The National Board of Review - arguably the first major Oscar precursor of the season - have handed out their 2009 awards, with Jason Reitman's "Up In The Air" leading a surprising batch of honors, taking best picture, best actor (George Clooney, in a tie with "Invictus"'s Morgan Freeman), best supporting actress (Anna Kendrick, profiled on indieWIRE today), and best adapted screenplay (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner).
Additional major winners included Clint Eastwood's "Invictus," which in addition to Freeman's aforementioned honor, made the NBR's top ten, and took awards for best director and NBR Freedom of Expression; Oren Moverman's "The Messenger," which made the top ten list and won both best supporting actor for Woody Harrelson (in a surprise over "Inglourious Basterds"'s Christoph Waltz), and a spotlight award for best directorial debut; and "An Education," which also made the top ten, and won best actress for Carey Mulligan.
In the foreign and doc categories, Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet" and Louie Psihoyos's "The Cove" were unsurprising winners, while an eclectic mix of films were part of the NBR's curious "best independent film" list, from "Humpday" to "In The Loop," to the surprising inclusion of "District 9" (which was considered an "independent film," while "(500) Days of Summer" and "The Messenger" were placed in the general top ten list).
The biggest shock of the announcement came not from the winners, but from the near complete shut-out of "Precious," which did not make the top ten list and lost its expected supporting actress honor for Mo'Nique. The film's only win came with a breakthrough actress honor for Gabourey Sidibe.
Other surprises included the complete omissions of Tom Ford's "A Single Man," Rob Marshall's "Nine" and Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones," which were all snubbed from the NBR's top ten list in favor of "(500) Days Of Summer," "Star Trek," and "Where The Wild Things Are," which are each seen as considerable underdogs for major Academy attention.
For the past two years, the winner of the NBR's best picture award has gone on to win the top Academy Award. Last year, Clint Eastwood, Anne Hathaway, Josh Brolin and Penelope Cruz took acting honors, the latter three of which went on to Oscar nominations. Cruz was the only double winner.
Full list of the awards given by the National Board of Review:
Best Film: Up In The Air
Best Director: Clint Eastwood, Invictus
Best Actor: Morgan Freeman, Invictus and George Clooney, Up In The Air (tie)
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air
Best Foreign Film: A Prophet
Best Documentary: The Cove
Best Animated Feature: Up
Best Ensemble Cast: It's Complicated
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Spotlight Award for Best Directorial Debut: Duncan Jones, Moon, Oren Moverman, The Messenger and Marc Webb, 500 Days of Summer (tie)
Best Original Screenplay: Joel & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up In The Air
Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: Wes Anderson, The Fantastic Mr. Fox
William K. Everson Film History Award: Jean Picker Firstenberg
NBR Freedom of Expression: Burma Vj: Reporting From A Closed Country, Invictus, The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellseberg And The Pentagon Papers
Top Eleven Films (In alphabetical order):
(500) Days Of Summer
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up In The Air
Where The Wild Things Are
Top Ten Independent Films (In alphabetical order):
In The Loop
Me And Orson Welles
Top Six Foreign Films (In alphabetical order):
Song Of Sparrows
The White Ribbon
Top Six Documentary Films (In alphabetical order):
Burma Vj: Reporting From A Closed Country
The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers