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Penelope Cruz, ‘Slumdog’, win big from ‘National Board of Review’

12.5.2008 | By |

Penelope Cruz, 'Slumdog', win big from 'National Board of Review'

If “Slumdog Millionaire” is really the new “Chariots of Fire” — a little indie flick about champion underdogs that wins best picture at the Oscars — then it just hit a kudos jackpot by being named best picture of 2008 by the National Board of Review. In 1981, the National Board of Review was the first and only major U.S. awards group to give its top prize to the small film about runners with big dreams of breaking into the Olympics before it went the distance in the Oscars derby. Now the little movie about a ghetto boy who wins India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has emerged as a top dog in this year’s Oscars race.

This is the second year in a row that National Board of Review issued its top 10 list of best films separately from the winner of best picture. This year’s entries: “Burn After Reading,” “Changeling,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Dark Knight,” “Defiance,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Gran Torino,” “Milk,” “Wall-E,” “The Wrestler.” Notable snubs: “Doubt,” “Revolutionary Road,” “The Reader,” “Australia” and — considering the awards love it received in other NBR categories — “Frozen River.”

All major movies were seen by National Board of Review members this year with one exception: United Artists did not screen “Valkyrie” before voting but will show it to members before it’s released to theaters this month. In past years, NBR’s awards came out so early in December that its voters missed seeing such Oscar best picture winners as “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “Rain Man” (1988), “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) and “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (2003).

Other winners of 2008 NBR Awards:

Best director: David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Best actor: Clint Eastwood, “Gran Torino”
Best actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Best supporting actor: Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Best foreign-language filim: “Mongol”
Best documentary: “Man on Wire”
Best animated feature: “Wall-E”
Best ensemble cast: “Doubt”
Best breakthrough actor: Dev Patel, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best breakthrough actress: Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Best directorial debut: Courtney Hunt, “Frozen River”
Best original screenplay: Nick Schenk, “Gran Torino”
Best adapted screenplay (tie): Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”; Eric Roth, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Spotlight Award: Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”; Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”
Freedom of Expression: “Trumbo”
William K. Everson Film History Award: Molly Haskell, Andrew Sarris

Top five best foreign-language films, listed alphabetically: “Edge of Heaven,” “Let the Right One In,” “Roman de Guerre,” “A Secret,” “Waltz with Bashir”

Top five documentary films, listed alphabetically: “American Teen,” “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon),” “Dear Zachary,” “Encounters at the End of the World,” “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”.

Of the 100 films nominated for best picture at the Oscars over the last two decades, the NBR named 72 of them on their annual lists. The comparison is a bit skewed since National Board of Review picks 10 or 11 films per year instead of five, but it’s still worthy of note. Three times in those 20 years all five Oscar nominees made the NBR top list and the winners agreed: 1989 (“Driving Miss Daisy”), 1994 (“Forrest Gump”) and 2002 (“Chicago”). The two awards also chose the same best pictures five other times in those two decades: 1990 (“Dances With Wolves”), 1991 (“Silence of the Lambs”), 1993 (“Schindler’s List”), 1999 (“American Beauty”) and 2007 (“No Country for Old Men”).

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