The always unreliable National Board of Review announced their 2009 winners this year and as expected, caused quite a stir. The 110 member New York based organization named "Up in the Air" as Best Picture -- not surprising -- but let's take this all with a grain of salt. Over the past 20 years the NBR has predicted the Best Picture winner only 40% of the time. Since 2000? Just twice. On the other hand those two instances were in 2007 and 2008 when eventual Academy Award winners "No Country For Old Men" and "Slumdog Millionaire" received their top honor. Can they hit it out of the park three times in a row? We'll see.
More disturbing are a number of pictures who were completely shafted by the NBR. The shortlist includes The Weinstein Company's "Nine" (not one mention for all that talent? Ouch), Sony Pictures Classics "The Last Station" (not even in the indie list), DreamWorks/Paramount Pictures "The Lovely Bones" (not really their type of flick, but you thought Tucci could get some love), Fox Searchlight's "Crazy Heart" (not on the indie list either) and Tom Ford's "A Single Man" (a bit of a surprise). It's worth noting the absence of "Precious" from the top ten list and Mo'Nique loosing the Best Supporting Actress award has to be a bit disconcerting for Lionsgate. Still, again, this is the NBR. They're a relatively small group of cinefiles who somehow believe the cast of "It's Complicated" deserved the Best Ensemble award. 'Nuff said.
Just for kicks though, he's a rundown on this year's honorees who will be wined and dined at the 2010 NBR Gala on Jan. 12 in New York City.
Best Picture: "Up in the Air"
Top 10 Films:
"(500) Days of Summer"
"The Hurt Locker"
"A Serious Man"
"Where the Wild Things Are"
They really didn't like "Nine," "A Single Man" or "The Lovely Bones." Surprising "Precious" didn't make the list considering the award for Ms. Sibide. Don't get excited peeps, the chances of "Star Trek" making Oscar's ten are still very remote. They really liked "The Messenger," but it's hard to imagine it ever really being a player. "500 Days of Summer"? Let's just say it's definitely in the possible upset pool for a nomination.
Best Director: Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"
Lowdown: Unlikely he'll win Oscar.
Best Actor: George Clooney, "Up in the Air," and Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Lowdown: Hedging their bets over Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart."
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Lowdown: She's the frontrunner for Oscar as well.
Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Lowdown: This will be a nice boost for his chances at an Oscar nod for Supporting Actor.
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Lowdown: She could win, but a bit surprising they ignored Mo'Nique in "Precious" here.
Best Original Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, "A Serious Man"
Lowdown: Perfect for the membership.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"
Lowdown: A strong contender for Oscar.
Breakthrough Actor: Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"
Lowdown: Nice recognition part 1.
Breakthrough Actress: Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"
Lowdown: Nice recognition part 2, (at least they didn't totally hate "Precious.")
Best Foreign-Language Film: "A Prophet"
Lowdown: Couldn't agree more, let's hope it makes Oscar's foreign five.
Top Five Foreign-Language Films:
"Song of Sparrows"
"The White Ribbon"
Best Documentary: "The Cove"
Lowdown: A sentimental favorite among many, will Oscar feel the same?
Top Five Documentaries:
"The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"
Best Animated Film: "Up"
Best Ensemble Cast: "It's Complicated"
Lowdown: No other award speaks more about the makeup of the membership than this one. Ludicrous.
Best Directorial Debut: Duncan Jones, "Moon;" Oren Moverman, "The Messenger;" Marc Webb, "(500) Days of Summer"
Lowdown: Sad they couldn't pick one, but worthy group.
BVLGARI Award for Freedom of Expression: "Burma VJ," "Invictus"
Lowdown: Hard to disagree.
Top 10 Independent Films:
"In the Loop"
"Me and Orson Welles"
Lowdown: No "Sin Nombre"? Or "A Single Man"? Really?
What are your thoughts on this year's NBR selections?
For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory