The National Board of Review Opens “Green Book”


Today, the National Board of Review announced their picks for the best of 2018!

Every year, the announcement of the NBR’s picks is considered to be the “official” start of Awards Season.  (This despite the fact that the Spirit Nominations were announced a few weeks ago and the Gotham Awards were handed out just last night.)  Getting honored by the NBR is considered to be a big boost, when it comes to getting Academy recognition.  Of course, nothing’s guaranteed but, since 2010, every NBR best picture winner (with the exception of A Most Violent Year in 2014) has received a corresponding Oscar nomination.

(Interestingly enough, the last time that the NBR winner actually went on to also win the Oscar for Best Picture was way back in 2008.  That’s when Slumdog Millionaire won.)

This year, the NBR named, as best picture of the year, Green Book.  That’s certainly a boost that Green Book, which has been struggling at the box office, needed.  The NBR also gave a big boost to A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper for Best Director, Lady Gaga for Best Actress, Sam Elliott for Best Supporting Actor), If Beale Street Could Talk (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress), First Reformed (Best Original Screenplay and Top Ten of the Year) and maybe Black Panther and A Quiet Place (both of which were named as one of the ten best films of 2018).

Not getting a boost from the NBR: Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman and Damien Chazelle’s First Man, neither of which received any mention.

Here are the National Board of Review’s picks for the best of 2018:

  • Best Film:  GREEN BOOK
  • Best Director:  Bradley Cooper, A STAR IS BORN
  • Best Actor:  Viggo Mortensen, GREEN BOOK
  • Best Actress: Lady Gaga, A STAR IS BORN
  • Best Supporting Actor: Sam Elliott, A STAR IS BORN
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Regina King, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Paul Schrader, FIRST REFORMED
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Barry Jenkins, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
  • Best Animated Feature:  INCREDIBLES 2
  • Breakthrough Performance: Thomasin McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
  • Best Directorial Debut:  Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE
  • Best Foreign Language Film:  COLD WAR
  • Best Documentary:  RBG
  • Best Ensemble:  CRAZY RICH ASIANS
  • William K. Everson Film History Award: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND and THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  22 JULY
  • NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  ON HER SHOULDERS

Top Films (in alphabetical order)

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • Black Panther
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me?
  • Eighth Grade
  • First Reformed
  • If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • A Quiet Place
  • Roma
  • A Star Is Born

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)

  • Burning
  • Custody
  • The Guilty
  • Happy as Lazzaro
  • Shoplifters

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)

  • Crime  + Punishment
  • Free Solo
  • Minding the Gap
  • Three Identical Strangers
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)

  • The Death of Stalin
  • Lean on Pete
  • Leave No Trace
  • Mid90s
  • The Old Man & the Gun
  • The Rider
  • Searching
  • Sorry to Bother You
  • We the Animals
  • You Were Never Really Here

Film Review: Custody (dir by James Lapine)


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Last night’s Lifetime movie premiere, Custody, didn’t really feel like a Lifetime film.

This was largely because it really wasn’t.  Custody was written and directed by the acclaimed theatrical director, James Lapine.  The cast features not only Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub and Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno but also two Oscar winners, Viola Davis and Ellen Burstyn.  Unlike most Lifetime films, Custody was not filmed in Canada.  There were no Toronto landmarks in the background.  (You never realize how much you miss Canada until it’s gone.)  Custody played at Tribeca last year.  Much like Stockholm, Pennsylvania, Custody was made for a theatrical release but it ended up premiering on television instead.  As a result, Custody did not follow the usual Lifetime 8 act pattern.  The commercial breaks felt awkward.  With a 150 minutes running time, this film tested my four-minute attention span.

The other thing that set Custody apart from most other Lifetime films was that it wasn’t much fun to watch.  The great thing about Lifetime movies is that they are almost always fun.  It doesn’t matter what serious subject is being examined.  It doesn’t matter how dramatic things may get.  Lifetime movies are always fun.  To use one of my favorite terms, Lifetime movies embrace the melodrama.  Lifetime films push the limits.  Lifetime films say, “You think we won’t introduce a crazy twin halfway through the movie?  JUST WATCH US!  You think we won’t toss in a sudden case of amnesia or a cheating husband or a psychotic au pair in lingerie?  YOU DON’T KNOW LIFETIME!”

Custody, on the other hand, was a very serious movie about a very serious topic and therefore, it wasn’t much fun to watch.  In fact, Custody was a bit of a well-intentioned mess.  It followed one case as it worked its way through the family court system.  Sara Diaz (Moreno) has been wrongly accused of being an unfit mother.  Her attorney is Ally Fisher (Hayden Panettiere), who has just graduated from law school and who comes from a rich family.  Ally’s grandmother is played by Ellen Burstyn, largely because everyone’s rich grandmother is played by Ellen Burstyn.  Representing the state is Keith (Dan Fogler), who has absolutely horrid taste in ties.  The judge is played by Viola Davis and she’s going through a messy divorce from Tony Shalhoub.

I could see what Lapine was going for.  Custody juggles several plotlines, showing how everyone involved in the case has their own individual biases and problems to deal with.  Will the judge’s dissolving marriage make her more or less sympathetic to Sara?  Will the white and privileged Ally ever be able to truly understand Sara’s situation?  Will Keith ever learn how to properly select a tie?  These issues may seem petty when taken on their own but, when crammed together, they form one big human drama.

Or, at least, that seems to have been the plan.  Lapine gets some good performances from his cast but Custody never quite comes together.  This is one of those heavy-handed films where characterization is more likely to be advanced by a lengthy monologue than by action.  Add to that, Custody is ultimately far too enamored of the family court system.  Everyone means only the best and the bureaucracy is your friend.

I will say this.  Based on my own experience working as an administrative assistant in a law office, Custody does get one thing very right.  Male lawyers are always the worst dressed people at any courthouse.  On this count, Dan Fogler played one of the most realistic attorneys ever seen on TV.