National Board of Review Puts ‘Hugo’ On Top

Martin Scorsese's 3D film named year's best; George Clooney, Tilda Swinton take top acting awards

In another surprising twist to an already confusing awards season, the National Board of Review has named Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" the best film of 2011.

The 3D film, based on a children's book set in the 1930s but infused with Scorsese's passion for old movies and the preservation of cinema, is a latecomer to the awards race, and ran the risk of being dismissed as a kids' picture by awards voters. While the NBR is not made up of critics or Oscar voters, the group's choice of "Hugo" over the likes of "The Artist" and "The Descendants" does help legitimize it as a true contender.

HugoScorsese was also named best director, while acting awards went to George Clooney in "The Descendants," Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin," Christopher Plummer in "Beginners" and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants."

Also read: Winners & Losers at the Gothams, Indie Spirits and NY Film Critics

Clooney, considered one of the best actor frontrunners, had been passed over by the New York Film Critics in favor of Brad Pitt in "Moneyball." Those critics also chose Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady" as best actress, while the NBR made the much more daring choice of Swinton in the dark and edgy drama "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

"Rango" was named Best Animated Feature, while the made-for-HBO documentary "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" was named Best Documentary.  The Iranian film "A Separation" was named Best Foreign Language Film.

The NBR cast a wide net with its awards: In addition to giving special awards to actor Michael Fassbender, actress Rooney Mara and the "Harry Potter" franchise, it named 10 feature films, five foreign-language films, five documentaries and 10 independent films to separate lists.

"The Artist," "The Descendants," "The Ides of March," "The Tree of Life" and "War Horse" all made the list of top films, which conspicuously did not include Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" or Bennett Miller's "Moneyball."

Other films missing from the lists included Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" and the acclaimed documentary "The Interrupters."

Like the New York Film Critics Circle, members of the NBR saw "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" on Monday — and unlike the NYFCC, they did salute the film in their awards, naming it one of the top 10 films and also giving a Breakthrough Performance award to star Mara.

Not only did Scorsese take Best Film and Best Director honors for "Hugo," but the director's two-part George Harrison documentary "Living in the Material World," which ran on HBO, was named one of the five best docs.

The awards:

Best Film: Hugo
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants
Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Will Reiser, 50/50
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Breakthrough Performance: Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Breakthrough Performance: Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Debut Director: J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Best Ensemble: The Help
Spotlight Award: Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre, Shame, X-Men: First Class)
NBR Freedom of Expression: Crime After Crime
NBR Freedom of Expression: Pariah
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise – A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film

Top Films
(in alphabetical order)
The Artist
The Descendants
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
Tree of Life
War Horse

Top 5 Foreign Language Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
13 Assassins
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Footnote
Le Havre
Point Blank

Top 5 Documentaries
(In Alphabetical Order)
Born to be Wild
Buck
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Project Nim
Senna

Top 10 Independent Films
(In Alphabetical Order)
50/50
Another Earth
Beginners
A Better Life
Cedar Rapids
Margin Call
Shame
Take Shelter
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Win Win