With ‘Mad Max,’ National Board of Review Develops a Taste for Muscular Filmmaking

“Mad Max: Fury Road” takes the top prize, and “Creed,” “The Martian,” “The Hateful Eight” and “Straight Outta Compton” win awards

The National Board of Review knows what it likes when it comes to awards movies — and on Tuesday, its 2015 priorities boiled down to action, adrenaline and adventure.

Maybe they tipped us off last year, when they surprisingly named “A Most Violent Year” the top film of 2014 — but to go by the list that was announced on Tuesday morning, 2015 is really the NBR’s most violent year.

In addition to naming “Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller‘s continuation of his “Mad Max” franchise, the year’s best film, the board picked “Creed,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Sicario” and “Straight Outta Compton” for its top ten, showing a real fondness for muscular filmmaking.

Missing from their list were the more genteel awards contenders “Carol,” “Brooklyn” and “The Danish Girl,” as well as “Steve Jobs,” David O. Russell‘s “Joy” and, in a snub that went against their liking for action, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s brutal survival story “The Revenant.”

The raw and gripping “Beasts of No Nation” was not on the Top 10 list, but its young star Abraham Attah shared the breakthrough performance award with Jacob Tremblay from “Room,” and the film shared the NBR Freedom of Expression Award with “Mustang.”

And even the list of top foreign-language films contained the Austrian horror film “Goodnight Mommy,” which contains scenes of brutality that sent Oscar voters heading for the exits at its official screening.

The NBR has occasionally gone for muscular moviemaking in the past, with “Zero Dark Thirty” winning in 2012 and “Letters from Iwo Jima” taking the top prize before that. But its big winners are typically more restrained: “Her” in 2013, “Hugo” in 2011, “Up in the Air” in 2009.

This year’s results don’t necessarily bode ill for the films that were overlooked, and they don’t immediately put “Mad Max” on a path for the Dolby Theatre. In the last decade, the NBR and the Oscars have only agreed on the year’s best movie twice, with “No Country for Old Men” in 2007 and “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008.

Recent NBR winners that were nominated for Best Picture but didn’t win include “Her,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Hugo,” “The Social Network,” “Up in the Air” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

Last year’s winner, “A Most Violent Year,” was the first NBR winner in 15 years not to be nominated for Best Picture.

The National Board of Review owes much of its visibility to its place early on the awards calendar. While it is often lumped in with other film critics’ groups, the organization consists not of critics but of “knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students” in the New York area. It was established in 1909 and has been picking the year’s best films since 1930.

The winners:

Best Film:  Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Director:  Ridley Scott – The Martian
Best Actor:  Matt Damon – The Martian
Best Actress: Brie Larson – Room
Best Supporting Actor:  Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Best Supporting Actress:  Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Best Original Screenplay:  Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Drew Goddard – The Martian
Best Animated Feature:  Inside Out
Breakthrough Performance:  Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation & Jacob Tremblay – Room
Best Directorial Debut:  Jonas Carpignano – Mediterranea
Best Foreign Language Film:  Son of Saul
Best Documentary:  Amy
William K. Everson Film History Award:  Cecilia De Mille Presley
Best Ensemble:  The Big Short
Spotlight Award: Sicario for Outstanding Collaborative Vision
NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  Beasts of No Nation & Mustang

Top Films
Bridge of Spies
Creed
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
The Martian
Room
Sicario
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

Top 5 Foreign Language Films 
Goodnight Mommy
Mediterranea
Phoenix
The Second Mother
The Tribe

 Top 5 Documentaries
Best of Enemies
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
The Diplomat
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence

Top 10 Independent Films
’71
45 Years
Cop Car
Ex Machina
Grandma
It Follows
James White
Mississippi Grind
Welcome to Me
While We’re Young

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