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Make it a second film in as many days that I had pretty much figured out of the Academy's likely grasp that has been given a big boost on the precursor circuit. After the New York Film Critics Circle named David O. Russell's "American Hustle" the year's best film yesterday, the New York-based National Board of Review has chimed in today by naming Spiike Jonze's "Her" the top film of 2013. The group also gave Jonze the Best Director prize.
I figured "Her" as a favorite on the critics circuit as recently as Monday in an Oscar column that mostly figured Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" was set to be the dominant force in these precursor announcements. The usually more populist-leaning NBR going the way of Jonze and his film is slightly more surprising, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Los Angeles critics spring for the film in a big way on Sunday, either.
But for now, the film has to be taken pretty seriously in the Best Picture race for those of us (guilty) who weren't doing so, because the last NBR winner that failed to land a Best Picture nomination was "Quills" 13 years ago. Other winners that have missed a corresponding Best Picture nod at the Academy include "Gods and Monsters" and "Betrayal," but it's very, very rare. Warner Bros. must be doing cartwheels at the promise of landing two Best Picture spots.
Elsewhere the group passed acting honors to Bruce Dern and Will Forte for their work in "Nebraska," as well as Emma Thompson ("Saving Mr. Banks") and Octavia Spencer ("Fruitvale Station"). The notices are a nice boost for Forte and Spencer in particular, who could use a foothold like this.
"Inside Llewyn Davis" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" won screenplay honors, while "Fruitvale Station's" Michael B. Jordan and "Blue is the Warmest Color's" Adele Exarchopoulos received breakthrough acting awards. The only notice for Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" outside of the group's list of the best films of the year was a "Creative Innovation in Filmmaking" award, but as with "12 Years a Slave," the early precursors going in different directions only takes the heat and pressure off the Oscar player.
Check out their list of superlatives below.
Best Film: "Her"
Best Director: Spike Jonze, "Her"
Best Actor: Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
Best Actress: Emma Thompson, "Saving Mr. Banks"
Best Supporting Actor: Will Forte, "Nebraska"
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, "Fruitvale Station"
Best Original Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Best Animated Feature: "The Wind Rises"
Breakthrough Performance: Michael B. Jordan, "Fruitvale Station"
Breakthrough Performance: Adele Exarchopoulos, "Blue is the Warmest Color"
Best Directorial Debut: Ryan Coogler, "Fruitvale Station"
Best Foreign Language Film: "The Past"
Best Documentary: "Stories We Tell"
William K. Everson Film History Award: George Stevens, Jr.
Best Ensemble: "Prisoners"
Spotlight Award: Career Collaboration of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: "Wadjda"
Creative Innovation in Filmmaking Award: "Gravity"
Top Films (alphabetical)
"12 Years a Slave"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"Saving Mr. Banks"
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"
Top 5 Foreign Language Films (alphabetical)
"Beyond the Hills"
Top 5 Documentaries (alphabetical)
"20 Feet from Stardom"
"The Act of Killing"
Top 10 Independent Films (alphabetical)
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
"Dallas Buyers Club"
"In a World…"
"Mother of George"
"Much Ado About Nothing"
"The Place Beyond the Pines"
"Short Term 12"
"The Spectacular Now"
Everything: Academy Awards
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