually so interesting.
For instance, their pick for this year’s Best Picture is Manchester By the Sea. This is certainly one of the year’s more acclaimed films, although chatter among the Awards Industrial Complex that that somehow “shifted the Oscar race” is totally divorced from history, as the NBR’s Best Picture hasn’t won the Academy Award for Best Picture since 2008. Still, the movies they’ve selected for that honor since then (Up in the Air, The Social Network, Hugo, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, A Most Violent Year, and Mad Max: Fury Road) are often smarter choices than the safe picks of the Oscars, and throughout their history, the NBR’s award-winners tend to stand the test of time better than Oscar’s (L.A. Confidential over Titanic in 1997, Gods and Monsters over Shakespeare in Love in 1998, Good Night and Good Luck over Crash in 2005, etc.).
So anyway, here are the National Board of Review’s picks for the year’s best actors and films. They won’t affect much of anything, except (hopefully) the movies you seek out.
Best Film: Manchester by the Sea
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Best Actress: Amy Adams, Arrival
Best Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Best Supporting Actress: Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, Silence
Best Animated Feature: Kubo and the Two Strings
Breakthrough Performance (Male): Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Breakthrough Performance (Female): Royalty Hightower, The Fits
Best Directorial Debut: Trey Edward Shults, Krisha
Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
Best Documentary: O.J.: Made in America
Best Ensemble: Hidden Figures
Spotlight Award: Creative Collaboration of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Cameraperson
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Land of Mine
Top 5 Documentaries
The Eagle Huntress
Miss Sharon Jones!
Top 10 Independent Films
20th Century Women
Eye in the Sky
Hello, My Name is Doris
Morris from America