The National Board of Review bestowed their end of year honors today and the unpredictable group showed some love for Netflix… just not in the expected way. The NBR named Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods as Best Film along with Lee taking their top filmmaking prize. Bloods, which premiered on Netflix this summer, has been seen as a prospect whose Best Picture chances are questionable. In my rankings, it has risen over recent weeks all the way up to #5.
As for its chances to win, one could legitimately argue the NBR win means it probably won’t (and it probably won’t). In the 21st century, only 4 of the 20 NBR victors took Best Picture at the big show and only one in the past decade (2003’s Mystic River, 2007’s No Country for Old Men, 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, 2018’s Green Book).
The NBR also names 10 of their other favorite pics and they are: First Cow, The Forty-Year-Old Version, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Midnight Sky, Minari, News of the World, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Soul, and Sound of Metal. The major surprise here is easily Netflix’s The Midnight Sky from George Clooney. It received very mixed reviews and is not anticipated to play with the Academy except for tech races. The other story here is the omission of three legit Netflix contenders at the Oscars: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. In particular, Chicago is seen as the main competitor to Nomadland for BP winner. That said, only 6 of the 11 NBR pics last year nabbed Oscar attention. Two other notable exclusions from the Board are The Father and One Night in Miami.
In the acting races, Riz Ahmed took Best Actor for Sound of Metal. He’s looked at as a likely Academy contender. Similar to the Picture discussion, only 1 NBR recipient here (Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea) achieved Oscar glory. Carey Mulligan named Best Actress for Promising Young Woman. The Oscar/NBR connection is slightly better as three of the past 10 trophy takers had good fortune with the Academy. The Sound of Metal love continued in Supporting Actor with Paul Raci winning. Like Actress, it’s a 3 out of 10 match in the 2010s. Youn Yuh-jung is NBR’s Supporting Actress choice for Minari. Only 1 of the last 10 victors for the Board won the Oscar (Regina King in 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk). Minari also took Original Screenplay with News of the World winning Adapted. Soul, the front runner for the Oscar, was named Best Animated Feature.
Bottom line: the NBR can certainly increase exposure for hopefuls, but it’s certainly not a barometer for who wins at the Oscars. Nevertheless it’s a nice day for a Netflix feature that I currently have behind three others from the streamer that weren’t named here.