National Board of Review Hails 'Social Network': So What?
The year's first influential salvo of kudos, Thursday's National Board of Review awards, did important things:
1) Showered four top awards on The Social Network and invited The King's Speech into the Top 11 Films group only to pee on its shoes and favor its rival.
2) Gave slow-mo contender Lesley Manville the best actress cred she desperately needs.
3) Reversed the Gotham Awards' controversial decision depriving Jennifer Lawrence of breakthrough performance honors.
4) Helped the Afghanistan doc Restrepo gain ground on frontrunners Inside Job and Bill Gates-backed Waiting for Superman.
5) Gave newcomer Jacki Weaver of Animal Kingdom and scrappy Christian Bale a fighting chance at repeating their NBR best supporting wins come Oscar night.
But let's get real: how much chance is there that NBR foretells Oscar behavior? NBR foresaw gold for No Country for Old Men and Slumdog Millionaire, but those were oddly arty wins in Oscar history, much more in keeping with past NBR picks like Quills. Movies only win Oscars if their moment is right, not because NBR gave them a shove. At the Telluride party after Slumdog's premiere, I told Danny Boyle it would win the Oscar. He widened his eyes, shook his head and said, "A movie half in Hindi is going to need all the help it can get." But history gave him an unexpected push. "Slumdog caught a wave of Obama optimism," says its screenwriter Simon Beaufoy. "A wave of hope and openness, openness to the rest of the world." Hope and openness are over. Maybe this means The Social Network's study of our nasty, brutish, winner-take-all, friendship-be-damned society is the movie of the Oscar moment. Or that we now crave retro movie comfort food like The King's Speech, a reprieve from a time when there are no good guys .
If the NBRs weren't so early, they wouldn't get so much attention. They probably do more for underexposed candidates like Manville than overexposed frontrunners. Though I have no idea who did what to court the NBR, the evidence is consistent with a guess that Sony Pictures Classics put some effort into it, sending screeners out early, while less-NBR-winning Fox Searchlight didn't, perhaps figuring it's too early to matter, and what a headache to schlep stars to a Meredith Viera-hosted gala January 11 that won't make that much of a difference at the Kodak February 27. Or will they?
HOLLYWOOD'S RED CARPET A-LIST
Covering The Race
Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter, is one of the entertainment industry's most experienced and trusted experts about the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. He started on the awards beat in 2001, writing for independent websites including his own ScottFeinberg.com before joining the Los Angeles Times and then THR, for which he writes “The Race” blog, which won the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award for best entertainment blog of 2012-2013. A voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics' Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association, he is also writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 500 high-profile Hollywood figures whose careers span the silent era through the present.
Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/scottfeinberg.