Okay, now we can talk about the Oscars…

…Because the somewhat mysterious organization that mysteriously somehow sets the stage and begins the momentum for the awards season, the National Board of Review, has given its awards. Perhaps not so unexpectedly, the big winner appears to be “The Social Network” which earned awards for Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), and, most interestingly, earned a Best Actor nod for Jessie Eisenberg, making him suddenly something of a frontrunner for Best Actor, which is not to say that the award makes him some kind of a sure thing.

Jessie Eisenberg and I'm not sure who in

At 27, if Eisenberg does wins for his thoroughly on-target performance, he’ll be the youngest winner in that category yet, beating 29 year-old Adrien Brody for “The Pianist.” Still, he’ll likely be facing stiff competition from 50 year-old Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”), 70 something Robert Duvall (“Get Low“), 30 something co-host James Franco (“127 Hours“) and, perhaps, 60 something Jeff Bridges (“True Grit,” a bit less stiff since he won last year and Oscar likes to spread the love around).

The Best Actress prize was equally interesting. Lesley Manville won for her extraordinary work in the upcoming “Another Year.” I’ve seen (and will be reviewing here), the latest from Mike Leigh. There’s no doubt that Manville did an absolutely remarkable job but her supremely needy, depressed, alcoholic character is often irritating to the point of distraction, on purpose. It hits closer to home because I think most of have known or have actually been (hopefully temporarily) people very much like her. Still, sometimes people tend to blame actors for playing characters they dislike or are made uncomfortable by. Regardless, she’s been noticed. At the press day, I half-jokingly suggested to Ms. Manville that she should work on her American accent.

Jacki Weaver's back in Another heretofore far from world-famed actress who might consider studying up on U.S. dialects is Australian veteran performer Jacki Weaver. She was nominated for her magnetically squirm-inducing crime grandma in the effective thriller, “Animal Kingdom.” It’s the first time she’s been in a film to make a splash stateside since Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” back before Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco were yet born.

Christian Bale is definitely looking like an Oscar contender with his Best Supporting Actor win for “The Fighter.” “Toy Story 3” won a very predictable Best Animated Feature prize and writer Chris Sparling won a far less predictable Best Original Screenplay award for the ultra-claustrophobic Ryan Reynolds showpiece, “Buried”

Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman,” which seems to be spearheading a campaign to make education a hotter political issue than it’s been recently, took the Best Documentary prize. Could Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) be on his way to another Best Documentary Oscar? Very possibly, though the documentary category is historically weird and iffy. In his favor: this is a traditional documentary and not, essentially, a “concert” film.

The Best Foreign Film winner is the French Cannes award winner, “Of Gods and Men.” It’s another winner with a certain amount of topical appeal as it deals with the issue of fundamentalism from the point of view of Christian monks.

Several films are notable by their almost complete absence, including “The King’s Speech,” “127 Hours” and possible dark horse, “True Grit.” (All three were in the group’s annual Top 10, however.) “The Black Swan,” which has been getting huge word of mouth where I live, anyhow, failed to even make that list. A complete list of the awards is below.

—-

Best Film: The Social Network

Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Best Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Best Foreign Language Film: Of Gods and Men

Best Documentary: Waiting for “Superman”

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Best Ensemble Cast: The Town

Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone

Best Directorial Debut: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, Restrepo

Spotlight Award: Sylvain Chomet and Jacques Tati, The Illusionist

Best Original Screenplay: Chris Sparling, Buried

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: Sofia Coppola for writing, directing, and producing Somewhere

William K. Everson Film History Award: Leonard Maltin

NBR Freedom of Expression: Fair Game, Conviction, Howl

Production Design Award: Dante Ferretti, Shutter Island

Ten Best Films (in alphabetical order)
Another Year
The Fighter
Hereafter
Inception
The King’s Speech
Shutter Island
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Five Best Foreign-Language Films (in alphabetical order)
I Am Love
Incendies
Life, Above All
Soul Kitchen
White Material

Five Best Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
A Film Unfinished
Inside Job
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Restrepo
The Tillman Story

Top Ten Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
Animal Kingdom
Buried
Fish Tank
The Ghost Writer
Greenberg
Let Me In
Monsters
Please Give
Somewhere
Youth in Revolt

  

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