You can always count on the National Board of Review to get a little eclectic with their picks. They gave Spike Jonze’s Her a massive boost last year and now, may have done the same for J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year by naming it the year’s best film. Along with its Best Film prize, Chandor’s drama also picked up honors for Jessica Chastain as Best Supporting Actress and Oscar Isaac as Best Actor (in a tie with Michael Keaton for Birdman). I caught Chandor’s film at a press screening two weeks ago and it’s quite the slow-burn. Don’t confuse slow for dull as Chandor’s film—the story of an ambitious businessman and his family trying to stay afloat in the winter of 1981 as violence and corruption begins to envelope them—is a taut and controlled picture, engrossing from start to end. It’s a very fine, even inspiring choice for this award.
Other filmmakers who curried favor this year included perennial NBR favorite Clint Eastwood who was named Best Director for his work on the Chris Kyle biopic American Sniper. This is Eastwood’s fifth overall award from the group. He was previously singled out for Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino and Invictus, plus an honorary prize. Julianne Moore was named Best Actress for her turn as a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. Many are pegging Moore to win the Academy Award for her performance. I haven’t seen the film as yet so I can’t say whether they’re on the money or not. But considering Moore’s clout in the industry, and her “overdue” factor, I’d be surprised she didn’t win. Other acting awards went to Edward Norton as Best Supporting Actor for his scene-stealing turn as a pompous actor in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, Jack O’Connell as Breakthrough Performer for roles in Starred Up and Unbroken, and the cast of Fury for Best Ensemble. Wait… really? Fury for Best Ensemble? Moving on…
Paul Thomas Anderson won the Adapted Screenplay award for his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s pothead mystery Inherent Vice—a movie I can’t wait to see later this week—while The LEGO Movie won the Best Original Screenplay award for its joke-heavy satiric screenplay. Other winners included the stirring How to Train Your Dragon 2 as Best Animated Feature, Gillian Robespierre for Best Directorial Debut (Obvious Child), Argentina’s Wild Tales as Best Foreign Language Film, and Steve James’ moving Roger Ebert warts-and-all doc Life Itself as Best Documentary.
Oh, and the multi-talented Chris Rock, in the news today for his sharp and insightful comments on race relations in America, was singled out for the Spotlight Award for writing, directing and starring in Top Five.
Full list of winners, including the NBR’s list of Top 10 movies and independent features are noted below:
Best Film: A Most Violent Year
Best Director: Clint Eastwood (American Sniper)
Best Actor: (TIE) Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year) and Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Best Actress: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Best Supporting Actor: Edward Norton (Birdman)
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Inherent Vice
Best Original Screenplay: The LEGO Movie
Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Breakthrough Performance: Jack O’Connell (Starred Up and Unbroken)
Best Ensemble: Fury
Best Directorial Debut: Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child)
Best Foreign Language Film: Wild Tales
Best Documentary: Life Itself
William K. Everson Film History Award: Scott Eyman
Spotlight Award: Chris Rock for writing, directing and starring in Top Five
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Rosewater
Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!
Top 5 Documentaries
Art and Craft
Keep On Keepin’ On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam
Top 10 Independent Films
A Most Wanted Man
The Skeleton Twins
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Source: National Board of Review
To catch up on the 2014 Awards Season as it stands so far, click here.