December 4, 2013

OSCARLAND: The National Board of Review Mixes Things Up


We noted yesterday that one of the useful things a pre-Oscars awards group can accomplish is mixing new titles and talent in with the conventional wisdom pool of front-runners, and the National Board of Review did that today.  A full list of its winners is here, but the headline is that the group (which isn’t made up of any critics you’ve heard of) gave its Best Picture and Best Director awards to Spike Jonze’s marvelous HER, which hasn’t been getting a lot of traction thus far.  NEBRASKA took a pair of acting awards, Best Actor for Bruce Dern and Best Supporting Actor for Will Forte, while Best Actress went to Emma Thompson for SAVING MR. BANKS and Best Supporting Actress to Octavia Spencer for FRUITVALE STATION.  (Michael B. Jordan also took the Breakthrough Performance award for the latter, and Ryan Coogler the prize for Debut Director.)  Although the female Breakthrough Performance award went to Adele Exarchopolous for BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, Foreign Film went to THE PAST.  Screenplay prizes went to INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (original) and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (adapted).

What does any of this mean?  Not a tremendous amount–as we said yesterday, critics awards are usually important only in consensus.  However, the wins are certainly a potential help to Her, a gentle gem in the middle of a lot of high-powered holiday awards engines.  Any momentum AMERICAN HUSTLE might have been building after yesterday’s NY Film Critics Circle awards has been interrupted.  On the acting side, Dern and Thompson were already pretty firmly fixed as likely nominees, so their wins just confirm their status, while Forte and Spencer, neither of them sure things, got a boost.  Perhaps Fruitvale Station‘s chances of being the year’s dark horse improved a bit, especially since The Weinstein Company’s big Oscar bet, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, has gone winless so far.  (Notably, neither Hustle nor Osage even found a spot in NBR’s Top 10 list.)  The most damaged, though, is 12 YEARS A SLAVE, the presumptive critical choice by acclamation this season, which has so far gone 0 for 3 on Best Picture and Actor awards and was blanked from the NBR’s prizes (it did find a place on the organization’s Top 10 list).  If Slave doesn’t build a major head of steam coming out of critics season, it’s going to have a very hard time at the Oscars, because with its tough content and indie-film personnel (producer Brad Pitt aside), it doesn’t figure to be a big choice of the Guilds, which make their selections in January.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."