The National Board of Review, a group of cinephiles out of New York City, bestows its best of every year in early December. Their selections certainly don’t forecast who and what the Academy will eventually name. They do, like many critics organizations, give us potential hints as to who and what’s hot and not as Oscar voters ready their ballots.
For 2022, the NBR went with the year’s most popular picture in Top Gun: Maverick. Named Best Film, Maverick is expected to land a spot in the Academy’s BP ten. Picking it to win is risky business. Of the last 10 NBR victors, only one went on to win BP at the big dance – 2018’s Green Book (and that was a surprise). The last three recipients were The Irishman, Da 5 Bloods, and Licorice Pizza. On the other hand, one three NBR winning films in the 21st century didn’t score an Oscar BP nomination: 2000’s Quills, 2014’s A Most Violent Year, and the aforementioned Bloods from 2020.
The directing prize went to Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans. He’s ranked #1 in my Oscar picks and has been for quite some time. If he takes Oscar, he’d be the first NBR victor to do so since 2006 when Martin Scorsese won for The Departed.
The matches don’t improve much in the acting derbies. Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) was crowned Best Actress. Three of the past 10 winners achieved Oscar glory: Julianne Moore for Still Alice, Brie Larson in Room, and Renee Zellweger as Judy. On a side note, a Cate Blanchett Tàr prize here would’ve been the easy bet. That picture was ignored by NBR even in their selections for the 10 greatest films not named Top Gun: Maverick (more on that below).
Colin Farrell nabbed another lead Actor honor for The Banshees of Inisherin. Two of the previous 10 NBR gentleman made a podium trip at the Oscars: Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea and Will Smith last year for King Richard (remember that?). Farrell is emerging as a major threat as is Austin Butler for Elvis (which received no love from this board). Along with Brendan Fraser in The Whale (who needs some critic groups love awfully soon), they make up a three-way tussle for Best Actor.
Janelle Monae is your Best Supporting Actress as her stock is rising. Yet only two of the past 10 winners match Oscar with Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk and Youn Yuh-Jung for Minari. Brad Pitt is the only Supporting Actor NBR/Academy match of the last decade for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Brendan Gleeson in The Bansees of Inisherin will try and join that small club as he emerged over frontrunner Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere.
Original Screenplay went to Banshees while All Quiet on the Western Front was a surprise recipient in Adapted Screenplay over Women Talking (which is widely favored to catch the Academy’s attention).
Other pics making their mark today were Marcel the Shell with Shoes On for Animated Feature, Close in International Feature Film, and Sr. for Documentary Feature. All are expected to vie for consideration at the Oscars.
Finally, the NBR chooses 10 additional features on their best of list. This year they were Aftersun, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, RRR, Till, The Woman King, and Women Talking. In addition to Tár and Elvis – you also won’t find The Whale or Babylon or Triangle of Sadness among the picks. Same with She Said and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.
From 2019-2021, the winning pictures and ten other NBR picks equated to between 5-7 of the Academy’s BP contenders. Right now, I have six of these 2022 films in my Oscar 10: Maverick, Avatar, Banshees, Everything Everywhere, Fabelmans, and Women Talking. That corresponds to what usually occurs between NBR and Oscar.
All in all, a good day for Maverick and company. That said – if you think it is now cruising to Best Picture, history suggests otherwise.