I suppose the National Board of Review is known more for the fact that they are the first big awards body to hand out awards every year than actually having any significant say in the Oscar race, although winning here certainly doesn't hurt anything.
Best Picture went exactly as planned, and I would venture to guess this is just the first in a long line of awards for No Country in the coming months. Best Director going to Tim Burton is quite surprising however. It certainly gives Sweeney Todd a nice boost right as it is about to open, but it will need to pick up some critics awards to stay firmly in the hunt though.
I really had no idea were their lead acting picks would land, but George Clooney seems almost like a split vote scenario between perceived front runners Daniel Day-Lewis and Johnny Depp. Clooney definitely has established himself a strong contender now though. I'm not shocked at all to see Julie Christie pick up Best Actress, as I have been predicting her for months now. She is all but locked for a nod at this point I feel.
The Supporting Categories are where things get interesting. The NBR are always a little left-of-center on their choices, but I am truly amazed Cate Blanchett and Javier Bardem didn't pick up the supporting awards. Of course their choices - Casey Affleck and Amy Ryan - are more than worthy, but these two categories seemed to be the easiest to read going into the morning. Blanchett missing could have something to do with category confusion, or more likely that - seeing as how it didn't even crack their top 10 - they didn't seem to like I'm Not There at all. Jesse James on the other hand, rather surprisingly, seemed to appeal to them, as it made the top 10 and brought Casey along for the ride as well. It's a crowded category this year though, so I wouldn't start guaranteeing an Oscar nod just yet.
Everything else went mostly as planned, but I'd like to point out that one of my personal favorites of the year, Lars and the Real Girl, tied for Original Screenplay in addition to placing in the top 10. I don't expect too much more love for the film in regards to awards, so this was a nice turn of events.
Here is the full list of this year's National Board of Review winners. From Red Carpet District:
Best Film: "No Country for Old Men"
Best Director: Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd"
Best Actor: George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Best Actress: Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Best Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Best Foreign Film: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Best Documentary: "Body of War"
Best Animated Feature: "Ratatouille"
Best Ensemble Cast: "No Country for Old Men"
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: Emile Hirsch, "Into the Wild"
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: Ellen Page, "Juno"
Best Directorial Debut: Ben Affleck, "Gone Baby Gone"
Best Original Screenplay (tie): Diablo Cody, "Juno" and Nancy Oliver, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
The top ten (in alphabetical order):
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Bucket List"
"Into the Wild"
"The Kite Runner"
"Lars and the Real Girl"
Top five foreign films (in alphabetical order):
"4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days"
"The Band's Visit"
"La Vie en Rose"
Top five documentary films (in alphabetical order):
"In the Shadow of the Moon"
"Taxi to the Darkside"
Top independent films (in alphabetical order):
"Away from Her"
"Great World of Sound"
"In the Valley of Elah"
"A Mighty Heart"
"Starting Out in the Evening"
Career Achievement: Michael Douglas
William K. Everson Film History Award: Robert Osbourne
Career Achievement in Cinematography: Roger Deakins
The BVLGARI Award for NPR Freedom of Expression: "The Great Debaters" and "Persepolis"