Take it from me, Oscar watchers, the National Board of Review doesn’t mean THAT much. What it is good for is launching a film into the race by giving it a form of legitimacy. It’s kind of funny that this group would be in that position, but nonetheless, there they are. However, it’s a mistake to start saying things “so and so deserved it” or to take it as some bad omen that a few films were left off — or, and I hate to rain on folks’ parade, to put any stock into their winners. It is mostly bad news to win an NBR, for the most part, great for nominations, not so great for winners but for a few films or stars here or there who would have won anyway. The thing about the NBR is that they do come with their share of controversy.¬† I don’t think I’ve ever read a funnier description of them, though, than Roger Friedman’s, “a scandal-plagued freak show composed of wealthy fans and no actual reviewers, have issued their annual list.
For the most part, though, this isn’t really important for our purposes. Perception is everything, so the very name “National Board of Review” said aloud during a commercial or slapped up on an FYC ad does make a difference – it adds clout.
Not surprised that they didn’t include Precious. During our contest, when so many people were predicting it, I was thinking, no way. The NBR can best be classified as “pseudo intellectual.” Like the Globes, they tend to like more personal, intimate dramas, or mainstream hits. And they love them some Eastwood. That is a fact. What I was looking for with the NBRs was a general direction and we got mostly what we were expecting with the only real surprise being Where the Wild Things Are as one of the ten best. That is kind of a cool thing, too .
But when I hear people getting excited about these the same way they were excited about the Gothams you have to say, this early in the game, not so fast. Take it as one piece in a complex puzzle. We may be in another Slumdog year but I don’t think so. Best Actress, Best Actor, the supporting categories, the screenplay categories, foreign language and documentary are going to be kind of intense. We still don’t know what Avatar is going to do to the whole picture. Best Picture and Director are probably in the bag for Up in the Air but not necessarily. I’ve seen some last-minute hat tricks in the long decade I’ve been watching Oscar.
Friedman address the Precious issue (kind of interesting, this):
What‚Äôs most upsetting this year: the absence of Lee Daniels‚Äò ‚ÄúPrecious.‚Äù It‚Äôs not a total surprise. The NBR is not a multicultural organization. They completely ignored ‚ÄúDreamgirls‚Äù in 2006. Snubbing ‚ÄúPrecious‚Äù fits in with Schulhof‚Äôs track record perfectly. Let‚Äôs just say it: They do not like black movies, period. To make up for it, they threw Gabby Sidibe a bone with Breakthrough Performance. You know, this is what they did to Jennifer Hudson from ‚ÄúDreamgirls.‚Äù It‚Äôs pathetic. She wound up winning Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars.
But here‚Äôs the really weird thing: ‚ÄúPrecious‚Äù screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher used to be on the board of the NBR. He resigned last year. And when he did, sources say that Schulhof decided to ban him and the movie from competition. How utterly bizarre.
Even without this, Precious is just not their kind of movie, seriously, but Oscar will correct that mistake. I don’t think the choice of Clint Eastwood for Director was a bad one, however. I don’t know, almost 80 years old and turning out something as moving as Invictus? It isn’t the hippest choice probably but it is a film that is about something — as is Up in the Air and Precious.
The NBR went for Inglourious Basterds, however, which is a great first step for that film. And Where the Wild Things are is most definitely in play.