This year, the National Board of Review has announced it will switch its nominations from November 30 to December 2, with the New York Film Critics ringing in a day later, December 3.
The NBR has a decent track record-setting the tone for the Oscar race and leans less in Film Twitter world than in Golden Globe/Oscar world, which is what makes them worthy of reporting on. Many who cover the Oscars don’t take them seriously but they have been around since the 1930s. Like the Globes, their stamp of approval means something. It means something to be able to declare, “National Board of Review winner.”
Many in my field see them the same way they see the HFPA (Golden Globes) as being cozy with the studios and doing favors in order to have high profile people at their show. Well, for starters, I would argue that most of the high profile awards like having high profile people at their show, up to and including the Oscars. But either way, it doesn’t matter because having a National Board of Review win on your FYC ad makes a lot more of an impact than a critics group from a specific city (unless it’s New York or LA).
Last year kind of doesn’t count across the board, so the fact that Da Five Bloods won the NBR doesn’t really mean much, since it did not get in for Best Picture. In general, their winners do make it in:
2019 — The Irishman
2018 — Green Book+
2017 — The Post
2016 — Manchester by the Sea
2015 — Mad Max: Fury Road
2014 — A Most Violent Year
2013 — Her
2012 — Zero Dark Thirty
2011 — Hugo
2010 — The Social Network
2009 — Up in the Air
2008 — Slumdog Millionaire+
2007 — No Country for Old Men+
2006 — Letters from Iwo Jima
2005 — Good Night, and Good Luck
They also offer up a “top ten films.” Last year, they matched 5 of the ultimate 8 that got into the Oscars.
2009 — 6/10
2010 — 7/10
2011 — 4/9
2012 — 7/9
2013 — 5/9
2014 — 4/8
2015 — 5/8
2016 — 7/9
2017 — 6/9 (The Shape of Water was not listed)
2018 — 4/8
2019 — 6/9 (Parasite won Best Foreign Language Film)
2020 — 5/9
With the sole exceptions of 2017 and 2019, in the era of the expanded ballot the ultimate Best Picture winner is named in the NBR’s top ten. They have interesting taste, which is sometimes off the beaten path of the usual awards game. Some years it runs very closely with them but other years they don’t. So predicting them is never easy.
I think that there are a handful of standout films that will likely hit with the NBR, like Belfast, The Power of the Dog, and King Richard. Beyond that, though, there are many different ways it could go. Some of the musicals might show up there, like Tick Tick Boom or Cyrano or even In the Heights. It might be a good time to see which of the Ridley Scott movies is liked better, The Last Duel or House of Gucci.
They will also be seeing West Side Story, Nightmare Alley, and Don’t Look Up — the last-minute entries that could be included.
A strong frontrunner that is going to sweep the season could show up here, like Renee Zellweger in 2019, along with Brad Pitt. Somehow Bradley Cooper won for directing A Star Is Born in 2018, and Lady Gaga won Best Actress. Sam Elliot won Supporting, so they clearly loved A Star Is Born, which definitely did give the movie a bit of a respectability boost early on.
They do tend to split Picture and Director, though every so often they match them. They also seem to go more for boosting a movie more on the sidelines than a major player, but that kind of thing is harder to predict.
Our contest follows below, here are our predictions.
West Side Story — Sasha Stone
Top Ten: Belfast, King Richard, The Power of the Dog, Cyrano, Respect, Don’t Look Up, Nightmare Alley, The Last Duel, Being the Ricardos, In the Heights
The Power of the Dog — Mark Johnson
Top Ten: Belfast, Cmon Cmon, CODA, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Mass, Spencer, tick, tick… Boom!, West Side Story
King Richard — Marshall Flores
Top Ten: Being the Ricardos, Belfast, Dune, The Last Duel, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, Red Rocket, The Tragedy of Macbeth, West Side Story
The Power of the Dog — Ryan Adams
Top Ten: Being the Ricardos, Belfast, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, Passing, Spencer, tick, tick… Boom!, West Side Story
Licorice Pizza — Clarence Moye
Top Ten: Being the Ricardos, Belfast, Cyrano, Dune, King Richard, The Last Duel, The Lost Daughter, Nightmare Alley, Passing, West Side Story
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog — Stone, Johnson, Flores, Adams, Moye
Bradley Cooper, Nightmare Alley — Stone
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog — Johnson, Adams
Will Smith, King Richard — Flores, Moye
Jennifer Hudson, Respect — Stone
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos — Flores, Moye
Kristen Stewart, Spencer — Johnson, Adams
Ben Affleck, The Last Duel — Flores
Jonah Hill, Don’t Look Up — Stone
Ciarán Hinds, Belfast — Johnson, Adams
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog — Moye
Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog — Stone, Flores
Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard — Johnson
Ruth Negga, Passing — Adams, Moye
Being the Ricardos — Flores, Adams
Belfast — Stone, Johnson, Moye
The Power of the Dog — Stone, Johnson, Flores, Adams, Moye
Thanks to Marshall for building the contest. Have a go!