Martin Scorsese’s simultaneous celebration of cinematic tradition and 3-D magic also earned the veteran filmmaker the best director title from the board, a nonprofit group of film scholars and enthusiasts whose choices typically kick off the annual round of movie prize-giving. The New York Critics Circle beat them to the punch this year by announcing its selections on Tuesday; that group went in a slightly different direction, naming “The Artist” as best picture. Apparently at this stage in Awards Season 2011-12, the battle for supremacy is between two films that both wear their reverence for movie history on their motion-picture sleeves.
Who else was singled out by the National Board of Review?
George Clooney — snubbed earlier this week from the Spirit Award nominations — was named best actor for his work in “The Descendents,” while his “Michael Clayton” co-star, Tilda Swinton — another Spirit Award snubee — took best actress for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
Christopher Plummer’s work in “Beginners” earned him best supporting actor, while Shailene Woodley won the supporting actress honor for “The Descendants.” Other high-profile winners: Will Reiser for “50/50” (best original screenplay), Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash for “The Descendants” (best adapted screenplay); and “Rango” (best animated film). Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy”) and Rooney Mara (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) both were singled out for breakthrough performances, while the “Harry Potter” franchise was given a special achievement in filmmaking designation for its “distinguished translation from book to film.” The full list of nominees can be found on the NBR Web site.
The board traditionally reveals all 10 of the movies on its best film list: This year, in addition to “Hugo,” those included “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “Drive,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” “The Ides of March,” “J. Edgar,” “Tree of Life” and Steven Spielberg’s forthcoming “War Horse.”
Naturally, some notable Oscar-baity films are not on that list, including “The Iron Lady,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (which has not screened for critics yet), “50/50,” “Young Adult” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” among others.
Perhaps the most notable inclusion here is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” which has been the subject of debate regarding its potential for an Oscar nomination. Its spot on this list suggests that maybe it has a shot.
Then again, in the up, then down, then up again world of awards season voting, it’s still very early.