‘Up in the Air’ wins big at NBR

Posted by · 11:16 am · December 3rd, 2009

Anna Kendrick in Up in the AirThe real question with today’s National Board of Review announcement wasn’t who won, but who didn’t win.

A couple of ties and a list of honorees that seemed to canvas the entire crop of filmmaking product from 2009 adds something of a diluted quality to the proceedings, I must say.  Of course, it is worth noting that major titles like “The Lovely Bones” and “Nine” were not only absent from the list of the group’s top 10 films of the year, but they weren’t visible anywhere, in any category.

The big winner was Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air,” which took down Best Film, Best Actor (George Clooney in a tie with “Invictus” star Morgan Freeman), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Kendrick) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“Invictus” also did well, nabbing a Best Director citation for Clint Eastwood (someone the NBR has shown, time and again, that they can’t resist) in addition to Freeman’s shared award and a mention in the Freedom of Expression category.

(More, including a full list of winners, after the jump.)

Carey Mulligan took Best Actress for her work in “An Education,” the Coens were rightfully recognized for their original screenplay “A Serious Man” and Jeremy Renner and Gabourey Sidibe predictably took down the breakthrough performance awards for “The Hurt Locker” and “Precious” respectfully, but Sidibe’s film was something of a surprise no-show in the top 10 list.  What is it with the east coast and that film these last few weeks?

Anyway, the most refreshing surprise by far: Woody Harrelson nabbing the Best Supporting Actor prize for his magnificent work in “The Messenger,” a film that also landed on the top 10 and could have more heat in this race than some might expect.  In case you missed my interview with Harrelson last week, give it a look here.

Full list of winners:

Best Film: “Up In the Air”

Ten Best Films
(in alphabetical order)
“An Education”
“(500) Days of Summer”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“The Messenger”
“A Serious Man”
“Star Trek”
“Where the Wild Things Are”

Best Director: Clint Eastwood, “Invictus”

Best Actor: (tie) Morgan Freeman, “Invictus” and George Clooney, “Up In The Air”

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, “An Education”

Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”

Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, “Up In The Air”

Best Foreign Film: “A Prophet”

Best Documentary: “The Cove”

Best Animated Feature: “Up”

Best Ensemble Cast: “It’s Complicated”

Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”

Spotlight Award for Best Directorial Debut: (tie) Duncan Jones, “Moon,” Oren Moverman, “The Messenger” and Marc Webb, “(500) Days of Summer”

Best Original Screenplay: Joel & Ethan Coen, “A Serious Man”

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, “Up In the Air”

Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: Wes Anderson, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”

William K. Everson Film History Award: Jean Picker Firstenberg

NBR Freedom of Expression:
“Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country”
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”

Five Best Foreign-Language Films

(in alphabetical order)
“The Maid”
“Song of Sparrows”
“Three Monkeys”
“The White Ribbon”

Five Best Documentaries

(in alphabetical order)
“Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country”
“Food, Inc.”
“Good Hair”
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”

Top Ten Independent Films:

(in alphabetical order)
“District 9”
“Goodbye Solo”
“In the Loop”
“Me and Orson Welles”
“Two Lovers”

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125 responses so far

  • 1 12-03-2009 at 6:35 pm

    Kate Winslet said...

    Meryl was not shut out here … they threw her a bone with the “best ensemble” for “It’s Complicated.”

    I have to agree that Carey Mulligan was extremely competent in “An Education,” but it was a role that has been done a million times before (school girl becomes a woman). I don’t know if the Academy will be so enamored of the role or her to give her an Oscar in 2010, particularly when Streep is so deserving for her portrayal of Julia Child.

  • 2 12-03-2009 at 6:48 pm

    alex c said...

    has anyone seen its complicated yet? im curious as to what peoples thoughts are

  • 3 12-03-2009 at 6:49 pm

    Marshall said...

    Check out my in-depth (at least in my opinion) analysis of the awards. Couldn’t be happier with their top 10 list!


  • 4 12-03-2009 at 8:09 pm

    Sieben said...

    That’s a very nice Independant Film line-up. Goodbye Solo, Julia, Sugar? Impressive.

  • 5 12-03-2009 at 8:13 pm

    Dustin said...

    THRILLED to see Up, Where the Wild Things Are, and Star Trek. Not at all put off by the Precious snub… been sensing a backlash for that film for a while and sadly MoNique shot herself in the foot early on with her money demands at movie events. Besides Gabby Sidibe was the best thing about the film. Im over Clint Eastwood and anything Invictus. Thrilled for Anna Kendrick and really hope she becomes a front-runner. Im still thinking that Meryl will go supporting for Julie/Julia… if that happens the race is over… hands down…. but Kendrick is an inspired choice! One of the best NBR lists I can remember!

  • 6 12-03-2009 at 8:33 pm

    Alex said...

    They love Clint. He always gets an award that he doesn’t deserve.

    Practically every other director of a top 10 movie deserves his award more than him.

  • 7 12-03-2009 at 9:00 pm

    RyanOAces said...

    It’s Complicated is funny! I think it is Nancy Meyer’s best film. The ensemble award is well deserved. Streep is better in this then Diane Keaton was in Something’s Gotta Give. She should win the Oscar just for the scene in the plastic surgeon’s office.

  • 8 12-03-2009 at 9:13 pm

    billybil said...

    Forgive me my dwelling more on this issue but I’ve been thinking (I was at the theatre this evening but, I’m sorry to say, it didn’t entirely hold my attention). Anyway – I’m wondering if I’m making the same mistake about Melissa Leo last year that I believe some people are making about Mulligan and Sidibe this year. Leo was extremely effective but there was a grungy, physical component to her look and her environment that contributed to the impact of her work. And, thinking back, it would certainly be easy for me to justify Winslet’s win instead of Leo because I believe Winslet’s role in THE READER required a wider range of experience and it was inhabited by her with a special amount of verve, style, and courage.

    I don’t know – I am such a ridiculous fan of Meryl Streep and it was so obvious Winslet was her biggest threat last year, I may not have given her performance a fair shake. I must watch it again.

    So while I was having those thoughts I realized that Winslet’s work in TITANIC is a great example of where I think an actress took a rather “traditional” part and expanded it into something more. Winslet inhabited her TITANIC role in such a powerful and unique way that she hauled that huge ship of a movie into a far greater emotional experience for everyone. I mean, can you think of one other leading lady in a “disaster” epic who’s ever come even remotely close to the complexity, passion and truth that Winslet conveyed in that film? And, luckily for all of us, DiCaprio was willing and able to accompany her.

    I’m really not trying to knock Mulligan, for God’s sake there aren’t that many young actresses in the world who could have been as interesting and effective in AN EDUCATION as she was – she really is a wonderfully delightful new actress to look forward to seeing in more roles – but she did not transcend her part like Winslet did in TITANIC (and in many of her other parts) and as Streep does in pretty much everything.

    So never mind Other James D. – I’m back to being glad Winslet got it last year if Streep couldn’t.

  • 9 12-03-2009 at 11:09 pm

    Bing147 said...

    Adam Smith, arguing that 2 films have gotten into picture this decade is hardly saying they’re getting even a smidgen of their due. At least half of the best films in ANY year are foreign. A top 10 that doesn’t feature even 1 is incredibly closed minded. Its to be expected, not enough people will see any one foreign film to make it get in voting wise, doesn’t mean its okay, just that its logical.

    But if I were to make a top 50 films of the decade, or a top 50 screenplays, or a top 50 performances, I’m sure at least half and probably more would be foreign. And I see a lot higher percentage of acclaimed American films than I do acclaimed foreign films just because its so much easier to get ahold of the English ones and I prefer to see movies in theaters and my town is lucky to get 1 foreign film in theaters a year.

  • 10 12-04-2009 at 12:11 am

    RyanOAces said...

    oh, just noticed Bright Star not noted at all.

  • 11 12-04-2009 at 1:52 am

    Andrew said...

    Great that 500 Days of Summer and Fantastic Mr Fox got awards, and that Best Ensemble for It’s Complicated is fantastic because it’s not the kind of film you would predict. Will It’s Complicated get a Best Picture nom?

    I don’t like Carey Mulligan’s performance in An Education, I think it’s overrated. Make the same film but set in Texas and it wouldn’t be an “Art film”. Stupid people that think that being British makes a film worthy. Plus, Mulligan has been playing the same character in most of her movies: A teenager. Where’s the “transformation”?

  • 12 12-04-2009 at 2:01 am

    Ross said...

    I disagree with everyone who says let’s not give Meryl another Oscar. Not yet.
    Come on. Why not? Many, many actors won for nothing. Meryl was ROBBED so many times. Or you would say she didn’t deserve Oscars for SILKWOOD, OUT OF AFRICA, A CRY IN THE DARK, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTRY and ADAPTATION? She has only two Oscars and even though Julie & Julia may not be an Oscar-y movie, her perforance is. Because it’s touching and feels natural (despite of the accent and everthing).

    I’m tired of people saying she’ll be back and next she wins. And this never happens. SHE DESERVES TO WIN. IT’S HER YEAR. I KNOW IT.

  • 13 12-04-2009 at 4:42 am

    Andrew said...

    I agree with Ross. Streep should win, I’m so sick of the bashers! Stupid teenagers with a computer!

  • 14 12-04-2009 at 4:42 am

    Lina said...

    Plus, Mulligan has been playing the same character in most of her movies: A teenager. Where’s the “transformation”?

    lol, this is really stupid, so Clooney has been playing adults roles for a even longer time.

    Her characther in An Education has nothing to do with the characther that she played in The Seagull, oR on Bleak House (a period piece) just because you only saw one film doesnt mean she plays the same everytime.

  • 15 12-04-2009 at 4:49 am

    Andrew said...

    Lina, I am not talking about Clooney, I am talking about the so-called “transformation” that Carey Mulligan supposedly underwent to play Jenny in An Education, as most of her supporters claim. It doesn’t seem like a “transformation” like Charlize Theron’s Monster or Angelina Jolie’s Girl, Interrupted. On the contrary, she played the usual character she’s been playing in movies but this time as the leading girl.

    I think Streep did tranform herself to play Julia Child. That was a transformation indeed, instead of campaigning nonsense a la Mulligan.

  • 16 12-04-2009 at 5:44 am

    Lina said...

    I loved Streep and will be happy if she gets the Oscar for Julia, but I dont think you need to “transforms” to deserve praise ans awards, you need to get a great performance.

    Carey did that, I can understand why some people would think that film is overrtaded, but I also get why peope thought she was fantastic. She gave a fine performance and made a good part looks great.

  • 17 12-04-2009 at 6:45 am

    Liz said...


    “the explanation that “a film should be good in any format” is bollocks. So fullscreen pan and scan shouldn’t make a movie’s cinematography any less good. Lawrence of Arabia isn’t any good because it isn’t that epic when you’re watching nit on your iPhone?”

    Your examples are not applicable in this situation. If a movie was filmed only in widescreen, then chopping it up to appear in pan and scan is tantamount to artistic vandalism. Watching a 2D movie that is also available in 3D is not at all comparable. Now, if Cameron only released the movie in 3D theaters, I could support the idea that that is the only way to see it.

    As far as “Lawrence of Arabia” goes, yes, I still think “Lawrence of Arabia” can be good on an iPhone. Will you get the entire scope of the movie? No. But, the movie’s story, performances, and script are strong enough that they overcome the diminished impact of the visuals.

    Of course, this is an entirely personal thing. If all “Avatar” has going for it are its awesome special effects in 3D, then that’s not enough for me. For me, characters and story are what make a great movie, not special effects. Your mileage may vary, of course.

  • 18 12-04-2009 at 7:44 am

    the other mike said...

    a lot of male critics gon vote for Carey Mulligan, and we know why and i cant complain, i also judge my favourite actresses on looks and sex appeal 1st, talent 2nd.

  • 19 12-04-2009 at 7:50 am

    Solomon said...

    Up in the Air is a drama or a comedy?Could anyone tell me ?

  • 20 12-04-2009 at 9:37 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    If you’re asking about Golden Globe classification, it’s a drama.

    If you’re asking about the film itself, it’s both.

  • 21 12-04-2009 at 1:23 pm

    elemacd said...

    The usual suspects…Clooney, Clooney, yadda, yadda, yadda.
    Freeman, no beef there, but Colin Firth should have tied with him. Clooney isn’t that special and the press’ constant barrage of the media with his face has made him even less so.

  • 22 12-05-2009 at 9:47 am

    Dustin said...

    MoNique will NOT win the Oscar people! Ive said it before and I will say it again…she is NO Jennifer Hudson. Does anyone remember Flavor of Love:Charm School??? Hudson was a powerhouse in Dreamgirls… and lets face it some people win Oscars the day they are cast in movies… she is a prime example of that. Gabby Sidibe was the best thing about Precious… and quite frankly MoNique made me laugh my ass off… I had no sympathy for her character…I appreciate the performance for what it was… a great breakthrough performance. The Academy will go with Kendrick or Moore and Im still convinced Streep will find her self Kate Winslet-ed and find herself in THIS category for the Julia Childs role… thus taking the Oscar with a bullet!

  • 23 12-05-2009 at 9:58 am

    The Other James D. said...

    @Billybil: I *love* your lengthy, verbose reply. In fact, I don’t even feel I can appropriately respond to it here, without turning this into our own, even geekier forum. I don’t always do this, but you seem groovy enough to have outside conversations with. I hope you still have your subscriptions, so you should e-mail me so we can chat further:


    ^Srsly…that’s one of my e-mails. I swear! As for the rest of you, don’t you bitches be adding me to your Nigerian trust fund scams. I’m Sicilian. Best watch yourself.

    So yeah, write me there, billy, and we can dork out sans limitations. Now, I’m off to Manhattan, on a date involving seeing Museum of Natural History, duck, sashimi, and “Up in the Air”. Later!

  • 24 12-05-2009 at 10:44 am

    Simon Warrasch said...

    Where the f*** are the movies:

    – The Lovely Bones
    – Nine
    – Precious?????????????????????

  • 25 1-20-2010 at 4:20 pm

    Al Thomas said...

    Did the voters even see “Hurt Locker”..? It was a piece of camel droppings!