Sunday, December 10, 2006

The National Board of Review ...

The first film group to release its 2006 winners, as has been tradition, is the National Board of Review. The NBR was founded in 1909 in New York City - not to honor the best and brightest of the film world, but rather to protest the mayor's decision to revoke the licenses of several cinemas for the sake of "the morals of community" or something like that. The awards-giving didn't start until 1929; today about 150 people, including some who aren't professional critics, make up their ranks.

National Board of Review (announced 12-06-2006)
Best Film: Letters from Iwo Jima
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Best Supporing Actress: Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner, The Painted Veil
Best Original Screenplay: Zack Helm, Stranger Than Fiction
Best Documentary: An Inconvenient Truth
Best Animated Feature: Cars
Best Acting by an Ensemble: The Departed
Best Breakthrough Performance, Male: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Best Breakthrough Performance, Female: (tie) Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls, Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Best Directorial Debut: Jason Reitman, Thank You for Smoking
Career Achievement Award: Eli Wallach
Billy Wilder Award for Excellence in Directing: Jonathan Demme
William K. Everson Award for Film History: Donald Krim
Career Achievement in Producing; Irwin Winkler
The Bvlgari Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: Water and World Trade Center

The NBR also likes lists - they have lists for the best films of the year and more:
Top Ten Films
Letters from Iwo Jima
and (in alphabetical order)
Blood Diamond
The Departed
The Devil Wears Prada
Flags of Our Fathers
The History Boys
Little Miss Sunshine
Notes on a Scandal
The Painted Veil

Top Five Foreign Films
and (in alphabetical order)
Curse of the Golden Flower
Days of Glory
Pan's Labyrinth

Top Five Documentaries
An Inconvenient Truth
and (in alphabetical order)
51 Birch Street
Iraq in Fragments
Shut Up & Sing

Top Independent Films
(in alphabetical order)
Akeelah and the Bee
Catch a Fire
Copying Beethoven
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Half Nelson
The Illusionist
Lonesome Jim
10 Items or Less
Thank You for Smoking

So what does this mean? Helen Mirren's superb performance as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen may be the one lock at this year's Academy Awards, and Forest Whitaker was also getting a lot of Oscar buzz from his work as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. The big surprise of the NBR, though, may have been Letters of Iwo Jima as best film. This was the film Clint Eastwood made right after he directed Flags of Our Fathers, which was the first movie he did about Iwo Jima - specifically, about the men who raised the U.S. flag in the iconic photo from that battle. Letters is the Iwo Jima story told from the point of view of the Japanese; it's not fair to call it an afterthought, but he did get the idea to do it while preparing to direct Flags. Its success at the NBR instantly elevates it into Oscar consideration and could create a not-unpleasant dilemma for Eastwood. After all, the only thing better than having one Oscar-worthy film is to have two in the same year.

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