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The National Board of Review (NBR) is often considered the true kick-off of the awards season that leads us up to the Oscars. While other awards bodies and critics groups jostle and move their dates around to position themselves as the ‘tastemakers’ of the race, the NBR is the oldest and longest-running organization to give out film awards, even preceding the creation of the Academy Awards. They began in 1909 and consist not simply of film critics like other groups but also film historians, enthusiasts, academics and students.
In following and tracking the various and many awards bodies every Oscar season we try and find clues as to where they’ll go year to year. Everything from the timing of a film screening to proven biases of certain filmmakers or actors can often help guide us to predictions. The National Board of Review is a bit infamous for its affection of three things; Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, and Warner Bros. They have consistently rewarded those three with startling regularity, especially in years when no other awards body does. This year, we have two of those to consider – Clint Eastwood’s Sully (and its stars) and Warner Bros, which has Sully and Live by Night. Now, it’s not exactly a hard and fast rule to simply plug in Sully or Warner Bros this year for the sake of doing so but as you’ll see in my predictions, there are definitely areas where it could happen tomorrow.
I think the Best Film from NBR is most likely to come from one of three possibilities: La La Land, Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight. That isn’t to say that something like Hell or High Water won’t surprise. Since 2000, their Best Film winner has gone onto a Best Picture Oscar nomination or win in all years except two: 2000 (Quills) and 2014 (A Most Violent Year). That’s a really good track record. 2014 was a really exceptional year in that A Most Violent Year became the first NBR Best Film winner in over 60 years to not earn a single Oscar nomination. Quills, while it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, managed three nominations, including Best Actor for Geoffrey Rush.
The Best Supporting Actress category here saw quite a curse recently when four winners in a row, from 2011-2014, all failed to earn Oscar nominations after winning here. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) broke that curse last year. That being said, I’m going out on a limb just a bit and thinking the curse will return with a win for Molly Shannon in Other People. I’m also going to, in both Supporting categories, predict dual wins for both Laura Linney (Sully and Nocturnal Animals) and Aaron Eckhart (Sully and Bleed for This) as my alternates. Best Actress could see Amy Adams winning for a double citation (Arrival and Nocturnal Animals) but I feel pretty good about Natalie Portman in Jackie there, or recent NBR winner Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane. It seems odd that they would snub La La Land entirely for a singular win so I’m adding Emma Stone there.
In Best Film, I think the NBR will gravitate towards a top 10 (well, top 11, really) that mirrors Oscar quite a bit. It will give them a very diverse group that includes their favorites, Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros, the historical importance of Jackie and Loving, the meat and potatoes filmmaking of Hell or High Water, the cultural diversity of Fences and Moonlight, and of course, the current Oscar Best Picture frontrunner, La La Land. That could easily be their choice here. We know that Silence and Live by Night are the last two films being seen by all awards bodies and that could benefit either or both.
Here are my predictions for tomorrow’s National Board of Review awards with alternates.
Winner: Manchester by the Sea
Top Ten Films
01. Hell or High Water
03. La La Land
05. Live by Night
Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Feature
Alternate: The Red Turtle
Winner: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Alternate: Tom Hanks, Sully
Winner: Natalie Portman, Jackie
Alternate: Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane or Emma Stone, La La Land
Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Alternate: Aaron Eckhart, Sully and Bleed for This
Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Molly Shannon, Other People
Alternate: Laura Linney, Sully and Nocturnal Animals
Best Breakthrough Performance
Winner: Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Alternate: Ruth Negga, Loving
Best Ensemble Cast
Winner: Live by Night
Winner: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
Alternate: Ben Affleck, Live by Night
Best Directorial Debut
Winner: Garth Davis, Lion
Alternate: Chris Kelly, Other People
Best Original Screenplay
Winner: Manchester by the Sea
Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Love & Friendship