‘Hugo’ wins Best Picture from National Board of Review

The National Board of Review named “Hugo” the Best Picture while its helmer Martin Scorsese won his third Best Director prize from this New York based awards group. George Clooney (“The Descendants“) won his third NBR Best Actor award in five years and Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) won Best Actress.

Christopher Plummer (“The Beginners”) claimed Supporting Actor while “The Descendants” also won Supporting Actress (Shailene Woodley) and Adapted Screenplay (Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash). Original Screenplay went to Will Reiser for “50/50.” The awards will be presented on Jan. 10 at Gotham’s Cipriani 42nd Street.

The NBR continues to shun the work of Woody Allen who had his biggest hit in years with “Midnight in Paris.” Allen has only won with the NBR once — Best Director in 1986 for “Hannah and Her Sisters.” In 1977, when “Annie Hall” swept the Academy Awards, winning Best Picture and two Oscars for Allen for his writing and directing, the NBR went with “The Turning Point” which went 0 for 11 at the Oscars. 

The NBR continues to have a spotty record at crystal balling the Oscars. Last year, “The Social Network” swept the NBR, winning Best Picture, Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg), Best Director (David Fincher) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin). Best Actress went to Lesley Manville (“Another Year”) while Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) and Jacki Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”) took the supporting prizes. Only Sorkin and Bale prevailed at the Oscars. 

Last year’s big Oscar winner — “The King’s Speech” — was almost completely shut out of the NBR kudos, only meriting mention on the list of runners-up for Best Picture. Eventual Oscar champ David Seidler was bested for Original Screenplay by Chris Sparling (“Buried”). 

Because the NBR is one of the first awards of the season, their members often don’t see late entries into the derby that eventually figure into the Oscar race. Last year, they missed out on “Blue Valentine” and “Rabbit Hole” which reaped Oscar bids for leading ladies Michelle Williams and Nicole Kidman respectively. This year, as with the New York Film Critics Circle, the NBR voters did not see “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” which stars Oscar champs Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock and is directed by Stephen Daldry, who has reaped Oscar bids for each of his first three features. 

This year’s nine runners-up for Best Picture were:

“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
“The Ides of March”
“J. Edgar”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

While “The Help” did not make the top ten list, the cast will receive the Ensemble Performance award. Two potential Best Actress nominees — Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy”) and Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) — share the Breakthrough Performance prize. Last year’s winner Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) went on to contend at the Oscars. 

Two years ago, “Up in the Air” won four awards with the NBR — Best Picture, Best Actor (George Clooney, pictured above), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Kendrick) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner) — but was shut out at the Oscars. Long-time NBR favorite Clint Eastwood won Best Director for “Invictus” and that film’s star Morgan Freeman tied for Best Actor with Clooney. The inclusion of “Hereafter” last year and “J. Edgar” this year on the top 10 list confirms that the NBR love affair with Eastwood is still going strong.

Sometimes the NBR members just don’t take to films which end up being Oscar contenders. Last year, they snubbed Best Picture nominees “Black Swan” and “The Kids Are All Right.” Two years ago, “Precious” did not make the top 10 with the NBR but did contend at the Oscars. In 2003, the NBR chose to honor “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” with only the Ensemble award while it went on to sweep the Oscars, with a record-tying 11 wins including Best Picture. And in 2001, the NBR completely snubbed “A Beautiful Mind” which was the Academy’s choice for Best Picture.

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