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'The Irishman' earns first major best picture prize from the National Board of Review

Josh Rottenberg, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Director Martin Scorsese's mob epic "The Irishman" has been named the year's best picture by the National Board of Review.

The award for the sprawling drama, which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, gives a boost to Netflix in its ongoing effort to land its first-ever Oscar for best picture.

But in what has thus far been a fairly wide open Oscar race, the critics organization spread its love to other top contenders as well. Quentin Tarantino was named best director for "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood," which also earned Brad Pitt a supporting actor win. Renee Zellweger earned the best actress prize for the Judy Garland biopic "Judy." Adam Sandler, who is considered a long-shot for an Oscar nod in a competitive year, earned the best actor award for his turn as a diamond merchant in the gonzo crime drama "Uncut Gems."

The morning after it earned six Gotham Awards, Netflix made a similarly strong showing with the National Board of Review, with six of its films earning recognition across a number of categories, including the divorce drama "Marriage Story," the Hollywood outsider dramedy "Dolemite is My Name" and the documentaries "American Factory," "The Black Godfather" and "Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese."

Indie film distributor A24, which dominated last month's announcement of the independent Spirit Award contenders, also earned National Board of Review attention for six of its releases, including "Uncut Gems," "Waves," "Midsommar," "The Last Man in San Francisco," "The Farewell" and "The Souvenir." The first two titles were listed among the group's 10 best films of the year, while the other four were included in the organization's picks for top 10 indie films alongside "Give Me Liberty," "A Hidden Life," "Judy," "The Nightingale," "The Peanut Butter Falcon" and "Wild Rose."

A few films considered to be in the mix for various Oscar categories were overlooked entirely, however, including "Joker," "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," "Little Women," "Bombshell," "Harriet" and "The Two Popes."

 

The board's selections are a precursor to a slew of other awards and nominations soon to come as Oscar season kicks into high gear. Later this week, both the New York and Los Angeles film critics associations will announce their year-end awards. On Monday, the Golden Globes nominations will be announced, with the Screen Actors Guild nods landing two days later and other key guild nominations following in January. With an unusually accelerated schedule, Oscar nominations voting will open Jan. 2.

Founded in 1909, the National Board of Review describes itself as a "select group of film enthusiasts, filmmakers, professionals and academics of varying ages and backgrounds," though the association's taste is often at odds with other critics and industry groups.

Last year, the board's top pick, "Green Book," went on to win the Oscar for best picture. But generally speaking, while the National Board of Review's best film picks have often subsequently landed best picture nods, they have only occasionally predicted the eventual winner.

The honorees will be feted at the National Board of Review's awards gala, hosted by Willie Geist, on Jan. 8 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York.

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