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 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.
The 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 2005. Last 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).
What 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
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