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National Board of Review goes crazy for Clooney and Clint again ... Will disaster follow at the Oscars?

December 3, 2009 |  2:57 pm

The National Board of Review continued its love affair with George Clooney and Clint Eastwood when unveiling award winners today.

National Board of Review: Up in the Air

Clooney's "Up in the Air" reaped prizes for best picture, lead actor (Clooney), supporting actress (Anna Kendrick) and adapted screenplay (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner). Its helmer, Reitman, was cheated out of the director's award by NBR fave Clint Eastwood ("Invictus"). "Invictus" star Morgan Freeman tied Clooney for the lead actor's laurels.

Two years ago Clooney won best actor for "Michael Clayton." His "Good Night, and Good Luck" was voted best picture of 2005. Clint's "Letters From Iwo Jima" won best picture of 2006 and "Mystic River" best flick of 2003. Last year he won best actor for "Gran Torino." None of those wins repeated at the Oscars. Eastwood wasn't even nominated by academy members for his performance in "Gran Torino.".

The biggest NBR snub today was the omission of "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" from the NBR list of top 10 films. Just like "Up in the Air," it's considered to be a best-picture front-runner at the Oscars, but just because it got skunked by NBR doesn't necessarily spell doom at the Academy Awards. In 2003, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" failed to make the list too, then went on to sweep the Oscars, tying the record for most victories previously set by "Titanic" and "Ben-Hur." NBR voters did see "Lord of the Rings" — they gave it an ensemble award. In 2001, they snubbed "A Beautiful Mind" completely. In some other years when the eventual Oscar best-picture winner failed to make the NBR list, NBR voters didn't see the films, being too eager to be the first award of derby season in early December before the films opened.

Precious; National Board of Review

That situation could repeat this year if "Avatar" wins best picture at the Oscars. "Avatar" is the only major film that NBR voters didn't see before casting ballots. They did view "Nine" and "The Lovely Bones" and snubbed both, but that wasn't a surprise considering the split reactions those films are getting at early industry screenings. Both could still end up being nominated at the Oscars, especially because the best-picture race will consist of 10 slots this year. In recent years, when there were only five contenders, Oscar best-picture nominees "The Reader," "There Will Be Blood" and "The Queen" failed to make the NBR top 10 lists.

NBR's best-actress champ of last year, Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"), did make the Oscar list on nominees just like NBR's lead-acting winners of the previous year, Clooney ("Michael Clayton") and Julie Christie ("Away From Her"). All lost at the Oscars.

Most of NBR's lead-acting champs of 2005 and 2006 did well at the Oscars: Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland"), Helen Mirren ("The Queen") and Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote"). NBR victor Felicity Huffman ("Transamerica") got nominated by the academy, but lost to Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line") on Oscar night.

In recent years, NBR foretold the best-picture winner at the Oscars twice: "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "No Country for Old Men" (2007). Earlier, the last agreement occurred in 1999 ("American Beauty").

Comparisons between Oscars and NBR aren't too relevant before 2005 because a power coup caused a toppling of old leaders of the Exceptional Photoplay Committee around then. Committee members decide award winners along with fractional input from the general membership. Current voters clearly have a strong bias toward Clooney and Clint that may or may not be shared by Oscar voters this derby season. Hmmm, should Clooney and Clint actually be worried about being hailed again by NBR?

The NBR winners:

BEST FILM: "Up in the Air"

TEN BEST FILMS
(Alphabetical order)
"An Education"
"(500) Days of Summer"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Invictus"
"The Messenger"
"A Serious Man"
"Star Trek"
"Up"
"Where the Wild Things Are"

BEST DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"

BEST ACTOR (tie): George Clooney, "Up in the Air"; Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"

BEST ACTRESS: Carey Mulligan, "An Education"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: "A Prophet"

BEST DOCUMENTARY: "The Cove"

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: "Up"

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST: "It's Complicated"

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR: Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS: Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"

SPOTLIGHT AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTORIAL DEBUT: Duncan Jones, "Moon"; Oren Moverman, "The Messenger"; Marc Webb, "(500) Days of Summer"

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Joel and Ethan Coen, "A Serious Man"

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"

SPECIAL FILMMAKING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Wes Anderson, "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

WILLIAM K. EVERSON FILM HISTORY AWARD: Jean Picker Firstenberg 

NBR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
"Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country"
"Invictus"
"The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"

FIVE BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILMS
(Alphabetical order)
"The Maid"
"Revanche"
"Song of Sparrows"
"Three Monkeys"
"The White Ribbon"

FIVE BEST DOCUMENTARIES
(Alphabetical order)
"Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country"
"Crude"
"Food, Inc."
"Good Hair"
"The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"

TOP 10 INDEPENDENT FILMS
(Alphabetical order)
"Amreeka"
"District 9"
"Goodbye Solo"
"Humpday"
"In the Loop"
"Julia"
"Me and Orson Welles"
"Moon"
"Sugar"
"Two Lovers"

Photos: Top left, George Clooney in "Up in the Air." Credit: Paramount. Top right, Clint Eastwood directs "Invictus." Credit: Warner Bros. Bottom, Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious." Credit: Lionsgate.

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