To my mind, though a few other groups have announced their nominations before today, the NBR is the first big stop in the Oscar race. Traditionally, they, like the Globes come very early in the season — almost too early to consistently match with the Oscars — but they have had enormous impact on shaping the direction of the race going all the way back to their beginning, in the 1930s and certainly for the past 20 years that I’ve been watching the race.
That’s why I always anticipate seeing which films and performances they choose and why. Of their top ten films of the year, on average, about 6 or 7 usually make it into Oscar’s Best Picture category. Give or take.
Here is our friend Chris on Twitter doing the stats on that:
2018 – 4/8
2017 – 6/9
2016 – 7/9
2015 – 5/8
2014 – 4/8
2013 – 5/9
2012 – 7/9
2011 – 5/9
2010 – 7/10
2009 – 6/10
On the high end it’s 7. On the low end it’s 4. Hard to say what will happen a month from now, since this year is very strange for the reasons we’ve already mentioned — the condensed dates, the Netflix factor, the popular film factor, etc.
The only film that has matched with NBR for wins since 2009 is last year’s Green Book. In the past 20 years, No Country for Old Men and Slumdog Millionaire also matched both, but it’s rare. It’s more likely what wins the NBR is a nominee that doesn’t win Best Picture.
Here are some random observations — some gleaned from Twitter conversations, so credit where credit is due.
Renee Zellweger has now won the NBR and the British Independent Film Award and the Atlanta Film Critics, three in a row, making her the clear frontrunner.
Brad Pitt takes the spot as frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood which voters clearly liked enough to give Quentin Tarantino Best Director. And Kathy Bates, along with Paul Walter Hauser as a breakthrough performance, elevate Richard Jewell significantly. It is an actor’s movie, without a doubt, and I would don’t be surprised to see it rise.
Adam Sandler winning for Best Actor upends the race as far as it’s been written so far, and it could be down to Joaquin Phoenix vs. Adam Sandler – two transformative performances by well-known actors. It seems pretty certain Sandler will get in.
Sandler and Uncut Gems is a film and a performance I have greatly underestimated. Not just with this mention, but it appears to have much broader appeal, especially as NBR has now honored it for Original Screenplay in a very competitive category. It beat Ford v Ferrari, Dolemite Is My Name, 1917 and Knives Out, not to mention Marriage Story. So that’s a pretty big get, I’d say. It is worth mentioning that there is consistent crossover for this win at the Oscars. Since they started handing out this particular award, in 2003, three times that winner has gone on to win, and five times to be nominated. So all in all, that’s 8 nominations out of 17 years. That’s a 50/50 shot.
Adapted Screenplay went to The Irishman, which also won Picture. In the Adapted category, 5 times since 2003 has the NBR winner gone on to win in Adapted at the Oscars, and 8 nominations, for a total of 14 nominations out of 17 years. Adapted is traditionally where we find the Best Picture heat, so that makes sense. I would put the brilliantly written Zaillian script high on my list, that’s for sure. Competition at the moment includes Jojo Rabbit, Richard Jewell, Little Women, etc.
Remember, the film that ultimately wins Best Picture will need a screenplay nomination at the very least and preferably a screenplay win. We divide the NBR’s list this way:
Dolemite is My Name
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
As you can see, the race has been tipped of late to the Original Screenplay category. I don’t know how it will go but for my money we’re looking at Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917, Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari and Marriage Story for original. Thing is, Knives Out is a major threat, as is Uncut Gems. It will come down to what film voters like overall as opposed to the script on its own.
Overall, it’s an interesting start to the race, and one that I find promising. We’re about to head into the critics phase — the National Board of Review isn’t exactly in the critics bubble — despite having review in their name, NBR judges are largely “filmmakers, academics, and film enthusiasts” — which tends to put them on par with the Golden Globes in terms of being a hybrid between film critics and popular choices.
New York, Los Angeles, and other groups upcoming will likely make more esoteric selections on down the line.
Next up, New York Film Critics Circle tomorrow. I’ll be doing a preview later today.