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Spike Lee’s ‘Da 5 Bloods’ Wins Best Film and Director From National Board of Review

Acting awards go to Riz Ahmed and Carey Mulligan, while Chadwick Boseman receives NBR Icon Award

Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” has been named the best film of 2020 by the National Board of Review, which announced its winners on Tuesday. Lee won the organization’s Best Director award, and the film also won Best Ensemble. Chadwick Boseman, who appears in both “Da 5 Bloods” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” won the NBR Icon Award.

Acting winners from the NBR went to Riz Ahmed for “Sound of Metal” and Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman” in the lead categories, and Paul Raci for “Sound of Metal” and Youn Yuh-jung for “Minari” in the supporting actor categories.

The organization’s top 10 films, in alphabetical order, were “First Cow,” “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “The Midnight Sky,” “Minari,” “News of the World,” “Nomadland,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Soul” and “Sound of Metal.”

The list was dramatically different from the AFI top 10 list released on Monday by the American Film Institute. The NBR list included five films not singled out by the AFI: “First Cow,” “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” “The Midnight Sky,” “News of the World” and “Promising Young Woman.”

And it didn’t include four of the year’s biggest awards contenders: “Mank,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night in Miami.”

The six films that were singled out by both groups are “Da 5 Bloods,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Soul” and “Sound of Metal.”

The NBR made a stand for indie films in its acting awards, but gave its adapted-screenplay prize to Paul Greengrass’ “News of the World,” which along with George Clooney’s “Midnight Sky” is one of the biggest, least-indie films in the running.

“The NBR is proud to honor ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ Spike Lee, and the film’s incredible ensemble cast, along with all of our 2020 awardees,” NBR president Annie Schulhof said in a statement. “Lee is one of our greatest filmmakers, a bold auteur with a cinematic vision and an astute perspective on human relationships, focusing at times on that intersection between the personal and the political. ‘Da 5 Bloods’ is not only a unique portrait of the experience and lingering trauma of Black Vietnam War veterans, but also a moving story of enduring friendship, a suspenseful jungle treasure hunt, and a powerful reckoning with the American dream. We are also honored to present the posthumous NBR Icon Award to Chadwick Boseman, an extraordinary talent who represented the best of what an actor could be no matter what the role.”

Over the last 10 years, a little more than half of the films on the NBR list have ended up with Best Picture nominations at the Oscars. Only one NBR winner in the last 18 years, 2014’s “A Most Violent Year,” failed to land a nomination.

Last year, the NBR had six of the nine Oscar Best Picture nominees on its list, missing “Little Women,” “Joker” and the Oscar-winning “Parasite,” which won the NBR’s foreign-language category but was not on its main list. It also included five films that did not land Best Picture nominations: “Dolemite Is My Name,” “Knives Out,” “Richard Jewell,” “Uncut Gems” and “Waves.”

While the National Board of Review is often mistakenly considered a critics’ organization, the group is made up of, in its own words, “knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students” in the New York area. Much of its relatively high profile comes from the fact that it is normally one of the first groups to pick the year’s best films — although in this year’s extended awards season, it made its choices well after the critics’ groups that adhered to calendar-year eligibility. Like the Oscars and most guilds, the NBR allowed films to qualify this year as long as they were being released by Feb. 28, 2021.

The NBR was established in 1909 by theater owners protesting the New York mayor’s attempt to block the exhibition of motion pictures in the city. In the 88 years it has been naming the year’s best film, it has agreed with the Oscars 22 times, though only once (“Green Book”) in the last 11 years.

Plans for an awards ceremony to celebrate 2020 winners will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the full list of winners below:

Best Film:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Director:  Spike Lee, “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Actor:  Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”

Best Actress:  Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Supporting Actor:  Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Best Supporting Actress:  Youn Yuh-jung, “Minari”

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies, “News of the World”

Best Original Screenplay:  Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Breakthrough Performance:  Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Best Directorial Debut:  Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth”

Best Animated Feature:  “Soul”

Best Foreign Language Film:  “La Llorona”

Best Documentary:  “Time”

NBR Icon Award:  Chadwick Boseman

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “One Night in Miami”

NBR Spotlight Award: Radha Blank for writing, directing, producing and starring in “The Forty-Year-Old Version”

Best Ensemble:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography:  Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”

Top Films (in alphabetical order):

First Cow
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Judas and the Black Messiah
The Midnight Sky
Minari
News of the World
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Soul
Sound of Metal

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order):

Apples
Collective
Dear Comrades
The Mole Agent
Night of the Kings

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order): 

All In: The Fight for Democracy
Boys State
Dick Johnson is Dead
Miss Americana
The Truffle Hunters

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order): 

The Climb
Driveways
Farewell Amor
Miss Juneteenth
The Nest
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The Outpost
Relic
Saint Frances
Wolfwalkers