The Race Continues: The National Board of Review Announces Its Picks for the Best of 2011

1 Dec

Well, the National Board of Review got into the game today  (Thursday, 12/01/11) with the announcement of its picks for the Best of 2011. Technically, the board actually predates the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the movie industry organization that hands out those golden Oscars every year. The New York based National Board of Review was founded in 1908 and has been in the business of recognizing film achievements since 1930. This year’s press release describes the board as, “A select group of knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students.”

Okay, here we go, but this is only a partial list:

  • Best Picture – Hugo
  • Best Actress – Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk about Kevin)
  • Best Actor – George Clooney (The Descendants)
  • Best Director – Martin Scorsese (Hug0)
  • Best Supporting Actress – Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Best Oirginal Screenplay  – Will Reiser (50/50)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, & Jim Rash (The Descendants)
  • Best Foreign Film – A Separation
  • Best Documentary – Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  • Best Animated Film – Rango
  • Best Debut Director – J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
  • Best Ensemble – The Help
  • Best Breakthrough Performance (TIE): Felicity Jones (Like Crazy); Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tatto
  • Spotlight Award – Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, and X-Men: First Class)
  • NBR Freedom of Expression – Pariah
  • Special Achievement in Filmmaking – The Harry Potter Franchise (“A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film”)

Martin Scorsese's Hugo reportedly pays tribute to such silent greats as Harold Lloyd and Georges Méliès.

Any suprises? Well, yes, I’m  a little surprised that the NBOR awarded top honors to Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a motion-capture fantasy that pays tribute to old fashioned movie magic. For those out-of-the-loop, motion-capture is the 21st century equivalent of rotoscoping, which basically uses live-action footage as the foundation upon which to create animation. Portions of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (1978) were created through rotoscoping as was a-ha’s video for ‘Take on Me” back in the ’80s; more recently, the character of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings was the product of motion-capture as was the entirety of 2004’s Polar Express.

Harold Lloyd in the classic Safety Last.

No surprise that George Clooney won for Best Actor. I like Clooney, a lot, actually, but I’m not 100% sold on The Descendants though I think it has some redeeming qualities. I’d rather not unpack all that at this date, so it won’t seem old hat by the time the Oscars roll around in February. In the meantime, I’m all about Tilda Swinton winning Best Actress for We Need to Talk about Kevin. Have I seen it? No, but I will as soon as it opens in Big D.  The movie finds Swinton as the mom of a young  man who goes on a killing rampage. Swinton has long been a favorite, what with stellar performances in the likes of Orlando (1993), The Deep End (2001), Broken Flowers (2005), and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (also 2005). She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Michael Clayton (starring George Clooney) just a few years ago, and she earned raves at Cannes this past May for We Need to Talk about Kevin though she lost the festival’s Best Actress prize to Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, which I saw recently and think of as an interesting failure. With that in mind, Swinton has my support at this point–but that could change.

Michael Fassbender in Shame: would you have sex with this man?

Clearly, the National Board of Review likes more films, more performances, than it has traditional awards, thus the special nods to the likes of  The Help, Pariah, Felicity Jones, Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbinder. The latter could turn out to be a dark horse candidate for the Best Actor Oscar due to his role as a sex addict in Shame. The thought of seeing Shame doesn’t really thrill me mainly because I’ve spent too much time in my life around addicts, including sex addicts, and I find them to not be good company nor the least bit fascinating; however, I pledge here and now to keep an open mind. Plus, I liked Fassbender in the most recent adaptation of Jane Eyre. His other new release,  A Dangerous Method, has him playing Carl Jung opposite Viggo Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud. Make no mistake, this actor is hot, hot, hot. Fassbender is reportedly the first name on the short list of actors in talks to replace Christian Bale in Daren Aronofsky’s upcoming picture. (Aronofsky directed last year’s Best Actress winner Natalie Portman in Black Swan.)

Btw, the National Board of Review has long announced its list of the year’s 10 best films. Here, in alphabetical order, are the remaining 9:

  1. The Artist
  2. The Descendants
  3. Drive
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  6. The Ides of March
  7. J. Edgar
  8. The Tree of Life
  9. War Horse

Thanks for your consideration…

The National Board of Review’s official site:


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