After lighting up the pandemic specialty box office over Black Friday weekend with an enormous per screen average, MGM/United Artist Releasing’s Licorice Pizza from Paul Thomas Anderson took Best Film and Best Director for this year from the National Board of Review.
The movie, loosely based on the teen acting life of producer Gary Goetzman during the 1970s, follows young Gary Valentine, who as he gets older, pivots toward using his money toward launching a waterbed business in the San Fernando Valley. The high-schooler falls for a slightly older girl in her 20s, Alana. Anderson captures nuanced, in-depth turns by indie rocker Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, who are fresh to the big screen, while shooting the film in 35MM. Haim and Hoffman also earned NBR awards for Breakthrough Performance this year. The pic was blown up to 70MM and it’s showing at the Regency Village in Westwood exclusively for the next month.
Also coming in big were Will Smith for Best Actor for Warner Bros.’ King Richard; and newcomer Rachel Zegler for Best Actress for Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story; that movie first unveiled to the press on Monday night. Zegler landed the role of Maria after seeing a notice on Twitter back in January 2018 for Latinx actors. She submitted a video of herself singing “Tonight” and “Me Siento Hermosa” (“I Feel Pretty”).
King Richard also notched a Best Supporting Actress win for Aunjanue Ellis who plays Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams, Richard’s wife in the film. The movie follows how Richard Williams takes his promising daughters Venus and Serena from their home in Compton to global tennis stardom.
Focus Features’ Belfast from director Kenneth Branagh, inspired by his childhood, walked away with Best Supporting Actor for Ciarán Hinds who plays the the filmmaker’s grandfather, Pop, in the black and white movie.
NBR President Annie Schulhof said, “In a moment of transition and uncertainty, there is nothing like Licorice Pizza to remind us of the joy, hope, and exhilaration that great cinema can inspire. The NBR is honored to award the movie as its Best Film of 2021, as well as its brilliant creator, Paul Thomas Anderson, and all of our other awardees.”
The group’s awards, which are decided by select film enthusiasts, filmmakers, professionals, academics, and students, typically doesn’t serve as an indicator for Best Picture at the Oscars. Last year, they named Spike Lee Best Director and his Netflix movie Da 5 Bloods as Best Film; the film only going on to earn a Best Score Oscar Nomination. In 2018, NBR named Universal/Dreamworks/Participant’s Green Book as Best Film, repping the first time since 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, that the org chose a movie that ultimately won Best Picture at the Oscars.
The honorees will be feted at the NBR Awards Gala, hosted by Willie Geist, on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.
Voting ballots were tabulated by the accounting firm of Lutz & Carr, LLP.
Below is a full list of the 2021 award recipients, announced by the National Board of Review:
Best Film: LICORICE PIZZA
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, LICORICE PIZZA
Best Actor: Will Smith, KING RICHARD
Best Actress: Rachel Zegler, WEST SIDE STORY
Best Supporting Actor: Ciarán Hinds, BELFAST
Best Supporting Actress: Aunjanue Ellis, KING RICHARD
Best Original Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, A HERO
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
Breakthrough Performance: Alana Haim & Cooper Hoffman, LICORICE PIZZA
Best Directorial Debut: Michael Sarnoski, PIG
Best Animated Feature: ENCANTO
Best Foreign Language Film: A HERO
Best Documentary: SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
Best Ensemble: THE HARDER THEY FALL
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: FLEE
Top Films (in alphabetical order)
Don’t Look Up
The Last Duel
The Tragedy of Macbeth
West Side Story
Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)
Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
The Worst Person in the World
Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
The Card Counter
The Green Knight
The Souvenir Part II
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