THE NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW WEIGHS IN

The National Board of Review has spoken, and once again, I’m scratching my head. Though I have nothing but love for the NBR for bestowing Best Actress honors on three of my favorite performances of the ’00s (Annette Bening in Being Julia, Julie Christie in Away From Her and Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married), the group loves to play favorites.

Remember last year when the NBR deemed Clint Eastwood (on his way to an Oscar snub) Best Actor for Gran Torino? This year, he won Best Director for a movie (Invictus) whose bad buzz is growing louder by the moment. Now it’s on the verge of deafening. The Best Actor tie between Invictus star Morgan Freeman (blame the Clint factor) and Up In The Air‘s George Clooney is no surprise either. They love George almost as much as they worship Clint.

Where things get a little confusing is in the Best Picture citations. The NBR have three: Best Film (Up In The Air), Top Ten Films and Top Independent Films. That some of the Top Ten Film candidates are independent films isn’t what confounds me most. Neither is the fact that Star Trek made the former cut.

What has my jaw still lying on the floor is that out of 21 films cited, not one of them was Precious: Based On The Novel “Push” By Sapphire. And it’s not like they skipped the movie for fear that it might be too hard to watch: Gabourey Sidibe won Best Breakthrough Performance By An Actress. Consider her Oscar nod a fairly sure thing.

Equally head-scratching: Woody Harrelson (above, left) as Best Supporting Actor for The Messenger. His name has been popping up on quite a few predictions lists, and I’m beginning to suspect that a comeback might be in full swing, especially considering that every NBR Best Supporting Actor of the ’00s has received an invitation to the Oscars as a nominee.

Best Actress winner Carey Mulligan (An Education) is nearly an Oscar lock, too. Excepting 1990, when Oscar poison Mia Farrow took the prize for Alice, every NBR Best Actress of the last 20 years has scored an Oscar nod. And not all of them (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, tied in 1992 for Thelma & Louise, Miranda Richardson for Tom & Viv, Janet McTeer for Tumbleweeds and Fernanda Montenegro for Central Station) have been so obvious.

Here’s what my friend Mara had to say about the NBR picks:

“Of course I saw the National Board of Review awards! (‘Tis the season, after all.) As I told you in October, Up In The Air is completely worthy and is definitely the frontrunner. And that girl Anna Kendrick [the NBR’s pick for Best Supporting Actress, the category where it has the weakest track record, by the way] was a breakthrough comic performance.

“But I’m telling you… buzz on Invictus is not good. In the elevator yesterday in the Sony screening room, two guys were talking about how disappointed they were (‘It’s just a straightforward movie.’) If Clint’s name weren’t attached, nobody would be talking about it! I still think Jeff Bridges will beat them both [George Clooney and Morgan Freeman].

“I don’t even know what to say about Woody [Harrelson]. Is it 1996? What is The Messenger??!

“P.S. I saw Sherlock Holmes. It’s exactly what you think it is. Which means it’s fine. But Robert Downey is like Mark Wahlberg — aging well, could watch him in anything.”

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