The National Board of Review is an organization whose members are largely unknown (and the opinions of whom are of zero interest), with an existence that gets noticed on exactly one day of the year, like that one groundhog whose shadow is checked each February. (Put another way, it’s the Hollywood Foreign Press Association without a network contract.) Today the NBR announced its yearly awards, so the clock will soon be ticking on its 364-day hiberation.
For what it’s worth, NBR added to the early momentum of Zero Dark Thirty by awarding it Best Picture and giving Best Director to Kathryn Bigelow, adding to that a Best Actress award for Jessica Chastain, making Jennifer Lawrence 0 for 2. Silver Linings Playbook, however, wasn’t ignored, with a Best Actor nod to Bradley Cooper, and Best Adapted Screenplay to David O. Russell. Django Unchained's gift was Best Supporting Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio, and Argo essentially got a 2nd place trophy through an award to Ben Affleck for “Special Achievement in Filmmaking.” The one genuinely admirable award was Best Supporting Actress to Ann Dowd for Compliance, a very fine and little-seen film that could use all the attention it can get, while Rian Johnson won Best Original Screenplay for Looper, which may help it out in that race. Best Foreign Film went to Amour, Best Documentary to Searching for Sugar Man and Best Animated Film to Wreck-It-Ralph.
Hardly any contending films were entirely left out. A “Best Ensemble” prize went to Les Miserables , “Breakthrough” awards to Tom Holland for The Impossible and to Quvenzhane Wallis and Benh Zeitlin as star and director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and “Freedom of Expression” awards to Promised Lands and The Central Park Five.
But wait, you say–there are still some noteworthy films that haven’t gotten anything. Fear not! They’re mostly included in NBR’s Top 10 or 5 Lists (all in alphabetical order):
Do these awards have any value? Not really–there are tons still to come, almost all of them from more substantial sources. One can say that it helps Zero Dark Thirty to have a sense of critical consensus around it, that Bradley Cooper has a bit more credibility in the Actor race (although still very little chance of winning anything valuable) and that Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway are starting awards season much like the Lakers have been playing in theirs. But NBR will pass back into oblivion soon enough, and the Los Angeles Film Critics are due with their pronouncements over the weekend.