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Earlier this week, the Gotham Awards kicked off award season, with the nominations for the Indie Spirit awards following shortly after. And today, we have our next round of honors and for the most part, the first major awards to be handed out. The National Board of Review — an institution that is quite proud of its ability to predict (in a sense) the Oscar Best Picture winner (at least recently) — has named Jason Reitman’s latest film Up in the Air as the Best Film of 2009.

As well, they’ve honored Clint Eastwood with a nod for Best Director (Invictus), split the Best Actor nod between George Clooney (Up in the Air) and Morgan Freeman (Invictus), and giving rising star Carey Mulligan her first award of the season, Best Actress for her performance in An Education.

For Paramount, the love for Up in the Air couldn’t have come at a better time. The film begins its limited release on Friday (Dec. 4) and expands every week until finally being in wide release on Christmas. George Clooney also gets an injection of credibility into his own Oscar campaign for his performance, one that deserves some recognition in the opinion of this writer. Overall, I hadn’t yet pondered the possibility of Up in the Air winning Best Picture. Sure, it deserves one of the ten nominations, but I wouldn’t have put it past films such as The Hurt Locker or A Serious Man. It will be interesting to watch as the season continues to unfold, to see if this is just a wayward glance from the NBR, or if UITA gets some serious consideration.

As we read down the list (which I’ve attached below) we see other surprises. Anna Kendrick for her supporting role in Up in the Air, the cast of It’s Complicated (which is yet to screen for critics) for Best Ensemble, and a few notable geek titles in the NBR’s Top Ten Films: Star Trek, Where the Wild Things Are, 500 Days of Summer and Inglourious Basterds. Finally, it is great to see Duncan Jones receiving recognition for Best Directorial Debut (Moon) alongside 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb and The Messenger director Oren Moverman.

Below you will find the complete list of awards, courtesy of the NBR:

Best Film: UP IN THE AIR
Best Director: CLINT EASTWOOD, Invictus

Best Actor(s): GEORGE CLOONEY, Up In The Air; MORGAN FREEMAN, Invictus
Best Actress: CAREY MULLIGAN, An Education
Best Supporting Actor: WOODY HARRELSON, The Messenger
Best Supporting Actress: ANNA KENDRICK, Up In The Air

Best Foreign Language 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; MARC WEBB, (500) Days of Summer

Best Original Screenplay: JOEL AND 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

Ten Best Films
(in alphabetical order)

  • AN EDUCATION
  • (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
  • THE HURT LOCKER
  • INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
  • INVICTUS
  • THE MESSENGER
  • A SERIOUS MAN
  • STAR TREK
  • UP
  • WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

Five Best Foreign-Language Films
(in alphabetical order)

  • THE MAID
  • REVANCHE
  • SONG OF SPARROWS
  • THREE MONKEYS
  • THE WHITE RIBBON

Five Best Documentaries
(in alphabetical order)

  • BURMA VJ: REPORTING FROM A CLOSED COUNTRY
  • CRUDE
  • FOOD, INC.
  • GOOD HAIR
  • THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS

Top Ten Independent Films:
(in alphabetical order)

  • AMREEKA
  • DISTRICT 9
  • GOODBYE SOLO
  • HUMPDAY
  • IN THE LOOP
  • JULIA
  • ME AND ORSON WELLES
  • MOON
  • SUGAR
  • TWO LOVERS

Official Press Release from NBR:

“The NBR is very proud to announce its honorees for 2009 – a year in which filmmakers’ voices and visions were innovative, exciting and eclectic. We are thrilled to honor Jason Reitman’s bittersweet and poignant film, Up In The Air, with wonderfully strong performances, writing and direction,” said NBR President Annie Schulhof. “The NBR is looking forward to this year’s gala at Cipriani 42nd Street with Meredith Vieira joining us as the evening’s MC.”

This year the NBR screened over 300 films – 181 narratives, 79 documentaries, 46 foreign language films and 11 animated films. The NBR, founded on January 25th, 1909, was originally founded as an anti-censorship organization and continues to honor excellence and freedom of expression in filmmaking today. The 108 members include knowledgeable film enthusiasts, academics, filmmakers and students from the NY metropolitan area. Many of the student members are past recipients of the NBR student grant program which enables students and young filmmakers to finish their projects and exhibit their work.

The 2010 NBR Gala will be held on January 12th at Cipriani’s 42nd St. in New York City. Meredith Vieira will serve as the Mistress of Ceremonies. Once again, the accounting firm of Lutz & Carr tabulated the actual ballots.


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