The National Board of Review bestowed their honors today for their finest of 2021 and they delivered it to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. The coming-of-age dramedy took Best Film and Director. The awards certainly solidify its status as a major contender in the Picture race at the Oscars. In the 21st century, only 3 of the 21 winners (2000’s Quills, 2014’s A Most Violent Year, last year’s Da 5 Bloods) did not manage to make the Academy’s cut. On the flipside, the victorious picture here usually doesn’t win. In this century it’s happened thrice (2007’s No Country for Old Men, 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, 2018’s Green Book). So if we’re going by recent history, Pizza should get nominated but probably won’t take the gold.
This voting branch also names nine other movies in their Best Of rundown. Over the past five years, the number of NBR selections compared to Oscar BP contestants ranges between 4-7. In 2016, it hit the high mark at 7. There were six in 2017 and 2019, five in 2020, and just four in 2018. The other nine films in 2021 are Belfast, Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, The Last Duel, Nightmare Alley, Red Rocket, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and West Side Story. From that list, I would say only Duel and Rocket seem like major longshots to get attention from the Academy. All others are feasible.
The biggest omission from NBR’s list is absolutely Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, which I’ve had ranked at #2 in my BP standings for awhile. The solace for Dog is that two recent BPs (2017’s The Shape of Water, 2019’s Parasite) didn’t make the NBR ten. Other pics that missed NBR: Being the Ricardos, C’Mon C’Mon, CODA, House of Gucci, Mass, Spencer, and Tick Tick… Boom!
As for the actors – Will Smith (the Academy frontrunner) took Best Actor for his King Richard while costar Aunjanue Ellis won Supporting Actress. Both are widely expected to play in the Oscar race and either or both could win.
NBR did not choose Academy favorite Kristen Stewart for Spencer and opted for Rachel Zegler in West Side Story (her debut role). I had Zegler placed sixth yesterday in the crowded Actress derby, but she could be on her way to making the final five cut.
The wide open Supporting Actor derby favored Ciaran Hinds for Belfast. I am completely unsure what the Academy does in this race. This could forward a narrative that Hinds is more likely to receive Oscar attention than his costar Jamie Dornan (though they could both get in).
Screenplay races provided a couple of surprises. Pizza would have been the logical choice for Original, but NBR instead chose Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero. In Adapted, Joel Coen was selected for The Tragedy of Macbeth (which also took Cinematography). Most pundits (including myself) have Power of the Dog as the winner, but the category opened up on this platform since it missed the ten.
Lastly, the Animated, Documentary, and Foreign Language races all featured movies that could prevent Flee from taking any of the three prizes at the Oscars: Encanto, Summer of Soul, and A Hero.
My blog posts on the state of the 2021 Oscar race will continue…