The reaction this afternoon to the National Board of Review awards is hilarious bordering on the ridiculous. The NBR, as I’ve written in the past, is a shill for their president and CEO Annie Shulhof and her reindeer games. The NBR’s devotion to Warner Bros. is now stretched beyond belief as their Best Picture choice is “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Schulhof has devoted herself to choosing Warner films, actors and directors for the last decade or more. Since 2003 WB has won five times. No other studio has won more than once otherwise. Schulhof has a long friendship with outgoing head of distribution Dan Fellman. Is this her last sop to him? We’ll see.
Schulhof is also tied to indie filmer A24. Last year she gave their “A Most Violent Year” Best Picture and its star Oscar Isaac, Best Actor ( in a tie). Neither the film nor the actor in that role won anything else last year from any other awards organization. This year, Schulhof handed Best Actress to Brie Larson in “Room,” an A24 film, and best documentary to “Amy.” I wrote that this would happen several times, and Tweeted it out as a prediction. Just so we’re all on the same page. Even though Larson and “Amy” are fine, they were expected in this situation.
The NBR is a fraud, and should be disbanded. There is no reason for them to exist as a 501 c3. Last year they paid $225,000 in salaries from their coffers, and gave $32,000 as grants for film students. Publicists regale me with stories constantly about Schulhof calling in advance of awards distribution to make sure potential winners will come to her lavish dinner at Cipriani, and to see how much studios will pay for their tables. This year, Fox was her mark. “The Martian” is the perfect NBR movie– big cast of stars, prestigious director, studio to foot the bill.
That “Spotlight,” which won the Gotham Awards last night and is the lead choice for the Oscar, didn’t win at NBR is no shock. Open Road is a small studio and they weren’t going to buy out Cipriani. But it just shows the dearth of understanding by the NBR as to what constitutes great filmmaking and what makes for their entertaining evening.
As for “Amy,” fine, it’s very entertaining and made a lot of money. It was so easy to call, though. Predicting the NBR is kind of a joke parlor game at this point. Imagine if they had chosen a doc on an important social subject.