Thursday, May 23, 2024

National Board of Review: Disgraceful Omission of Martin Luther King Movie in Favor of LEGO


No one will say this out loud. But the National Board of Review is a disgrace. Their so called choices today for their awards were ridiculous, laughable and sad.  I’d go so far as to say they were racist. Not awarded one regular award was Ava DuVernay’s exceptional “Selma” about Martin Luther King the march of 1965. “Selma” is one of the best movies of the year, and certainly the most important. Members of the NBR who pay exorbitant dues should be embarrassed that “Selma” was relegated to sharing a made up honor– Freedom of Expression Award– along with Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater.” This is just like saying, you can sit in the back of the bus. Read below– “Freedom of Expression” is what they give to black movies.

The NBR didn’t stop there. I am calling for it to be disbanded. Annie Schulhof has made her penchant for choosing Warner Bros. films or anyone who’s made them into a subject publicists and journalist laugh aloud about all over town. For years she’s alternated betweem Clint Eastwood and George Clooney, awarding anything they’ve made.

That Clint Eastwood won Best Director for “American Sniper” is a joke by now. Eastwood might as well live with the NBR. I doubt he wants this kind of attention.

Let’s start 11 years ago. In 2003, “Mystic River” won Best Picture and made the list of top 10 films.

In 2004, Eastwood got a special award for “writing directing producing Million Dollar Baby.”

In 2006, “Letters from Iwo Jima” won Best Picture. “Letters” and “Flags of our Fathers” were in  the top 10 film list.

In 2008, two of his films– “Gran Torino” and “The Changeling” — had spots on the top 10. Eastwood won Best Actor for “Gran Torino.”

The following year, his “Invictus” got a top 10 spot and Morgan Freeman won Best Actor from that movie. Eastwood was Best Director and “Invictus” was one of three films tie for Freedom of Expression.

Thereafter, “Hereafter,” made the top 10 in 2010. In 2011, “J Edgar” made the top 10 list. Schulhof had other Warner Bros fish to fry that year: awards to George Clooney, and to the “Harry Potter series.”

This year, Eastwood is back as best director, with a top 10 film, “American Sniper,” from Warner Bros. To make matters worse the NBR awarded both screenplay awards this year to Warner films– “The LEGO Movie” and “Inherent Vice.” The former is a cartoon. The latter is absolutely the most incoherent thing anyone has seen on a screen in years. If there’s a screenplay. I’d like to see it. “Inherent Vice,” which I call “Incoherent Vice,” is gobbledygook, maybe intentionally.

But Schulhof has a long and evidently fruitful friendship with Dan Fellman, long time head of Warner distribution. And the obsession with Eastwood? Jeanine Basinger is on the NBR board. She also teaches at Wesleyan, where she runs Eastwood’s archives. The NBR has given Wesleyan just over $50,000 since 2007, presumably for Basinger to run her Eastwood Fan Club umimpeded.

As for black movies, the NBR and Schuhof have  an alarming track record. To be fair they gave Halle Berry Best Actress in “Monster’s Ball” in 2003 and Freeman best actor in “Invictus” (perhaps because it was a Clint Eastwood movie). They snubbed both “Precious” and “Dreamgirls” for their top 10 list. For “Precious” Gabourey Sidibe was thrown a bone for Breakthrough performance. The NBR ignored Mo’Nique, who won the Oscar. For “Dreamgirls.” They snubbed Jennifer Hudson, who went on to win the Oscar, for Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone.”

Last year, even though “12 Years a Slave” and “Fruitvale Station” made the top 10, no actors from them were mentioned including Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.  And Spike Jonze’s “Her,” a Warner film, was chosen over “12 Years” as Best Picture. Ironically, Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for “Fruitvale Station.” But they ignored “The Help,” the movie for which Spencer won her Oscar, completely. For “Doubt” they skipped giving Viola Davis an actual acting award, and gave her Breakthrough Performance– just like they did later with Sidibe– even though she’d  been acting for years.

To note: Denzel Washington has never won an acting award from the NBR. He has  two Oscars. His movie “The Great Debaters” won– wait for it– the Freedom of Expression Award in 2007. Derek Luke, who acted in Washington’s “Antwone Fisher,” got an award. What do you think it was? Breakthough Performance.

It’s a sad joke, and a very damning indictment of the movie business that this goes on and on. It’s up to the studios to say “No more.”




Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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