National Board of Review: 'A Most Violent Year' Best Film Of 2014; Eastwood Best Director For 'American Sniper'

The National Board of Review has chosen J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, a crime drama about thuggish New Jersey-New York oil cartels, as the Best film of 2014 and Clint Eastwood as Best Director for American Sniper, his biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. A Most Violent Year grabbed three awards — the most of any title today — including Best Actor for Oscar Isaac (who tied with Michael Keaton for Birdman) and Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain.

A most violent year

A Most Violent Year and American Sniper are real outside baseball selections: To date, Boyhood and Birdman have been all the rage in the kudos announcements among the Indie Spirit nominations, New York Film Critics Circle Awards and the Gotham nods. Here, the two titles were relegated to the org’s top 10 list. This is a first where we are seeing love for A Most Violent Year, American Sniper as well as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice in the Best Adapted Screenplay category and Brad Pitt World War II tank pic Fury in the Best Ensemble slot.

Birdman got one other nod from the awards org, in addition to Keaton’s honor: Edward Norton was recognized as Best Supporting Actor. Julianne Moore followed up her Gotham Awards win last night with a Best Actress nod for Still Alice.

Lego Movie Still 2The Lego Movie, which was recognized yesterday as Best Animated Film by the New York Film Critics Circle, not only received a similar kiss today from the NBR, it also got a hug with best original screenplay.

A Most Violent Year is an exhilarating crime drama with a compelling story, outstanding performances and an elegant cinematic style,” National Board of Review President Annie Schulhof said in a statement. “J.C. Chandor has given us a new and provocative perspective on the American Dream.”

Again, like the New York Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review vies to be ahead of the curve with its film choices but often goes quite outside when it comes to prognosticating ultimate Oscar choices. Pete Hammond pointed out last year that NBR hasn’t synced with AMPAS on best picture since 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, and the last time it matched the Oscar win for best director was Martin Scorsese for The Departed in 2005Last year, the NBR lauded Her with best film as well as Spike Jonze, and the way it went down with Oscar was that Her was nominated for best pic, while Jonze won for best screenplay (NBR gave screenplay kudos to Joel and Ethan Coen’s original script Inside Llewyn Davis and Terence Winter’s adaptation of The Wolf Of Wall Street).

Jack O'Connell in UnbrokenWhat the National Board of Review does differently from its kudos peers is that it honors burgeoning talent with a breakthrough award. This year, Jack O’Connell, who plays Olympic runner and WWII POW Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie’s sophomore directorial feature Unbroken, was lauded with the Breakthrough Performance award. After receiving an Indie Spirit nom for Best First Feature, helmer Gillian Robespierre — who directed SNL alum Jenny Slate as an unexpectedly pregnant twentysomething comic in Obvious Child — took Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review. Last year, Fruitvale Station‘s Michael B. Jordan and Blue Is the Warmest Color‘s Adele Exarchopoulos won the Breakthrough Performance awards. Ryan Coogler nabbed Best Directorial Debut for Fruitvale as well.

Established in 1909, the National Board of Review is a nonprofit organization comprising knowledgeable film enthusiasts, professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students. The group’s awards will be handed out January 6 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. Lara Spencer will host the event.

Here is the complete list of winners:

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

Top Films
American Sniper
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Lego Movie

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem
Two Days, One Night
We Are the Best!

 Top 5 Documentaries
Art and Craft
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Keep On Keepin’ On
The Kill Team
Last Days in Vietnam

Top 10 Independent Films
Blue Ruin
A Most Wanted Man
Mr. Turner
Obvious Child
The Skeleton Twins
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Starred Up
Still Alice

    1. Unbroken is listed among NBR’s Top Films and Jack O’Connell has won Breakthrough Performance. It is kind of a tradition for NBR to push films that are perceived as outsiders, here A most Violent Year. Unbroken being a highly publicized film already, they probably don’t feel the need to use their platform to promote it even more.

      1. The Lego Movie is also listed in the top 10. LOL. Also, Clint Eastwood hasn’t been an outsider since the 1960s.

        1. American Sniper: see Sam E.’s comment below. You sound like you’ve chosen to be mean to Unbroken, that’s your problem, but I believe the title of the film will prove to be true in the end, no matter all the filth naysayers will spew at it along the way.

    1. Whether sniper is any good is beside the point. eastwood should be drummed out of the business for his disrespect of President Obama.

      1. Oh yes we should not allow any intolerance of our supreme benevolent ruler. By the way David,does disparaging one of two director’s who have made a film about Mandela make you feel like a proud liberal?

    2. sniper is the most emotional film I have seen in ten years. its unsentimental, intense and quietly deals with our largest issue out there, all these veterans and what theyve been through. get a clue.

  1. So amazingly happy to watch A Most Violent Year and the incredible Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain win. Well deserved! I hope the latter ends up scoring a ridiculously deserved first Oscar win.

  2. I suppose American Sniper and A Most Violent Year are outsiders in the sense that they’ve received less attention than other films. However, they seem more inline with films that have historically won big awards than Boyhood or Birdman. Interestingly missing from the top ten; Selma, Into the Woods and the Theory of Everything.

    1. Whoa, sorry about that. For some reason I was thinking this was New York Society of Film Critics. I’ll pay more attention next time.

  3. Lego Movie is one of the top 10, but loses Best Animated Feature to How To Train Your Dragon 2, which is not one of the top 10? Someone get the Transitive Property on the line…

    1. Here the reality of all the biopic BP films out there– most of them didnt tell the truth of their story. Imitation game avoided his entire
      Sexual life which was a massive subtraction, theory sugarcoata and invents a love affair for a guy notoriously cold, foxcatcher leaves out duponts sex w schultz (the story doesnt work w it)– that leaves selma that reinvents every speech we have heard a thousand times until it becomes like yatzee and then theres unbroken who people are saying isnt even a movie and american sniper that, while not without its flaws, clint managed to tell what seems to be the real story and delivers emotion weight. Im not a huge clint fan. Hes too on the nose but he made me care for a guy that kills people from a rooftop. Not an easy task.

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