For 2019, The National Board of Review embraces cinema.
The film society that has existed since the early days of movies (now in its 110th year) has released its annual picks for the best achievements in film, naming Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman the Best Film of 2019.
The Board also tapped the mob epic’s screenwriter Steven Zaillian for Best Adapted Screenplay, then gave Scorsese and his top two stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino the NBR Icon Award (Joe Pesci‘s name was conspicuously absent from the group). These citations are an early boon for Netflix’s Oscar campaign.
In addition, the Board also published a Top 10 for the best films of the year, listing them alphabetically. This excludes The Irishman (which supersedes them all) and so, in all, the NBR lists 11 films total. And in a win for “cinema”, not only is Scorsese’s film tops but Avengers: Endgame is nowhere to be seen.
Awards were also given for Best Actor, Best Actress, and “Best” in a number of other familiar categories. (Complete list below.)
The NBR is a mysterious, eclectic group that often mixes expected citations with surprising snubs, ignoring some artier fair for more mainstream offerings. Their choice of The Irishman is almost a perfect middle ground. On one hand, it’s a three-and-a-half hour passion project from a major auteur; on the other, it’s a bona fide pop culture event (given the Hollywood legends involved).
Renée Zellweger is now 2-for-2 in this young awards season, receiving another Best Actress honor for her turn as Judy Garland in Judy. Brad Pitt also picked up a second Best Supporting Actor prize for his performance in Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Tarantino was named Best Director.
Adam Sandler took Best Actor honors for his hyper-kinetic whirlwind in the intensely gritty drama Uncut Gems, and his writer/director brothers Josh and Benny Safdie won Best Original Screenplay along with their co-writer Ronald Bronstein.
Kathy Bates repped the annual Clint Eastwood film (always an NBR favorite) as Best Supporting Actress for her role as the mother in Richard Jewell, and joining her from that true story drama was Paul Walter Hauser who won Breakthrough Performance for his work in the title role.
Foreign Language Film favorite Parasite from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho took that category; the Cannes Film Festival winner is on a trajectory right now for Academy Award nominations in the top Picture and Director categories.
Knives Out won Best Ensemble, very deservedly, while one of my absolute favorite underdogs of the year Maiden — about the first all-female crew in the “Sailboat Race Around The World” — won Best Documentary.
Surprise citations: two Top 10 choices — Eddie Murphy‘s blaxploitation biopic Dolemite is My Name, and the indie drama Waves about a suburban African-American family in crisis.
Other NBR lists include Top 5’s for Foreign-Language and Documentary Films, and a separate Top 10 for the best Independent Films of the year.
NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW
2019 Film Awards
Best Film: The Irishman
Best Director: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Best Actress: Renée Zellweger, Judy
Best Actor: Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Best Supporting Actress: Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Best Original Screenplay: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, Ronald Bronstein, Uncut Gems
Best Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian, The Irishman
Best Animated Feature: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Breakthrough Performance: Paul Walter Hauser, Richard Jewell
Best Directorial Debut: Melina Matsoukas, Queen & Slim
Best Foreign Language Film: Parasite
Best Documentary: Maiden
Best Ensemble: Knives Out
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Roger Deakins, 1917
NBR Icon Award: Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: For Sama
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Just Mercy
Top 5 Foreign Language Films 2019 (listed alphabetically)
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Top 5 Documentaries 2019 (listed alphabetically)
The Black Godfather
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
Top 10 Independent Films 2019 (listed alphabetically)
Give Me Liberty
A Hidden Life
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Honoring annual achievements in film since 1929, the National Board of Review is a “select group of film enthusiasts, filmmakers, professionals, academics, and students of varying ages and backgrounds” who watch over 250 films and participate in discussions with directors, actors, producers, and screenwriters before making and announcing their selections.
Click on links below for other Critics Group Awards and Guild Nominees that have been announced so far for the 2019 / 20 season: