Ballot snafu delays NBR noms

The National Board of Review has always prided itself on being first when it comes to awards season handouts. But this year, the org could well get lost in the kudos shuffle.

NBR was expected to unveil its list of the year’s best films Wednesday, launching the season’s awards onslaught from voting bodies widely recognized by the industry. However, the NBR was forced to postpone its picks till Monday after realizing its ballots were incomplete and omitted a bevy of eligible pics, directors and thesps.

That mistake forced the org to regroup and to resked the awards announcement.

In December’s heated kudos climate, a few days can make quite a difference: Consider that on Saturday, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. will release its top pics of the year, followed Sunday by soundoffs from the Broadcast Film Critics and noms from the American Film Institute.

Come Monday, the New York Film Critics Circle will be weighing in, along with the NBR, just before Golden Globes noms hit the wires Tuesday morning.

Smaller org New York Film Critics Online tried to capitalize on the NBR blunder by sending an email blast to press saying it would now “likely be the first critics’ group in the country to announce its choices for the best of 2005.”

In a letter to journos, NBR brass said Wednesday, “In consideration of the incomplete nature of the 2005 eligibility list, and with apologies, NBR screening committee members have been asked to disregard the previously sent eligibility list and to review the complete list of screened films.”

Letter continued, “NBR screening committee members will receive and submit new ballots considering all 2005 qualified films, directors and performers. We are sorry for the inadvertent omissions and the delay in announcing the 2005 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards.”

Such news comes at an inopportune time for the org, which this fall was accused by a cadre of former board members of housing “bylaw improprieties, conflicts of interest, partisanship toward certain studios and awards vote manipulation,” (Daily Variety, Oct. 25).

NBR leadership, including treasurer and legal rep Leon Friedman, have asserted that such accusations have no merit, and were leveled by disgruntled former members with personal grievances.

IFP senior director of programming Eileen Newman was subsequently brought in as NBR exec director in late October.

Either way, the 96-year-old org’s claim to fame was customarily that it was first, a position it will relinquish this time around as awards junkies will wait till this weekend to get their fixes.

NBR did tap Jane Fonda and composer Howard Shore earlier this week to pick up career achievement awards at its annual gala, set for Jan. 10.

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