The National Board of Review has announced its year end honors and “Manchester by the Sea” has been named Best Film. The biggest news may be the films the NBR completely shut out from any recognition whatsoever: Denzel Washington’s “Fences,” Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie,” Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals,” Jeff Nichols’ “Loving,” Stephen Frears’ “Florence Foster Jenkins” and Garth Davis’ “Lion.”
As for “Manchester,” Kenneth Longergan‘s Sundance drama also took Best Actor for Casey Affleck, Original Screenplay and Breakthrough Performance (Male) for Lucas Hedges. This is quite a turnaround for the Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions release which saw “Moonlight” take the top prize at the Gotham Awards less than 12 hours ago. “Manchester” now hopes to claim either the top honor from the NYFCC or LAFCA to position itself as a viable Best Picture contender versus Damien Chazelle’s perceived Oscar frontrunner “La La Land.”
It should be noted, however, that NBR didn’t shortchange “Moonlight.” Barry Jenkins was awarded Best Director, Naomie Harris Best Supporting Actress (an eyebrow raising win over “Fences'” Viola Davis) and it landed on the overall top 10 films of the year list.
Other NBR honorees included Best Actress winner Amy Adams for “Arrival” (a huge boost as she fights for an Oscar nod), Best Supporting Actor winner Jeff Bridges for “Hell or High Water” (making up for the Indie Spirits snub last week), Adapted Screenplay winners Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese for “Silence” (a slight surprise and indicative the body wanted to give the late arrival some love), Best Animated Feature winner “Kubo and the Strings” (worth noting NBR has never honored Walt Disney Animated Studios in the 15 years this award has been handed out), “The Fits'” Royalty Hightower as Best Newcomer (Female), “The Salesman” for Best Foreign Language Film (if Asghar Farhadi makes a movie they are basically giving him an award at this point), “O.J.: Made in America” for Best Documentary (expect to hear this often), the cast of “Hidden Figures” for Best Ensemble (expect them to make the SAG Awards cut) and the documentary “Cameraperson” for the NBR Freedom of Expression Award.
The NBR voters also gave a Spotlight Award to Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg or their “creative collaboration” which this year includes “Patriots Day” and “Deepwater Horizon.” The former also made the cut of NBR’s top 10 films which means CBS Films now has two real awards campaigns on its hands (“Hell or High Water” being the other).
The rest of the organization’s top films of the year featured some surprises such as “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hail Caesar!” (execs at Universal no doubt doing a double take on that one), “Hidden Figures,” “Arrival,” “Silence,” “Sully” and, oh yes, “La La Land” (the film’s only mention from NBR). An important trend to keep in mind when reacting to this list is how it compares to the actual Oscar nominations since The Academy expanded the field seven years ago. In 2015, only five NBR films including their Best Film winner earned Best Picture nods. In 2014 it was four. In 2013 it was five. In 2012 it was seven. In 2011 it was five. In 2010 it was seven. Detect a trend by any chance?
Other head scratchers this year include “Toni Erdmann” missing the cut from the top five foreign language films as well as “American Honey” and “Paterson’s” omissions from the top 10 independent films of the year.
Here are this year’s complete list of winners:
Best Film: “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Director: Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Actress: Amy Adams, “Arrival”
Best Supporting Actor: Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Best Supporting Actress: Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, “Silence”
Best Animated Feature: “Kubo and the Two Strings”
Breakthrough Performance (Male): Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Breakthrough Performance (Female): Royalty Hightower, “The Fits”
Best Directorial Debut: Trey Edward Shults, “Krisha”
Best Foreign Language Film: “The Salesman”
Best Documentary: “O.J.: Made in America”
Best Ensemble: “Hidden Figures”
Spotlight Award: Creative Collaboration of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “Cameraperson”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
TOP FIVE FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS
“Land of Mine”
TOP FIVE DOCUMENTARIES
“The Eagle Huntress”
“Miss Sharon Jones!”
TOP 10 INDEPENDENT FILMS
“20th Century Women”
“Eye in the Sky”
“Hello, My Name is Doris”
“Morris from America”