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National Board of Review Names Award-Winners, 10 Best of 2015

National Board of Review Names Award-Winners, 10 Best of 2015

George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the best film of the year, according to the National Board of Review. The studios did well with the NBR this year. The 106-year-old organization, made up of “knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students,” leads a month in which critics groups, not to mention the Golden Globe nominations, will bring the Oscar race ever more into focus. (The New York Film Critics Circle votes Wednesday.)

The NBR viewed over 250 films this year including studio, independent, foreign-language, animated and documentary selections; they follow their screenings with in-depth discussions with filmmakers, directors, actors, producers, and screenwriters. The organization tends to support message films with gravitas, so “Fury Road” (Warner Bros.) is a bit of a surprise. Last year, JC Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” scored Best Film, as well as acting nods for Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain for her supporting role, but did not go on to score at the Oscars.

This year, while some awards contenders remain out in front, the field is disparate enough to encompass multiple surprises, including possible Best Picture and Director Oscar nominations for “Fury Road” along with expected technical nods.

The NBR acting awards boost Oscar Contenders Matt Damon (Fox’s “The Martian”) and Brie Larson (A24’s “Room”) while her co-star Jacob Tremblay shares Best Newcomer with “Beasts of No Nation”‘s Abraham Attah. NBR winner Sly Stallone is bidding for a supporting actor Oscar nod for “Creed” (Warner Bros./MGM). 
As with other awards, the NBR wins help to spotlight films that future voters may want to check out, moving some titles higher up in the screener pile. Quentin Tarantino won Best Original Screenplay for “The Hateful Eight,” which also scored for Supporting Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, while Disney/Pixar frontrunner “Inside Out” won animated feature. Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse doc “Amy” won Best Documentary, so it was a good day for A24. 

Stark omissions among the NBR winners include Monday night’s Gotham winner “Spotlight” (Open Road), which is included in the Top Ten list below, as well as Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” (Universal), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “The Revenant” (Fox), and David O. Russell’s “Joy” (Fox), which are not. “The Big Short” (Paramount) didn’t make the Top 10 list but had to settle for a “Best Ensemble” prize. 

Word from the foreign Oscar voters is that “Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics) is a strong contender as well as a critical favorite, so it will likely keep winning awards.

The group is inconsistent at best: they do not name top animated features as they do documentary and foreign; and they include some indie films in the Top 10 (limited releases “Spotlight,” “Room”) and not others (A24’s “Ex Machina,””While We’re Young” and “Mississippi Grind”), which serves to render the indie list more second-tier. Is it studio, big-budget, wide release theatrical, high-grossing Top 10? Indie distributor, small-budget, limited/VOD release, low-grossing Indie Top 10? The criteria are not transparent. Nor is the group itself, which has never released the names of its members. But of course, like the much-excoriated Hollywood Film Awards, award-season players are happy to play along and buy tables at the NBR award ceremony to reap the PR benefits.

Below is a full list of this year’s NBR awards:

Best Film: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Director: Ridley Scott “The Martian”

Best Actor: Matt Damon “The Martian” 

Best Actress: Brie Larson “Room”

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone “Creed”

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh “The Hateful Eight” 

Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino “The Hateful Eight” 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Drew Goddard “The Martian”

Best Animated Feature: “Inside Out”

Breakthrough Performance: “Abraham Attah “Beasts of No Nation” and Jacob Tremblay “Room”

Best Directorial Debut: Jonas Carpignano “Mediterranea” 

Best Foreign Language Film: “Son of Saul”

Best Documentary: “Amy”

Best Ensemble: “The Big Short”

William K. Everson Film History Award: Cecilia De Mille Presley

Spotlight Award: “Sicario” for Outstanding Collaborative Vision 

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “Beasts of Nation” (Netflix) and “Mustang” (France Oscar entry, Cohen Media Group)

Top Films of 2015: 
“Bridge of Spies” (Disney/DreamWorks)
“Creed” (Warner Bros./New Line/MGM)
“The Hateful Eight” (The Weinstein Co.)
“Inside Out” (Disney/Pixar)
“The Martian” (Fox)
“Room” (A24)
“Sicario” (Lionsgate)
“Spotlight” (Open Road)
“Straight Outta Compton” (Universal)

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
“Goodnight Mommy” (Austrian Oscar submission, Radius-TWC)
“Mediterranea” (Sundance Selects)
“Phoenix” (2014 German shortlist for the Oscars, Sundance Selects)
“The Second Mother” (Brazilian Oscar submission, Oscilloscope)
“The Tribe” (2014 Ukraine Oscar submission, Drafthouse Films)
Top 5 Documentaries
“Best of Enemies” (Magnolia)
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”
“The Diplomat” (Home Box Office)
“Listen to Me Marlon” (Showtime Documentary Films) 
“The Look of Silence” (Drafthouse)
Top 10 Independent Films
“‘71” (Roadside Attractions)
“45 Years” (Sundance Selects)
“Cop Car” (Focus World)
“Ex Machina” (A 24)
“Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“It Follows” (Radius-TWC)
“James White” (The Film Arcade)
“Mississippi Grind” (A24)
“Welcome to Me” (Alchemy)
“While We’re Young” (A24)

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