2014 Gala to be held on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 hosted by Lara Spencer 


New York, NY – (December 2, 2014) – The National Board of Review has named A MOST VIOLENT YEARthe 2014 Best Film of the Year.

Below is a full list of the awards given by the National Board of Review:

Best Film:  A Most Violent Year
Best Director:  Clint Eastwood – American Sniper
Best Actor (TIE):  Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year; 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 Original Screenplay:  Phil Lord & Christopher Miller – The Lego Movie
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
Best Animated Feature:  How to Train Your Dragon 2
Breakthrough Performance:  Jack O’Connell – Starred Up & Unbroken
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
Best Ensemble:  Fury
Spotlight Award:  Chris Rock for writing, directing, and starring in – Top Five
NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  Rosewater
NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  Selma

Top Films

American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Lego Movie

Top 5 Foreign Language Films

Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!

 Top 5 Documentaries

Art and Craft
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Keep On Keepin’ On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam

Top 10 Independent Films

Blue Ruin
A Most Wanted Man
Mr. Turner
Obvious Child
The Skeleton Twins
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Starred Up
Still Alice


The National Board of Review, which traditionally announced first during awards season now announces a day after the New York Film Critics. They have impact because they announce so early. Any bit of prestige early on always helps a contender get recognition. Most people “out there” and in fact, many industry voters, don’t really care whether the NYFCC are “real critics” and the NBR aren’t – they are both considered major critics awards, sorry NYFCC. The day the New York Film Critics pick a film like the Babadook for Best Picture – one that isn’t even eligible for the Oscars? They can say they cut the cord to the awards season for good. But for now, they are right in line with awards season groupthink.

The NBR has less of an Oscartastic track record and often thinks just a little bit outside the box. Last year, they picked Spike Jonze’s Her for Best Picture of the year. They then get ten more choices to name for Best Film of the year, though their picks can sometimes we kind of weird, like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last year. My predictions for their their top choice, as follows:

Best Picture of the Year: Unbroken
And the top ten of the year:
American Sniper
Gone Girl
Into the Woods
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
A Most Violent Year

Please enter our contest and post your predictions in the comments. They will be announcing on Tuesday morning.


What really matters, as far as critics are concerned, these four groups, New York, LA, and the NBR (we’ll deal with the Golden Globes in a separate post). They matter for various reasons. First, why do any awards matter at all, from critics, to industry, to Oscar? They matter to studios for two reasons, leaving off gratification of earned career high. 1) they lend prestige, and 2) they can make the difference between someone deciding to buy a ticket or not.  The Oscar brand is, right now, the most expensive of these because it’s by far the most valuable. This is why the Academy works so hard not to dilute that brand, especially where Best Picture is concerned.

In order to address the changing face of the film industry they could, for example, have a separate category for Best Effects Driven Film. But that almost always leads to diluting the brand. Look at the Broadcast Film Critics that birthed so many new categories (to ensure more stars attended their shows and perhaps to make it easier to pick winners across the board). Is anyone going to care if a film wins Best Action Movie by the BFCA? Similarly, who is going to care if a film wins Best Effects Driven Picture? One award, Best Picture, means everything.

The first Academy Awards in 1928 had a marvelous division of “best production overall” and “artistic achievement.” That is how Sunrise and Wings both won. What a marvelous idea that is. It addresses the continual conflict between popular entertainment/money makers and artistic daring. For instance, this year, you could give Best Production to, say, Interstellar and artistic achievement to Boyhood.  But that isn’t happening any time soon, so we have to deal with what is, not what should be.

December 1st is fast approaching. The New York Film Critics deliberately pushed their awards back to be “first” in the awards race and indeed, they have taken back power from the National Board of Review in a rushed season. Before Oscar pushed their own date back a month, the National Board of Review came out so early, too early. They could push a film into the race but they were considered too early to matter.  Later, the New York and Los Angeles Critics would take center stage and really drive the race (most of the time).  But the date change smushed everything together, so that Telluride became the most important film festival (over Toronto, for instance) and the NBR had the cat bird’s seat with early critics awards. The New York Film Critics then pushed their own date back to be first. And so it goes.

Los Angeles doesn’t seem to care to be first but they like to be different, especially these days. They seem to want to vote against what New York and the Oscar pundits have decided. In other words, they don’t feel like wasting their time merely confirming what everyone else has to say. Rather, they seem eager to be different, more challenging, to go against the grain a bit.  One of the strange side effects from an abundance of supply without corresponding demand is that writers, bloggers, critics and journalists are desperate for any sort of drama in the race and often concoct their own to keep things humming along.

The National Board of Review names a Best Picture and ten more best films. The Best Picture matters, and it’s nice to see some titles on their top ten, but their top ten matters less than, say, the AFI’s top ten. Their Best Picture DOES matter, it seems.  The New York and LA Film critics also have power to influence the acting and directing categories, perhaps more than any other group in the early part of the race.  Which director is named best by New York and LA really does count for something.

These announcements will come just before the DGA, PGA, SAG and Oscar voters fill out their nominees. Human nature dictates that most of us, except the most confident and assured among us, don’t know what is really the best, or what is thought of as the best. We like what we like but we also like to get along with our fellow humans. While some of us delight in being “different,” generally speaking human beings are inclined towards harmonious agreement, a sense of belonging to something. This is often how consensus votes are formed: what unites, rather than divides, voters?

So when the early awards come down, many humans feel inclined to agree, in order to get along and find harmonious sense of belonging. This consensus builds and becomes hard to shake.  That was why 2010 was so odd, with the entire film critic community backing the Social Network while the industry rejected it outright — they didn’t want t belong to a group that admired such cold and calculating characters. They’d much rather belong to the group that admired a sweet, cuddly, stuttering King with his cute little family and a while bunch of cute British people uniting against Hitler.  It remains the most interesting Best Picture race that I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of the year 2000, when Gladiator, Traffic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were headed for the big prize.  There was division in the ranks for various reasons, most of them good.

When you think about what New York is going to do, you have to think: big statement. The past two years they’ve picked movies most people hadn’t seen. How dramatic that they named American Hustle Best Picture when everyone already knew that the two movies that could win were either Gravity or 12 Years a Slave (both films divided the consensus, uniting them over separate issues and objectives).  That prize launched American Hustle squarely in the race at a time when no one knew if the movie would land or not. When I saw it at a SAG screening I thought it went down badly. I thought: what a sloppy mess of a movie – while “fun” and entertaining, it is not going to have a shot against the other two films. Boy was I wrong. All it took was the anointing of “best” from the New York Film Critics OVER Gravity and 12 Years a Slave for that movie to suddenly become a powerful player. The Emperor’s New Clothes look mighty pretty today.  But here’s the question, did those critics really think American Hustle was better than Gravity or 12 Years a Slave, two films they reviewed as best of the year? Or did they merely want to stand out in a season that stuffs the turkey to the point of bursting?

12 Years a Slave Metacritic rating: 97
Gravity’s Metacritic rating: 96
American Hustle’s Metacritic rating: 90

90 is still very respectable. To me, that movie is about a 70, or a 75 to be charitable. But that just shows how little I know about what critics like.

Did they think it was best or did they want to stand out? Hard to say.  The National Board of Review then named Her Best Picture. They like to pick movies that no one else has chosen, thus making sure they also stand apart. That film was launched into the race in a big way.

Los Angeles then went for a tie between Gravity and Her, eliminating any big city critic’s approval of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. The film had been declared the Best Picture winner by Kyle Buchanan early in the race, which put a giant target on its back. Though it won, it was touch and go for a while there, with even the BAFTA awarding it their top prize but not screenplay, actor, etc.


In predicting these major awards, one has to factor in the desire to be different, not just from other critics but from what the predicted Oscar winner.  That’s a tough one. In the old days, before the awards-as-overstuffed-turkey days, they would merely pick “best” of the year.

They sometimes unite, as they did in 2012 with Zero Dark Thirty. Named “best picture and director” early, by the New York Film Critics, the film went on to be named best by the National Board of Review. But remember, the Los Angeles Film Critics mostly like to set themselves apart, so they went with Amour instead, which likely pushed Amour into the race, which also then gave Michael Haneke a Best Director nod instead of Kathryn Bigelow. It wouldn’t matter in the end because people like Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan would help lead a charge that demolished Zero Dark Thirty’s chances and pit film critics against political journalists until the movie was destroyed, perception wise. I remember one Los Angeles Film Critic member saying on Twitter, “we’re not going to vote for Zero Dark Thirty, I can tell you that.”  It wasn’t because they thought the film celebrated torture or admitted Americans got information from torturing (that is exactly what the movie says and exactly what really happened) but because the movie was winning everything and LA likes to stand apart.

The last time they were united in holy matrimony was – say it with me now:

2010 – The Social Network

But let’s do a quick chart of the last ten years since the date for Oscar changed to see how the three groups align for Best Picture:


Two things should be immediately apparent. 1) The Social Network is the only film in the last ten years to win all three critics groups, and the only film in their entire history to win all three groups and not win Best Picture other than LA Confidential (if you factor in the Golden Globes for Best Film Social Network is the only one to manage that).


2) since the Academy expanded their Best Picture category from 5 to 10, and then from 10 to a number between 5 and 10, all of their winners have gone on to be nominees.

Now, let’s get on to predictions.  We’ll be putting up our contest in the coming days but let’s start with a preliminary cheat sheet.

New York Film Critics
Top choices: Birdman, Boyhood or Foxcatcher
Would drastically change the race: Unbroken
Would really shift things: Selma

Los Angeles Film Critics
Top choices: Birdman, Boyhood or Foxcatcher
Depending on what New York decides, but we’re probably still looking at these.
The Scott Feinberg/Jeff Wells dream come true: CitizenFour
Big shocker that would change the race: A Most Violent Year

National Board of Review
Top choices: American Sniper, Selma, Unbroken
But would not surprise me if: Birdman, Boyhood or Foxcatcher

As you can see by the chart, it’s extremely rare to have the critics determine WHAT WILL WIN Best Picture but they are crucial in deciding which films start the proper race on top.  They generally pick films that are well reviewed, so you have to start there. So many films this year are surprisingly not that well reviewed as you’d think but Boyhood, Birdman and Foxcatcher seem to be the critics’ darlings thus far.

Unbroken is really the big question mark – if the New York Film Critics wanted to pull a third rabbit out of their hat they might pick that movie, which would then give the pundits further ammo to keep predicting a film they haven’t seen to win.  That still doesn’t mean it wins Best Picture at the Oscars, but it would sure help.

What they probably will shy away from overall? Gone Girl (except maybe the NBR that might name it as one of their top ten).  It earned mixed reviews from the critics and after the Social Network he’ll have to make a movie critics, not the ticket buying public, approve of.  If it were me voting, it would be a toss up between the films I think are the best of the year: Gone Girl, Selma, Boyhood, Inherent Vice.

How about you? How do you think they’re going to go?



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

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The New York Film Critics pushed back their dates (now voting December 3) so that they could announce before the National Board of Review (December 4). They did it to be out front of awards season and to be the first “important” voice of the season. Or perhaps they did it to dampen the impact of the National Board of Review. Both have been around a very long time but the date change is a fairly recent development, borne out of awards season hysteria where every city with a population of more than 500 has a critics group that votes on awards. At some point you just tune it out because it hardly feels like it matters anymore who wins what where. What you look at is the consensus building around certain films.  It is also pointless to say the NYFCC are more prestigious than the NBR. As you’ll see from the chart at the end of this article, it really makes no never mind who they are. Their choices are not that different.  Perception and positioning is what matters. Very few films that won either the NBR or the NYFCC did not go on to win Best Picture.

The New York Film Critics want to be first — but they will pay a price for that. Yes, they will be out front. There is a good chance their choice for Best Picture will go on to be nominated for Best Picture.  This year, they will likely miss seeing The Wolf of Wall Street and perhaps American Hustle. Maybe they will be screened in time, maybe they won’t.  But either way, it is not supposed to be their jobs to influence the awards race. They are supposed to carefully consider the films of a given year and decide which film deserves to be called best. Therefore, their choice to push back their date threatens their whole purpose of existing in the first place.

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Probably the biggest mistakes I saw being made yesterday, whether on a blog or on Twitter, were observers who read too much into the National Board of Review’s choices and omissions. The National Board of Review are a great group to push through either obscure and/or borderline contenders. Because they’ve been around so long they have an air of importance about them but no one really knows who they are and, since a lot of students vote on the award, it skews younger. This is, perhaps, why they have a pretty good track record pushing through nominees but not so much when it comes to matching the Academy’s tastes.

The New York Film Critics, on the other hand, skew older. To become a critic writing in New York one assumes you have some credentials under your belt. You are ostensibly a published writer and you’ve likely finished college and long since been there, done that. That makes the New York critics’ tastes, to my mind, somewhat more akin to Oscar voters. The Los Angeles critics are a more rowdy, rebellious bunch. To date, they haven’t ever awarded the Coen brothers Best Picture. One of their members, Glenn Whipp, pointed this out to me the other day. It almost invalidates them completely, doesn’t it?

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The National Board of Review winners

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, ZERO DARK THIRTY
Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, DJANGO UNCHAINED
Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, COMPLIANCE
Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, LOOPER
Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Best Animated Feature: WRECK-IT RALPH
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, ARGO
Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, THE IMPOSSIBLE
Breakthrough Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis,  BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Best Directorial Debut: Benh Zeitlin, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Best Foreign Language Film:  AMOUR
William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 YEARS OF BOND FILMS
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: CENTRAL PARK FIVE
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: PROMISED LAND

Top 10 Films and other lists after the cut.

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Enter our Contest!

The National Board of Review announces Wednesday.  While most people go on and on about how they don’t matter, the truth is that yes, they DO matter.  Any major awards precursor matters because they give a contender publicity and legitimacy, no matter who they are.   The National Board of Review really pushed Hugo into the race last year and set The Social Network up for its sweep of the critics awards.  To date, it’s the only film that ever won Film, Director and Screenplay; usually they split up the awards. Will NBR recognize a woman with their best director award for the first time in their 77 year history, or give Spielberg his first win there since Empire of the Sun. Will DDL also finally win Best Actor there?

According to our Oscar wonk, Marshall Flores:

Historically, NBR Best Film winners have an average total haul of two wins, and it’s more likely that the best film winner takes an acting award with it instead of director or screenplay; unlike LAFCA or NYFCC, where pic and director match more than half the time (56% at NYFCC, 60% at LAFCA), pic and director/screenplay match only 33% of the time at the NBR, so splits are more common here. Also worth noting: No Country for Old Men is the only film in NBR history to win both Best Film and Best Ensemble, while The Social Network is the only film to have won Film, Director, and a screenplay award.

Finally, it is uncommon (though not rare) for both the NBR and the NYFCC to select the same Best Film winner – this has occurred 25% of the time in the past 67 years (although this match frequency is twice as high compared to NBR and LAFCA). Eleven of the 17 films NBR and NYFCC both agreed on for Best Film did go on to win the Best Picture Oscar; however, the last time this occurred was back in 1993 with Schindler’s List. Take from these stats and trends what you will.

You got that last part? When they DO match, that movie, unless it’s something brave and exceptional like LA Confidential or The Social Network it goes on to win Best Picture. If Zero Dark Thirty wins the NBR and Los Angeles, we now know it could still not win Best Picture, as The Social Network proved. To win the Oscar you have to win the guild awards, specifically the DGA (not always, but it helps).

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Indiewire reports that the NBR will take place December 5, 2012, two days after the New York Film Critics and three days after their announcing date last year. What is the significance of this? There isn’t one except that the NYFCC will be the ones with their asses hanging out first. That’s a good thing for them, as Glenn Whipp reported earlier, “An NYFCC press release notes that the group’s awards are often viewed as harbingers of the Oscar nominations’. The circle’s awards are ‘also viewed — perhaps more accurately — as a principled alternative to the Oscars, honoring aesthetic merit in a forum that is immune to commercial and political pressures.”

Whipp then adds, “It’s curious that the author of the press release somehow fails to grasp that if you view yourself as a sort of (ahem) “principled alternative to the Oscars,” you probably shouldn’t mention the Oscars at all in your press release, much less tout your prizes as a precursor to those very same awards.”

December 3, 2012 – NYFCC
December 5, 2012 – NBR
December 7 – LAFCA (LA Film Critics)



2011 Gala to be held on
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
hosted by Natalie Morales

New York, NY – (December 1, 2011) – The National Board of Review has named HUGO the 2011 Best Film of the Year.  Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film was released on November 23rd by Paramount Pictures.
Below is a full list of the awards given by the National Board of Review:
Best Film: 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
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
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
Tree of Life
War Horse

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Tomorrow, the National Board of Review announces its top ten.  Although the New York Film Critics stole their thunder, and many of my colleagues write them off as being irrelevant, it’s hard not to notice their track record.  They’ve been awarding films headed for Best Picture for many a decade.  It’s extremely rare to win the NBR and not at least be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The same can’t be said for either the NYFCC or LAFCA.  Like them or not, they are one of the most powerful predictors of the Oscars.

Last year, when the Social Network swept the awards, it became the first time one film won as many NBR awards but didn’t go on to win the Best Picture Oscar.  Let’s not rehash it.

They seem to love Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg.  This is why I think War Horse will win the National Board of Review tomorrow and Steven Spielberg Best Director, launching it into the race, if it wasn’t in the race already.  The only other film I think might win would be The Artist.  The Descendants has a chance too. Anything else winning would be a surprise.

My No Guts, No Glory pick for Best Picture at the NBR is Moneyball, which has virtually no shot.

For BEST ACTOR I think it will be either Brad Pitt for Moneyball or George Clooney for The Descendants.  BEST ACTRESS I think is either going to be Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady or Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn.  SUPPORTING ACTRESS I think will be Jessica Chastain again, and Supporting Actor I will guess Albert Brooks again.

If you’d like to enter our contest predicting the NBR you may do so HERE. If you already entered in the previous contest, you don’t have to do it twice.  CLICK HERE

My top ten predictions and the films that have been nominated for the National Board of Review after the cut.

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The high scorers, getting 14 right:

Anessa Barbosa USA
Jeremy Brown USA
Andrew Rosenthal United States of America
Olivier D’Amour Canada
Billy (wegoldberg) USA

More winners after the cut.

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Yesterday’s announcement, that The Social Network won an unprecedented number of National Board of Review awards – Pic, Actor, Director and Screenplay is unusual indeed. You have to go all the way back to Sense and Sensibility, Howards End, The Silence of the Lambs and Mississippi Burning to find to a similar sweep, but no screenplay awards were given out (although in 95 there was a “screenwriting distinction” award which did not go to Sense and Sensibility). Of those three examples, only Silence of the Lambs won the Best Picture Oscar. It, like The Social Network, is a crowdpleaser. It, like The Social Network, was being discussed as “not an Oscar movie” at the time.

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