…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.
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.
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)
The King’s Speech
Toy Story 3
Five Best Foreign-Language Films (in alphabetical order)
I Am Love
Life, Above All
Five Best Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
A Film Unfinished
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
The Tillman Story
Top Ten Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
The Ghost Writer
Let Me In
Youth in Revolt