Jan 14, 2009

NBR Honors Slumdog, Ben Button tonight

Now in its 100th year, the National Board of Review, the nation's oldest almost but not quite critical fraternity (although from its largely Social Security eligible membership, it more resembles a Florida retirement home) of which I am a junior member, hands out its annual honors this evening. You won't be able to catch any video of the event (Eugene Hernandez of indieWIRE notoriously got caught by president Annie Schulhof posting footage from the event on youtube and was subsequently persona non grata) but I'm sure David Carr will have some choice bits on the Carpetbagger tomorrow.

The NBR awards are a genial, glamorous affair held every year at Cipriani's midtown. The winners already know who they are so the competitive juices are largely checked at the door. Because the event isn't structured for television, the presenters and the winners generally have free reign to drone on and on, make asses of themselves, etc. Martin Scorsese delivered a rousing and very funny speech after winning best director for The Departed a few years back, showing off that encyclopedic film brain of his and letting loose with a wild anecdote about being mistaken for the Hillside strangler in the late 70's. At that same show, I watched Parker Posey disappear into a bathroom with Dermot Mulroney, only to return to their table five minutes later, Posey noticibly flushed and animated. When she was then reminded that she was presenting the Best Supporting Actress prize to her For Your Consideration co-star Catherine O'Hara, she drained of color and looked legitimately petrified; would you want to have to present an award coked off your rocker?

Now comes the disavowal; I didn't vote for Slumdog Millionaire at all, especially in any of the categories it won (Best Picture, Best Breakthrough Performance for Dev Patel, Best Adapted Screenplay for Simon Beaufoy, which he shares with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button scribe Eric Roth). I would have considered voting for Ben Button's David Fincher for best director had I seen the film by the time we voted (I hadn't), but although I liked the film, I wasn't bowled over by it and I see it more as a technical triumph than a directorial one, especially in light of Mr. Fincher's searing, brilliant Zodiac the year before, for which he shared my vote for best director with Todd Haynes of I'm Not There.

In general, while I defended the NBR from its yearly onslaught of naysayers after the announcement of last year's winners, I was less than thrilled with the conventionality and narrowness of most of the selections this year. Ah well.

Below is a full list of winners.

Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: DAVID FINCHER, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Actor: CLINT EASTWOOD, Gran Torino
Best Actress: ANNE HATHAWAY, Rachel Getting Married
Best Supporting Actor: JOSH BROLIN, Milk
Best Supporting Actress: PENELOPE CRUZ, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Foreign Language Film: Mongol
Best Documentary: Man on Wire
Best Animated Feature: Wall-E
Best Ensemble Cast: Doubt
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: DEV PATEL, Slumdog Millionaire
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: VIOLA DAVIS, Doubt
Best Directorial Debut: COURTNEY HUNT, Frozen River
Best Original Screenplay: NICK SCHENK, Gran Torino
Best Adapted Screenplay: SIMON BEAUFOY, Slumdog Millionaire and ERIC ROTH, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Spotlight Award: MELISSA LEO, Frozen River and RICHARD JENKINS, The Visitor
The BVLGARI Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: Trumbo
William K. Everson Film History Award: MOLLY HASKELL and ANDREW SARRIS