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“Zero Dark Thirty” Takes the National Board of Review

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

bradley_cooper_national_board_of_review

Two for two, and while the excitement is building, the tension is unfortunately fading fast. To be quite honest, I’m not sure if I can take another year of monogamous critical love for a single movie. Yes, it’s true, “The Social Network”‘s unstoppable sweep in 2010 was a memorable time in my life (though not every year does a film move and amaze me to the quite same extent), the same routine every year can make this whole thing we do a bit of a bore.

Nevertheless, it’d be unwise to start closing the book on this year’s Oscars. If you look at films like “Sideways,” “Brokeback Mountain” or “The Social Network,” every critics award in the book could prove useless come the big night. It ain’t over till it’s over.

Aside from the top honor, “Zero Dark Thirty” helmer Kathryn Bigelow grabbed her second Best Director award of the week. Jessica Chastain proved that she is a noticeable force in the film by taking down Best Actress. The rest of the awards actually displayed a nice sense of originality. Bradley Cooper managed to beat out the all-but-coronated Daniel Day Lewis in Best Actor. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio takes what will hopefully be his first of many Best Supporting Actor victories. Despite not yet seeing the film, I’m very much pulling for this to be his year. Rian Johnson took a surprise victory in Best Original Screenplay for “Looper,” while David O’Russell won for his adapted work in “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Ann_Dowd_Compliance

Without a doubt, the most interesting and inspired award of the night was Ann Dowd being named Best Supporting Actress for her brilliantly realistic portrayal in “Compliance.” Those that have seen the film (which isn’t many, admittedly) know that Ann absolutely owns the screen. You cannot take your eyes off of her and she’ll make you pay for it with plenty of memorable, yet absolutely cringe-inducing, scenes. I can only hope that awards like this might have chance of carrying her all the way, much like Jackie Weaver for “Animal Kingdom.”

The Top Ten List is much to be expected, with mentions for “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Les Miserables.” Chalk up another unbearably depressing day for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” The film that had supposedly championed critics has yet to win a single award on their behalf and missed out on even reaching the NBR’s top ten, while finding films like “Promised Land” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” in its place. It still has a chance to make a stand in Los Angeles this weekend, but if it fails to even show up there, it might be time to count it out of the Best Picture race, entirely. Disappointing, to say the least.

See the full list of winners after the jump and remember to keep checking back for further updates, opinions and analysis:

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And the Wheels Started Turning…

December 3, 2011 2 comments

Okay. Take a second. Deep breath…there we go. It’s been a bit of a big week with a lot to take in. However, this is just the opening salvo, and some much heavier ones are soon to come. However, in the last several days, we’ve had two extremely influential critics groups weigh in along with nominations announced by one of the more prestigious awards bodies in the country. So, while the jigsaw puzzle is far from complete, we’re getting a glimpse of the outline through the forming edges.

Let’s start with the antsiest of the lot, who just couldn’t wait their turn in line. The New York Film Critics Circle, being about as bigheaded as a group of big apple critics could be, pushed their awards announcement up by about two weeks. This was in an attempt to better influence the Oscars and separate themselves from the other critics. In case there was a critical darling such as “The Social Network” of yesteryear, they at least wanted to make it seem as though it were their idea. This has, honestly, put a rotten taste in the mouth of the whole awards season. The circle defied convention and tradition, forced movies to hurry their final touches in order to be screened in time, didn’t care to take a moment’s pause to reflect on their decisions and in the end made some really safe and traditional decisions from a group that usually champions the edgy and bold. I really must say…for shame.

For their high honors, the NYFCC went with “The Artist,” the silent film with a heart of gold. I definitely am looking forward to catching this one, though not quite as much as others. Director Michael Hazanavicius also took home high honors. By the time that Best Picture rolled in, I was hoping that “Moneyball” would pull through, after it had already won Best Actor for Brad Pitt and Best Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian. “Tree of Life” also had a pretty big day, winning Best Cinematography, sharing in Brad Pitt’s Best Actor award and Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain (who also won for “Take Shelter” and “The Help”).

The other two acting awards were picked up by Albert Brooks for “Drive” and Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady.” I’m straight-up not wild about Brooks who gives a couple of great scenes in only a good performance. Not worthy of any high accolades. As far as Meryl Streep is concerned, I’m on the fence. Whenever La Streep is once again up for her third Oscar, I just can’t decide whether I want it or not. As weird as it sounds, she is more due for an Oscar than practically any other actress, being that she is widely considered to be the greatest living performer and yet hasn’t won gold in nearly thirty years. However, when it comes to critics, Meryl is the safest choice that can be made. It’d be nicer to see some hutzpah with a choice like Tilda Swinton or Olivia Colman.

“The Descendants” turned out to be S.O.L., a surprise considering that Alexander Payne’s previous film, “Sideways,” swept this particular group, taking awards for Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay. George Clooney especially had a bad day, even missing out on a Best Actor nomination from the Spirits. However, he and the film lucked out that the National Board of Review voted differently, so much that it would seem they from a different planet (when really they’re centered out of the same city).

Here, Payne’s festival favorite came up big, taking down the awards for Best Actor (Clooney), Best Supporting Actress (Shailene Woodley) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Sadly, the prizes for Picture and Director went to “Hugo.” While it’s nice to see a wrench thrown in the works, this choice baffles me based on merit. Personally, the immensity of critical love for this film, in general, blows my mind. Pretty and heartwarming, but low on entertainment, conflict and drama. Christopher Plummer received Best Supporting Actor for his career-best performance in “Beginners,” hopefully asserting himself as the man to beat. And where NYFCC dropped the ball, the usually straight-as-an-arrow NBR chose the dicey performance of Tilda Swinton in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” for their Best Lead Actress. God, I can’t wait to see that film.

Quite strangely, the three big winners from the NYFCC went home almost completely empty-handed. “The Tree of Life” and “The Artist” only received spots on the NBR’s top ten, while “Moneyball” disturbingly did not even make that cut. However, they weren’t the unluckiest films of the day. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” failed to receive even a single nomination from anyone. If it continues to fly under the radar with critics, it will need a massive push from the guilds to stay alive.

Also, there’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” The big hit at Sundance failed to even make the NBR’s top ten independent films and received only a pair of acting nominations from the Independent Spirits, an organization many would have thought the film would have championed. It has a giant hole to climb out of if it wants to stay in any kind of Oscar contention. Personally, I’m not too bummed. A great concept that failed to achieve an emotional surge and tries so hard for subtlety, but often comes off as light-handed. I do hope that Elizabeth Olsen is able to pick up some steam for her deeply nuanced performance.

So, barring any surprise announcements from critics, we’re being given a bit of a lull for the next eight days. However, starting on Sunday, December 11th, it’s going to be difficult to find a busier week. Kicking off with honors from the Los Angeles and Boston Film Critics, we’ll then be receiving nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, the Broadcast Film Critics and Golden Globes, one day after another. Until then, I’ll be reporting anything I can and probably re-evaluating my current Oscar predictions. Stay tuned.

National Board of Review Crowns “Hugo”

December 1, 2011 Leave a comment

This is quite a disturbing bit of news this afternoon, at least in my mind. While I’m glad that “The Artist” didn’t take this down and assert itself not only as the critical darling of the year, but also the frontrunner for Best Picture. There’s just way too many more qualified films to give this to.

Plenty of other things to talk about here, including the disturbing snubbage in all categories of “Moneyball,” but I’ll get into all of that in an all-encompassing post of the entire week later.

Here’s the full list of winners, including their Top Ten Lists:

Best Picture: “Hugo”

Best Director: Martin Scorsese – “Hugo”

Best Actor: George Clooney – “The Descendants”

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”

Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley – “The Descendants”

Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser – “50/50”

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash – “The Descendants”

Best Animated Feature: “Rango”

Breakthrough Performance: Felicity Jones – “Like Crazy”

Breakthrough Performance: Rooney Mara – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Debut Director: J.C. Chandor – “Margin Call”

Best Ensemble: “The Help”

Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender (“A Dangerous Method,” “Jane Eyre,” “Shame,” “X-Men: First Class”)

NBR Freedom of Expression: “Crime After Crime”

NBR Freedom of Expression: “Pariah”

Best Foreign Language Film: “A Separation”

Best Documentary: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise – A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film

Top Films (in alphabetical order)
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Drive”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
“The Ides of March”
“J. Edgar”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)
“13 Assassins”
“Elite Squad: The Enemy Within”
“Footnote”
“Le Havre”
“Point Blank”

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order) 
“Born to be Wild”
“Buck”
“George Harrison: Living in the Material World”
“Project Nim”
“Senna”

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
“50/50”
“Another Earth”
“Beginners”
“A Better Life”
“Cedar Rapids”
“Margin Call”
“Shame”
“Take Shelter”
“We Need To Talk About Kevin”
“Win Win”

NYFCC Changes the Gameplan

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

This is the kind of news that means absolutely nothing to the average person who doesn’t understand the ins-and-outs of the Oscar race. However, for someone like me, and hopefully many of you, this is some exciting and somewhat outrageous news. The New York Film Critics Circle has been bumping up its awards announcement gradually over the last decade. The event used to not occur until late January, around the time the Oscar nominations were announced. Later, as critics began to take a more influential role in the race, they were bumped up to a mid-December date.

This year, however, the Circle is really going to shake things up by announcing their choices on November 29th, far before anyone else. For sure, this news is bound to ruffle the feathers of other organizations who will now be stuck next in line. In particular, the National Board of Review must be fuming out of their ears in response. Not only was the NBR the very first critics organization to come into existence (founded in New York in 1909 and presenting awards since 1930), but is also traditionally the first group to name the best of each year, usually in the first week of December. They wear that badge of honor like New Hampshire flaunts being the first presidential primary and I cannot believe that they’ll give it up that easily.

While not admitted, there is a clear reason for this shift in the NYFCC’s policy and it comes in the form of my (and many others’) choice for Best Picture last year: “The Social Network.” The groundbreaking film was a unanimously named darling by nearly every critics group in the entire country. Despite believing the obvious (that the film really is that good, which it is), some viewers and pundits lashed out at the critics by calling them sheep and questioning their singularity and individual distinction.

It’s because of this that New York has decided to separate itself from the pack. Now, in case there was any confusion, there is nothing that makes the NYFCC more prestigious or knowledgeable than any of the other major critics’ groups in the country such as Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco or Chicago. In the case that another film comes along and gains a monopoly on the cinema press, New York will probably be on board. It will just appear that they came up with the idea first. So there’s a chance that their egos might be a little fatter than the rest of the country’s.

Stay tuned for more news at The Edge of the Frame as the awards race begins to rear its head.

National Board of Review Announces Winners!

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

AND SO IT BEGINS…….

Best Film: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Best Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Best Foreign Language Film: Of Gods and Men
Best Documentary: Waiting for “Superman”
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Ensemble Cast: The Town
Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Debut Directors: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, Restrepo
Spotlight Award: Sylvain Chomet and Jacques Tati, The Illusionist
Best Original Screenplay: Chris Sparling, Buried
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: Sofia Coppola for writing, directing, and producing Somewhere
William K. Everson Film History Award: Leonard Maltin

NBR Freedom of Expression: Fair Game, Conviction, Howl
Production Design Award: Dante Ferretti, Shutter Island

Ten Best Films
(in alphabetical order)
Another Year
The Fighter
Hereafter
Inception
The King’s Speech
Shutter Island
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Five Best Foreign-Language Films
(in alphabetical order)
I Am Love
Incendies
Life, Above All
Soul Kitchen
White Material

Five Best Documentaries
(in alphabetical order)
A Film Unfinished
Inside Job
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Restrepo
The Tillman Story

My comments on these wins to come later this evening. But I believe the mood summed up here at Camp Social Network would be…well…..yippee.