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The National Board of Review Dishes Some Surprises With Its 2021 Winners

Spike Lee’s Vietnam drama Da 5 Bloods came up big with the National Board of Review today, winning their prizes for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Ensemble. It’s a pretty big boost for the Netflix film, as NBR’s winner for Best Film rarely misses the Oscar nominations list for Best Picture. The last NBR winner to miss completely was 2014’s A Most Violent Year and before that you have to go back to 2000’s Quills

Lee’s director win is also notable, as it’s only the second time in the NBR’s history that they’ve awarded Best Director to a black filmmaker, after Barry Jenkins won in 2016 for Moonlight

NBR usually has a few somewhat off the wall picks in their Top 10 Films of the year (often directed by Clint Eastwood, looking at you HereafterJ. EdgarRichard Jewell, etc.) Certainly the most unexpected selection this year was another Netflix feature, George Clooney’s sci-fi drama The Midnight Sky. The movie released in December with virtually no buzz and disappeared quickly among the other prestige awards releases, but it showed up here with a little love from the NBR. 

It wasn’t all good news for Netflix today, however, as they got hit with probably the most notable omissions from the group. In a move that surely stunned everyone, The Trial of the Chicago 7from Aaron Sorkin was left off of the list, as were David Fincher’s Mank and George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. What does this mean for the Oscar prospects of those films? Probably nothing, as the NBR always has some off the wall choices and notable omissions, but it could be a sign that these three aren’t as strong of players as some might have assumed. You’d be hard pressed to find a year where the Oscar winner for Best Picture didn’t at least get included in the NBR’s Top 10. Aside from Parasite obviously missing last year, The Shape of Water did miss the cut in 2017. Before that, however, you’d have to go back to 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Some other big winners from the day included Sound of Metal, which included its run of acting accolades for lead Riz Ahmed and supporting star Paul Raci, as well as finding itself among the Top 10 Films list. Also on that list, perhaps surprisingly so, was the indie hit The Forty-Year-Old Version, which also earned writer/director/producer/star Radha Blank the Spotlight Award for her debut film. News of the World, the Christmas release that hasn’t picked up much buzz up until now, earned a win in Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as the “dad movie” slot in the Top 10 Films. A24’s critically beloved Minari was the Original Screenplay winner, along with another Supporting Actress prize going to Youn Yuh-Jung for the film. 

Finally, while Promising Young Woman might have taken a hit by missing out on today’s Independent Spirit Awards nominations for Best Picture, it did make the cut here among the Top 10 Films, while also winning the prize for Best Actress for its star, Carey Mulligan, who also won the award for her breakout performance in 2009’s An Education

For the full list of NBR winners, see below: 

BEST FILM

Da 5 Bloods 

BEST DIRECTOR

Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods

BEST ACTOR

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal 

BEST ACTRESS

Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR 

Paul Raci, Sound of Metal 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Youn Yuh-jung, Minari 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Lee Isaac Chung, Minari 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies, News of the World 

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always 

BEST DIRECTORIAL DEBUT 

Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE 

Soul 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

La Llorona 

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Time 

NBR ICON AWARD

Chadwick Boseman 

NBR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AWARD

One Night in Miami 

NBR SPOTLIGHT AWARD

Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version 

BEST ENSEMBLE 

Da 5 Bloods 

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

Joshua James Richards, Nomadland 

TOP 10 FILMS 

First Cow

The Forty-Year-Old Version

Judas and the Black Messiah 

The Midnight Sky

Minari

News of the World

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

Soul 

Sound of Metal 

TOP 5 FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS

Apples

Collective

Dear Comrades

The Mole Agent

Night of the Kings 

TOP 5 DOCUMENTARIES

All In: The Fight for Democracy

Boys State

Dick Johnson is Dead

Miss Americana 

The Truffle Hunters 

TOP 10 INDEPENDENT FILMS 

The Climb

Driveways

Farewell Amor

Miss Juneteenth

The Nest

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

The Outpost 

Relic

Saint Frances

Wolfwalkers 

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Written by Mitchell Beaupre

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