Oscar season continues today with the announcement of the National Board of Review’s yearly awards. Traditionally one of the first voting bodies to cast their judgments, the National Board of Review is in an exceptional place to help shape the conversation about the Best Films of 2014. Even though their picks for Best Picture rarely take home an Oscar to match, their selection almost always makes it onto the list of nominees. In the last 20 years only Quills and Gods and Monsters failed to wind up on the ballot for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Why? Because they usually pick good movies, obviously, but also because the early announcement of their year-end awards helps guide voting bodies to films that deserve extra attention. Case in point: this year’s National Board of Review pick for Best Picture, A Most Violent Year, an intimate crime drama starring Oscar Isaac as the owner of a gas company trying to defend his business from a zealous District Attorney and overzealous hijackers.
A Most Violent Year comes from director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost), and although it has received acclaim after its run in the festival circuit, but it was considered by many pundits to be too small to receive more than an Original Screenplay nomination, or a Best Supporting Actress nod for Jessica Chastain, who plays Oscar Isaac’s irresponsibly responsible wife. Now, it may become a frontrunner for Best Picture and Best Actor nominations as well; Isaac also took home the National Board of Review’s award for his lead performance, tying with Michael Keaton, who is also a favorite to be nominated for the critical darling Birdman.
A few other surprises made the National Board of Review’s list this year. Clint Eastwood received a Best Director award for American Sniper, a film that has been reasonably well received but was not expected to be a major contender. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller took home the Best Original Screenplay Award for The LEGO Movie, which is expected to dominate the Best Animated Feature race but now may be a legitimate contender in other categories as well.
But perhaps most surprising is the Best Ensemble Cast Award for Fury, the World War II movie that was positioned to be a Best Picture contender but dropped off the radar after mixed reviews and a modest box office reception. We’re not terribly surprised here at CraveOnline – because we think Fury is one of the best pictures of the year – but are certainly pleased that it may not be out of the running after all.
The complete list of National Board of Review winners for 2014 is below, including their picks for the Top 10 Films of 2014. CraveOnline will be back with more awards coverage as the season continues.
Best Film: A Most Violent Year
Best Director: Clint Eastwood – American Sniper
Best Actor (TIE): Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year; Michael Keaton – Birdman
Best Actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Best Supporting Actor: Edward Norton – Birdman
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain – A Most Violent Year
Best Original Screenplay: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller – The Lego Movie
Best Adapted Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice
Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Breakthrough Performance: Jack O’Connell – Starred Up & Unbroken
Best Directorial Debut: Gillian Robespierre – Obvious Child
Best Foreign Language Film: Wild Tales
Best Documentary: Life Itself
William K. Everson Film History Award: Scott Eyman
Best Ensemble: Fury
Spotlight Award: Chris Rock for writing, directing, and starring in – Top Five
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Rosewater
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Selma
The Imitation Game
The Lego Movie
Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!
Top 5 Documentaries
Art and Craft
Keep On Keepin’ On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam
Top 10 Independent Films
A Most Wanted Man
The Skeleton Twins
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors