Moments ago (and after keeping us on the edges of our respective seats all morning/afternoon) the National Board of Review unveiled their 2014 award winners, marking another early juncture in the precursor season. After shocking a lot of people, including myself, by giving their top prize last year to Spike Jonze’s Her, they opted this year to cite A Most Violent Year as their Best Picture of 2014. The J.C. Chandor directed film led the field with three major citations, while Birdman was next in line with two. NBR definitely had an eye on mixing things up and did so, giving a whole new slate of winners after yesterday’s New York Film Critics Circle announcement.
Obviously, the Best Picture win is a boon to Chandor’s film. Taking this prize from the likes of Boyhood, The Imitation Game, and Selma (plus Unbroken, though that’s looking less like a major player right now…more on that soon) gives A Most Violent Year a leg up on some of the other contenders hoping to crack Oscar’s lineup. Does this make it a lock for the Academy? No, but it’s something for sure and clearly puts it in the top 15 at the very least. NBR isn’t the last word by any stretch, but it’s a notable early precursor, so this win is worth paying attention to. The film also tied in Best Actor, seeing Oscar Isaac share the prize with Birdman’s Michael Keaton, as well as won Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain. That’s nothing to scoff at.
The other big winner today was obviously Birdman, which had the Best Actor tie as well as the National Board of Review choosing Edward Norton as its Best Supporting Actor. If you want to get technical, it might have even tied with A Most Violent Year for the most citations, as it also showed up as one of the group’s Top Ten Films of 2014. A solid haul for sure, and one that also gives it a bit of a boost, particularly with the likes of Boyhood and The Imitation Game just showing up on that list and nowhere else. Selma only received a Freedom of Expression Award, so at least for today, Birdman beat them all back.
Elsewhere, Best Director went to perennial NBR favorite Clint Eastwood for American Sniper, while Julianne Moore took home Best Actress for Still Alice. Best Original Screenplay went to The Lego Movie in a bit of an upset, while another surprising choice was Inherent Vice for Best Adapted Screenplay. Best Animated Film was How to Train Your Dragon 2, Best Documentary was Life Itself, Best Foreign Language Film was Wild Tales, and Best Ensemble was Fury, just to name some of the other notable victors.