The National Board of Review has handed Slumdog Millonaire their Best Picture award, but the big surprise was their handing Clint Eastwood the 2008 Best Actor award for his snarlin’ Gran Torino performance, and also giving their Best Original Screenplay award to Gran Torino‘s Nick Schenk .
Surprising because the NBR’s praise doesn’t square with MCN’s David Poland calling GT a wash, N.Y. Times reporter Michael Cieply sounding derisively smart-ass about Eastwood’s personality being less likable than his dog’s, and another online columnist suggesting that Torino might be a Razzie award contender.
Something’s wrong here. Somebody’s over-reacting or something. Either the West Coasters are mis-reading this movie big-time and fickling out on their own orbits, or the NBR members are trying to whorishly out-do themselves. That said, a major New York columnist and a major critic are both thumbs-up on Torino, and a major Left Coast syndicate writer and critic is an admirer also, I’m told.
Slulmdog Millionaire took the Best Picture prize, and Benjamin Button director David Fincher won for Best Director.
Rachel Getting Married‘s Anne Hathaway blew away stiff competitors Kate Winslet and Kristin Scott Thomas to take the Best Actress award. Go figure.
Josh Brolin‘s Dan White performance in Milk won for Best Supporting Actor. (Very tough competition in this category also — Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt, and Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road.)
And Vicky Christina Barcelona‘s Penelope Cruz won for Best Supporting Actress, beating out Doubt‘s Viola Davis.
The NBR’s Best Foreign Language Film award went to…Mongol?
The NBR weirdos made the right call, however, in giving their Best Documentary award to James Marsh‘s Man on Wire, their Best Animated Feature award to WALL*E and the Best Ensemble Cast award to Doubt.
Slumdog‘s Dev Patel won the Breakthrough Performance by an Actor award, and Viola Davis, who’s been doing great work in movies and plays for many years, won the NBR’s Breakthrough Performance by an Actress award for her one killer scene work in Doubt.
Frozen River‘s Courtney Hunt won the Best Directorial Debut award, and Slumdog‘s Simon Beaufoy and Benjamin Button‘s Eric Roth tied, apparently, for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Spotlight Awards went to Frozen River‘s Melissa Leo and The Visitor‘s Richard Jenkins.
The NBR’s Top Ten films in alphabetical order: Burn After Reading, Changeling,
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Defiance, Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, Milk, WALL*E, The Wrestler.
Top Five Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order): Ege of Heaven, Let The Right One In, Roman de Guerre, A Secret and Waltz With Bashir.
Top Five Documentary Films (in alphabetical order): American Teen (what?), The Betrayal, Dear Zachary, Encounters at the End of the World and Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.