If you thought "12 Years a Slave" had the Oscars under its thumb, you might want to think again. The National Board of Review, considered an early indicator in the road to the Academy Awards, just busted the race wide open.
In keeping with the road metaphor, the NBR took a serious left turn by naming Spike Jonze's "Her" the Best Film of 2013. The funky futuristic heartbreaker is about a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer operating system (voice of Scarlett Johansson). In a double thumbs-up, Jonze snagged Best Director, too. Color us surprised!
Announced out just one day after the New York Film Critics Circle hailed David O. Russell's "American Hustle" with its top prize along with screenplay and supporting actress props for Jennifer Lawrence, the NBR went a different route. "American Hustle," screened belatedly in the past week and a half, was completely shut-out here.
In notable departures from the NYFCC, septuagenarian Bruce Dern ("Nebraska") won Best Actor over sexy senior Robert Redford ("All Is Lost"). Clearly NBR had a soft spot for "Nebraska" — naming Will Forte Best Supporting Actor for his part opposite Dern.
As for the women beyond "Her," Emma Thompson solidified her spot as a Best Actress contender for "Saving Mr. Banks" and Octavia Spencer strengthened her Supporting Actress buzz over co-star Melonie Diaz for "Fruitvale Station."
"Fruitvale Station" got a lot of love beyond Spencer's win: Michael B. Jordan won Breakthrough Performance and director Ryan Coogler made the cut for Best Directorial Debut.
One thing NBR and NYFCC did agree on: the power of "Gravity" appears to be in free fall. Once considered an Oscar frontrunner, Alfonso Cuarón's space thrill ride starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney only managed NBR's booby prize of Creative Innovation in Filmmaking Award.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" again didn't take home any of the top-tier awards, perhaps hurting Martin Scorsese's Oscar chances, but the NBR did offer a Spotlight Award for the Career Collaboration of Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. It also recognized Terence Winter's adapted screenplay, along with Joel and Ethan Coen's original for "Inside Llewyn Davis."
Recognition for the hardest working cast of the awards season — Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Melissa Leo among them — netted a Best Ensemble for their dark kidnap thriller, "Prisoners."
If the NBR findings prove to be an accurate barometer many seemingly surefire Oscar contenders are in trouble: Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" got placed at the kiddie table in the Top Films section. "August: Osage County," with a stellar cast including Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, didn't even get a nibble.
It also appears that Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" may remain secret when it comes to awards hardware. Mark Wahlberg's latecomer "Lone Survivor," a tough war film set in Afghanistan, seems to be losing the battle for accolade attention. Both registered Top Film mentions, but none of the major prizes.
The National Board of Review will bestow their awards at a notoriously star-crammed event on Jan. 7 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. "Good Morning America" anchor Lara Spencer will host. Stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Jackman, and Jake Gyllenhaal can be expected to attend. But don't expect to see Jennifer Lawrence!
Below is the full list of winners:
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"
(in alphabetical order)
"12 Years a Slave"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"Saving Mr. Banks"
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"
Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
"Beyond the Hills"
Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)
"20 Feet From Stardom"
"The Act of Killing"
Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
"Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
"Dallas Buyers Club"
"In a World…"
"Mother of George"
"Much Ado About Nothing"
"The Place Beyond the Pines"
"Short Term 12"
"The Spectacular Now"
- Arts & Entertainment
- Spike Jonze
- Octavia Spencer
- Bruce Dern
- Lara Spencer
- Martin Scorsese
- Jennifer Lawrence
- Emma Thompson