The critics awards are coming in hard and fast and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to her 2009 Oscar winner The Hurt Locker, has just nailed its second Best Picture win of the season from The National Board of Review, which awarded its top honors earlier today. Zero Dark Thirty also won Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle this week, and Kathryn Bigelow received Best Director honor from both organizations.
But the only other thing the two groups could agree on was that Michael Haneke's Amour was the Best Foreign Film of 2012. Otherwise, the National Board of Review has given out their awards some real wild cards. Bradley Cooper took home Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook, but isn't considered a lock for an Oscar nomination due to an extremely crowded year in the category. David O. Russell's Best Adapted Screenplay win for Silver Linings is far more expected. Ann Dowd pulled out a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress win for the harrowing indie Compliance, which should help keep her potentially overlooked performance in voters' minds throughout the season.
We're more surprised by the Best Supporting Actor nomination for Django Unchained's Leonardo DiCaprio. Quentin Tarantino's film has only just started screening for critics, so no one knew if he'd be award-worthy (or for that matter, if the rest of the film would be). DiCaprio had to turn down the role in Inglourious Basterds that ultimately won his Django Unchained co-star Christoph Waltz an Academy Award, so it could be payback time. RIan Johnson also won a somewhat unexpected award for Best Original Screenplay thanks to his work on the critical darling sci-fi thriller Looper, which could translate to a nomination when the Oscar contenders are finally anounced.
But these awards do not exist just to help predict the Academy Awards, and a good thing too, because they don't usually synch up very well. Film critics tend to look at different aspects of the art form than Academy and Guild voters, and often single out darker, more intellectual fare as a counterpoint to the Oscars, which tend to skew sentimental. The Social Network dominated the critics awards in 2010, only to lose big at the Oscars to The King's Speech. If the critics are rallying around Zero Dark Thirty, it might be bad sign for the film, which is bound to be competing with emotional period pieces like Lincoln and Les Miserables at the Academy Awards. Then again, Zero Dark Thirty's storyline – about the hunt for Osama bin Laden – and the strong central performance from Jessica Chastain could give the film enough of an emotional kick to be a contender after all.
The complete list of National Board of Review winners is below:
Best Film: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Supporting Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, Compliance
Best Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Looper
Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: Ben Affleck, Argo
Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, The Impossible
Breakthrough Actress: Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Directorial Debut: Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugarman
William K. Everson Film History Award: 50 Years of Bond Films
Best Ensemble: Les Miserables
Top Films (in alphabetical order): Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Looper, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Promised Land, Silver Linings Playbook
The Top Five Documentaries (in alphabetical order): Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Detropia, The Gatekeepers, The Invisible War, Only the Young