George Clooney, Tilda Swinton win acting honors

With Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” earning the National Board of Review’s best film kudo, the awards conversation has broadened to include additional titles even as it buzzes more intensely around a handful of contenders.

NBR’s seal of approval on “Hugo,” as well as a host of good reviews since its release, gives Scorsese’s love letter to film a publicity boost in its second full week of release and a leg up in its push for an Oscar nom.

Two other films that solidified their place as key awards season contenders are “The Descendants” and “Beginners,” which added NBR acting awards to the multiple Spirit Award noms each film received earlier in the week.

Yet there’s still no throughline so far. While films like “Drive” and “Take Shelter” received multiple Spirit Award noms earlier in the week, neither NBR nor the New York Film Critics Circle, which announced Tuesday, recognized those films.

But while David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was shut out from the NYFCC honors, NBR gave its star, Rooney Mara, a breakthrough performance award – the film’s first recognition of the season.

The group was unable to screen “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” in time for consideration, but NBR prexy Annie Schulhof said she feels that the “eclectic group” of films represents the best of the year from an audience’s perspective.

“We feel strongly about (announcing) the first Thursday in December because we are trying to give the group every opportunity to see all the films,” Schulhof said. “We’re not film critics, but we still hope we’re making the best choices possible.”

The org’s annual awards gala will take place Jan. 10 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. NBC News’ Natalie Morales will host.

The group’s pick for best picture can help a film gain awards season traction, though its history isn’t sure-fire. When “The Social Network” swept NBR’s major kudos last year, it gave the film a seeming air of inevitability for Oscar, though “The King’s Speech” ultimately took home the Academy Award.

In 2009, NBR chose “Up in the Air,” which earned an Oscar nom but no trophy. NBR’s 2008 pick lined up with the Academy when “Slumdog Millionaire” took home the prize.

More than 100 academics, students, film enthusiasts and professionals consider some 250 films in a broad range of categories to determine the honorees.

List of Winners:

Best Film: “Hugo”

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Best Actor: George Clooney, “The Descendants”

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”

Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser, “50/50

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, “The Descendants”

Best Animated Feature: “Rango”

Breakthrough Performance: Felicity Jones, “Like Crazy”

Breakthrough Performance: Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Debut Director: J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”

Best Ensemble: “The Help”

Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender (“A Dangerous Method,” “Jane Eyre,” “Shame,” “X-Men: First Class”)

NBR Freedom of Expression: “Crime After Crime”

NBR Freedom of Expression: “Pariah”

Best Foreign Language Film: “A Separation”

Best Documentary: “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”

Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise – A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film

Top Films
(in alphabetical order)
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
Tree of Life
War Horse

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
13 Assassins
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Footnote
Le Havre
Point Blank

Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)
Born to be Wild
Buck
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Project Nim
Senna

Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
50/50
Another Earth
Beginners
A Better Life
Cedar Rapids
Margin Call
Shame
Take Shelter
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Win Win

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