The National Board of Review’s selection of “Her” as best film of 2013 made it official: This year’s awards race is not a two-way battle — it’s more like a royal rumble, where a flood of wrestlers are involved in a huge smackdown to gain the top spot.
The wins for best pic and for “Her” director Spike Jonze are also like a market correction. The media (including Variety) has devoted energy to the question of whether Scarlett Johansson should be considered for supporting actress though she’s never seen in the film. (The answer is that she is indeed eligible for SAG and Oscar attention.)
It’s an interesting question, but the curiosity factor of the voice performance has taken some of the focus away from the work of writer-director Jonze, actor Joaquin Phoenix and the rest of the Warner Bros. pic’s virtues. Whether the Academy will embrace the understated sci-fi flavored romance is another story, as its dramatic impact could be too subtle to appeal to the typical Oscar voter.
In a great year for film with a lot of high-profile year-end releases, the Warner Bros. pic’s prestige boost is a big help.
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Other films getting a leg up include “Fruitvale Station” (with three NBR wins), “Nebraska” (with two), docu “Stories We Tell” and Hayao Miyazaki’s animated “The Wind Rises,” which each repeated their wins from Tuesday’s New York Film Critics Circle.
But while a win from the NBR is not necessarily an omen for an Oscar statue, it’s a good bet for a nomination: For the past 13 years, every National Board of Review best picture winner has been Oscar-nommed. The NBR’s 2012 honorees included “Zero Dark Thirty” for best picture, director Kathryn Bigelow, Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Jessica Chastain (“Zero”). While those two thesps earned Oscar noms, neither of NBR’s supporting winners did: Leonardo DiCaprio (“Django Unchained”) and Ann Dowd (“Compliance”).
The National Board, which tends to pick more populist, less auteur-type titles, spread the wealth around quite a bit, reflecting how hard it is to pick a front-runner for the moment. There was even a “career collaboration” award for Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, as if the org didn’t want to leave out any of the current hot titles.
And the NBR’s top 10 lists (of films and indies) put a spotlight on some seasonal dark horses, including “Lone Survivor,” “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “Prisoners,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “Short Term 12.”