Fans of “The Irishman” be warned. The National Board of Review, which named Martin Scorsese‘s crime epic as the best movie of the year, has a spotty record at crystal-balling the Academy Awards. While it previewed the Best Picture win for “Green Book” and the Supporting Actress victory by Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) last year, its overall track record of predicting the Oscars is uneven.
Last year the National Board of Review awarded Best Actor to “Green Book” leading man Viggo Mortensen. The big winner was “A Star is Born” which picked up Best Director (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Lady Gaga) and Best Supporting Actor (Sam Elliott). “If Beale Street Could Talk” also won Best Adapted Screenplay (Barry Jenkins) while writer/director Paul Shrader won for his original screenplay for “First Reformed.”
All four of these films figured in the NBR Top 10, which also includes: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Black Panther,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “Eighth Grade,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” “A Quiet Place” and “Roma.” Notably absent were four films that went on to win Oscars: “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favourite” and “Vice.”
Two years ago, the NBR went all in on Steven Spielberg‘s docudrama “The Post,” which won Best Picture and the lead acting awards for Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Greta Gerwig took home the Best Director prize for her solo helming effort, “Lady Bird,” which also featured a winning supporting turn by Laurie Metcalf. Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”) won Best Supporting Actor; writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson won for his original screenplay for “Phantom Thread”; Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber won the adapted screenplay award for “The Disaster Artist”; the cast of “Get Out” claimed the Best Ensemble prize; and Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name” won the Breakthrough Performance award.
All six of these films numbered among the Top 10 which also included “Baby Driver,” “Downsizing,” “Dunkirk,” and “Logan.” The NBR didn’t include the eventual Best Picture winner, “The Shape of Water,” in its Top 10 (also MIA were “Darkest Hour” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which accounted for three of the four winners for acting at the Oscars.)
In 2016, the NBR previewed the two wins at the Oscars for “Manchester by the Sea” — Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Original Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan) — but it also went with it for Best Picture over eventual Oscar champ “Moonlight.” That film did claim Best Director (Barry Jenkins) and Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris) from the NBR but did not repeat in either of those categories at the Academy Awards. The NBR award for Best Actress went to Amy Adams (“Arrival) who went on to be snubbed by the academy, while Jeff Bridges picked up Best Supporting Actor for his scene-stealing performance in “Hell or High Water.” All four films featuring acting champs made the NBR’s list of “Top Films” as did “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hail, Caesar!,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Patriot’s Day,” “Silence” and “Sully.”
Oftentimes, the NBR members just don’t take to films which end up being Oscar contenders. In 2017, it snubbed two Best Picture nominees: “Fences” and “Lion.” In 2016, three Oscar contenders came up short here: “The Big Short,” “Brooklyn and “The Revenant.” And in 2015, three of the eight Oscar Best Picture contenders — “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash” — were completely shut out by the NBR while “Selma” won only the NBR Freedom of Expression Award.
Likewise, three Oscar contenders “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Philomena” were spurned in 2014. In 2013, the NBR did not embrace “Amour and “Life of Pi.” In 2012, it overlooked “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Moneyball.” In 2011, “Black Swan” and “The Kids Are All Right” did not make the cut, nor did “Precious” in 2009.
In 2004, 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 2002, the NBR completely blanked “A Beautiful Mind” which was the academy’s choice for Best Picture.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 13.