Every November, two New York awards groups — Independent Feature Project’s Gotham Awards and scholastic cinephile association The National Board of Review — put the spotlight on some lucky winners, boosting their Oscar chances. The ones left off aren’t hurt, necessarily; it only means they need to nab more attention down the pike.
Best Film, Actor, and Actress went to Steven Spielberg’s late-breaking true thriller “The Post” (Fox, December 22), which balances a resonant valentine to analog journalism with a moving portrait of an heroic woman publisher who put free speech ahead of business.
Meryl Streep will continue to win accolades for this sensitive portrayal of The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, a socially prominent widow who inherited her husband’s newspaper and learned to navigate the nation’s corridors of power with finesse at a time when women tended to be dismissed.
Tom Hanks is also terrific as editor Ben Bradlee, who pushes his boss to stand up and fight for the right to publish Vietnam expose the Pentagon Papers. Streep is a sure-shot for her 21st Oscar nomination, while Hanks could land his first nomination since 2001, especially since the Best Actor category is weaker than usual.
Hanks beat out ’50s London fashion drama “Phantom Thread” star Daniel Day-Lewis for the Best Actor win. That movie has been playing screening catch up this week and scored a Best Original Screenplay win for writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson.
In a surprise, Adapted Screenplay went to “The Disaster Artist” writers Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber’s portrait of “The Room” actor-director Tommy Wiseau. The movie is on a roll, as director-star James Franco won Best Actor at the Gothams.
The fact that NBR gave Best Director to Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird” speaks more to spreading the love than denying Steven Spielberg, who will likely be recognized by his peers in the DGA and the Academy directors branch, if not late-year film critics. Clearly, “The Post” is a strong consensus-builder. “Lady Bird” also scored Supporting Actress for Laurie Metcalf, who will likely compete for the Oscar with fellow tough mom Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”).
As expected, Best Breakthrough Performance went to Sony Pictures Classics’ “Call Me By Your Name” star Timothee Chalamet on the road to his first Oscar nomination, while Best Directorial Debut continues to swell the Oscar chances for Blumhouse/Universal’s “Get Out” writer-director Jordan Peele in that category. “Get Out” is steady as they go, also nabbing NBR’s Best Ensemble as well as key Indie Spirit nominations and Gotham wins.
Willem Dafoe nabbed a much-needed Supporting Actor win for his avuncular poverty motel manager in “The Florida Project” (A24), which scored only two Spirit nominations and no Gotham wins.
The drumroll has begun for the likely winner of the Animated Feature Oscar, Disney/Pixar’s Day of the Dead spectacular “Coco,” which scored big at the box office this weekend.
SPC’s “Foxtrot” won its first prize since Israel’s Ophir made it that country’s Oscar entry. Included in the Top 5 foreign language films were two more SPC entries, Chilean transgender drama “A Fantastic Woman,” which is gaining awards traction along with Russian entry “Loveless.” Sweden’s “The Square” (Magnolia) is also picking up steam. While Spain submitted “Summer 1993,” “Frantz” is not the French Oscar entry.
Angelina Jolie’s Cambodian Oscar entry “First They Killed My Father” (Netflix) had to settle for the Freedom of Expression Award.
Continuing to build frontrunner status is Brett Morgen’s archival documentary “Jane,” which shows how Jane Goodall’s love for a community of wild chimpanzees rivaled her commitment to her own family. Another stirring documentary contender, Oscar-winning “!2 Years a Slave” writer John Ridley’s “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992,” won the NBR Freedom of Expression Award.
This year the 108-year-old NBR viewed 265 films; they also gave a little love to “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot via the NBR Spotlight Award which will be presented at the Awards Gala hosted by Willie Geist on January 9 at Cipriani 42nd Street.
Always idiosyncratic is the way the NBR splits up their 10 “Top Films,” which is an eclectic mix of studios and indies, and “Top 10 independent films.” While A24 and Sony are doing well this season, NBR snubbed Fox Searchlight’s fall festival hits “The Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Battle of the Sexes,” listing “Patti Cake$” on the indie list. Also left off were Netflix’s well-hyped Oscar hopefuls “The Meyerowitz Stories,” “Okja” and “Mudbound,” and Amazon Studios’ summer hit “The Big Sick” and fall box-office disappointments “Last Flag Flying” and “Wonderstruck.”
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
THE DISASTER ARTIST
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Top 5 Documentaries
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL
BRIMSTONE & GLORY
ERIC CLAPTON: LIFE IN 12 BARS
HELL ON EARTH: THE FALL OF SYRIA AND THE RISE OF ISIS
Top 10 Independent Films
BEATRIZ AT DINNER
A GHOST STORY
NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER