The National Board of Review, the 106-year-old organization of New York-based film writers, filmmakers, and cinema experts, has announced its best films of 2015 — and true to their reputation, there are some surprises in the mix.
Their Best Picture prize is always the most interesting, lining up fairly frequently with an eventual Academy Award nominee (though they haven’t picked a winner since Slumdog Millionaire in 2008), while going with a film that isn’t even really in the awards conversation the rest of the time. Previous — and delicious — offbeat choices have included Quills, Hugo, Letters from Iwo Jima, and last year’s winner, A Most Violent Year. They often get right what the Oscars get wrong; in 2005 they went with Good Night and Good Luck (Crash won the Oscar), they gave Zero Dark Thirty the prize in 2012 (Argo won the Oscar), and their ‘70s winners included Polanski’s Macbeth, The Conversation, All the President’s Men, Nashville, and Manhattan. Oh, and in 1994, they split the prize between Forrest Gump (the Oscar winner) and Pulp Fiction (the far more influential runner-up).
Point is, it’s actually not that crazy that their pick for the Best Picture of 2015 is Mad Max: Fury Road, the critically acclaimed and batshit crazy fourth film in George Miller’s 35-plus-year franchise. But their Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay prizes were even wackier: they went (respectively) to Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, and Drew Goddard for The Martian, a well-respected and commercially successful film that no one’s really been talking about as an awards contender.
The rest of their major prizes were a little more predictable: Brie Larson (Best Actress for Room), Sylvester Stallone (Best Supporting Actor for Creed), Inside Out (Best Animated Film). Their best ensemble prize went, rather unexpectedly, to the cast of Adam McKay’s The Big Short; Spotlight had won that honor at the Gothams the night before, but the NBR only acknowledged that film with a slot in its top ten. And Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight took honors for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the first bits of praise for a film that has been screened for critics, but is under embargo until much later in the month.
Check out the full list of winners here.