‘The Social Network’ sweeps National Board of Review

The National Board of Review named “The Social Network” as the Best Picture of the year. The film about the founding of Facebook also won 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.

Our experts pick for Best Picture at the Oscars — “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. Even David Seidler was bested for Original Screenplay by Chris Sparling (“Buried”). Completely snubbed were “Black Swan” and “The Kids Are All Right” — including our Best Actress frontrunners Natalie Portman and Annette Bening — as well as “127 Hours” with Best Actor hopeful James Franco, “Blue Valentine” and “Rabbit Hole.”

The full list of runners-up is:

“Another Year”
“The Fighter”
“The King’s Speech”
“Shutter Island”
“The Town”
“Toy Story 3”
“True Grit”
“Winter’s Bone”

Among these also-rans for the top prize, “Toy Story 3” was named Best Animated Feature while “The Town” won the Ensemble Performance award. And “Winter’s Bone” star Jennifer Lawrencewho makes the cut with our experts for Best Actress at the Oscars — won the Breakthrough Performance prize.

The French feature “Of Gods and Men” took Best Foreign Film. “Waiting for Superman” won Best Documentary while Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington received the Directorial Debut award for their documentary “Restrepo” and Sofia Coppola was lauded with a Special award for writing, directing and producing “Somewhere.” And three films shared the Freedom of Expression award: “Conviction,” “Fair Game” and “Howl.”

Last year, “Up in the Air” won four awards with the NBR: Best Picture, Best Actor (George Clooney), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Kendrick) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner). Reitman lost Best Director to long-time NBR favorite Clint Eastwood (“Invictus”) whose star Morgan Freeman tied with Clooney. The inclusion of “Hereafter” in this year’s runners-up tells us that the NBR love affair with Eastwood is still going strong.

Because the NBR is determined to be the first awards of the season, their members often don’t see late entries into the derby that eventually figure into the Oscar race — that could have been the case with “Blue Valentine” and “Rabbit Hole.” And sometimes, they just don’t take to films which end up being Oscar contenders. Last year, “Precious” did not make the top 10 list of the NBR but it did land a Best Picture Oscar nomination. 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 also the Academy’s choice for Best Picture.

Photo: Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network” (Sony)

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