The National Board of Review tried like crazy to get the stars to their annual gala Tuesday night. To do it, they gave Clint Eastwood his annual award and tossed Meryl Streep a bone with a “Best Ensemble” prize for “It’s Complicated.”’They could have given her Best Actress for “Julie & Julia.” But instead that went to Carey Mulligan for “An Education.”

Well, the NBR’s old tricks failed them. Eastwood, maybe wising up to the yucky nature of this group, sent a video message and skipped the proceedings. Meryl backed out at the last minute. With the big guns gone, the NBR was left with George Clooney and company for “Up in the Air.”

Otherwise, the NBR was stuck with a shortage of star power. On the Wire Image website, you can tell what was going on, too: they resorted to including pictures of NBR president Annie Schulhof, who’s desperate to be a celebrity. Well, she got her wish.

According to New York Magazine’s report, the evening was more or less a roast of George Clooney, but not as good as the New York Film Critics Circle awards the night before. The Times report indicated a lackluster response to the whole proceeding. They chose to interview J.J. Abrams but didn’t ask him anything about “Lost.” He’s right, though, when he says that “Star Trek” won’t be a Best Picture nominee.

Maybe this is the beginning of the end for the NBR. Their only real usefulness in the past was being first with awards that the studios could advertise for the holidays. But since the other awards shows have jumped in and are now earlier with their announcements, and more accurate, NBR may finally be on the ropes.

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