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The NBR Project: The Top 10 Lists, 2004-2013 and Wrap-Up

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2004:

  • Finding Neverland
  • The Aviator
  • Closer
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Sideways
  • Kinsey
  • Vera Drake
  • Ray
  • Collateral
  • Hotel Rwanda

Finding Neverland better than The Aviator? Whatever you say, NBR.

2005:

  • Good Night, and Good Luck
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Capote
  • Crash
  • A History of Violence
  • Match Point
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Munich
  • Syriana
  • Walk the Line

And here the NBR switches over to an alphabetical ordering, except for the #1 film. The mid-2000s are kind of a dry period, so there’s not much to say, other than good call on A History of Violence.

2006:

  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Babel
  • Blood Diamond
  • The Departed
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Flags of Our Fathers
  • The History Boys
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Notes on a Scandal
  • The Painted Veil

I’m not sure whether The Devil Wears Prada or The Painted Veil should be considered the bigger outlier. Also, this means I’ll eventually have to watch Blood Diamond.

2007:

  • No Country for Old Men
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Bucket List
  • Into the Wild
  • Juno
  • The Kite Runner
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Michael Clayton
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

This list has some awesome picks–Jesse James, Bourne, Lars–and it also has The Bucket List, which…what? Also, where the fuck is There Will Be Blood? It didn’t even win their Best Actor award (Clooney did, for Michael Clayton).

2008:

  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Burn After Reading
  • Changeling
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • Defiance
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Gran Torino
  • Milk
  • WALL-E
  • The Wrestler

The Dark Knight, WALL-E, great. Burn After Reading, Gran Torino, cool. But Defiance? A piece of failed Oscar bait? I guess Synecdoche, New York flew under their radar. Better than The Reader, I guess. Also, from this year on, there’s a Best Film and a separate Top 10, so the lists fluctuate between 10 and 11 henceforth.

2009:

  • Up in the Air
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Invictus
  • The Messenger
  • A Serious Man
  • Star Trek
  • Up
  • Where the Wild Things Are

A pretty great list. I’m not a big (500) Days fan–District 9 would’ve been much better–but the bottom three make up for it.

2010:

  • The Social Network
  • Another Year
  • The Fighter
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • Shutter Island
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

The NBR’s love affair for Clint Eastwood begins to get weird, with the mutedly received Hereafter making the list over Best Picture nominees 127 Hours, Black Swan, and The Kids Are All Right. At least they gave some recognition to Shutter Island, originally meant to be a fall 2009 release, which came out in February 2010 and as a result failed to get much awards attention.

2011:

  • Hugo
  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • Drive
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
  • The Ides of March
  • J. Edgar
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

J. Edgar is a ridiculous choice, and I personally think Ides is overrated. But thanks to Drive and Girl, my scores for these films average at 80.2–decently better than my average score of 75.8 for the Oscar nominees. Also, nice call on Harry Potter, even if Part 1 was better. But couldn’t they have returned to Von Trier one last time and recognized his brilliant Melancholia?

2012:

  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Lincoln
  • Looper
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Promised Land
  • Silver Linings Playbook

I still haven’t seen Perks or Promised Land. Like the Academy, they overlook some great films (especially The Master) and enshrine some overrated ones (Argo, Les Miserables, Looper). I just don’t agree with the awards community on this year.

2013:

  • Her
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Fruitvale Station
  • Gravity
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Lone Survivor
  • Nebraska
  • Prisoners
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

My average score for these films is 82.4. My average score for the Academy’s nominees: 85.3. So, for once, the Academy comes out on top, in part because the NBR picked 4 films that score below an 80 from me, while the Academy only picked one (Dallas Buyers Club). The NBR fell for the baitiness of Mr. Banks and picked Fruitvale Station (a good but flawed film) at a time when most other awards groups had forgotten it. They overlooked one true-story thriller (Captain Phillips) for another (Lone Survivor), picking the weaker film in the process. And while I love Her, the Academy made the better choice in taking 12 Years for Best Picture. I was thrilled, however, to see the undervalued Prisoners get some recognition, and for all its flaws, I have a certain sentimental attachment to Walter Mitty (which…who would’ve guessed that would get on?), so I’m cool with it being here. I’d rather have it here than American Hustle.

Wrap-Up:

The NBR isn’t perfect, of course. They’ve had some serious oversights, as I’ve noted; they’ve also been ahead of the curve at times, embracing genre films, science fiction, and animation before the Academy dared to, at least outside of tech categories. And because they’ve always been a list of 10, they’ve been able to encompass more films than the Academy could for a 64-year stretch.

They have their bad habits: they fall for the bait a fair amount (more so in the last 20-25 years), and sometimes ally themselves with a given filmmaker to an embarrassingly obvious degree (especially Eastwood; from 2003 to 2011 they cited films by him, every film he directed during that period).

But I take the bad with the good, and there’s a lot of good here. I’m always anxious to see what the NBR will pick (I’m really curious what they’ll do this year), and I contend that they haven’t been around this long for nothing.

I’ve seen 276 of the films cited by the NBR over the years. I have many more to watch, but it’s a journey I’m very excited to take.

And now, a few lists of my own:

25 Worst Omissions (in alphabetical order)

  • Amadeus
  • America, America
  • Babe
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Black Narcissus
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • Double Indemnity
  • Giant
  • The Godfather Part II
  • Hamlet (1996)
  • In the Heat of the Night
  • Jaws
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • MASH
  • Platoon
  • Rear Window
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Taxi Driver
  • There Will Be Blood
  • The Wizard of Oz

25 Best Choices That the Academy Overlooked for Best Picture (alphabetical):

  • The Bicycle Thief
  • City Lights
  • Dancer in the Dark
  • Day of Wrath
  • Days of Heaven
  • Drive
  • Ed Wood
  • Fantasia
  • The Fly
  • Fury
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • The Long, Hot Summer
  • Lust For Life
  • Modern Times
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Prisoners
  • Scarface
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Sullivan’s Travels
  • They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  • Trainspotting
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Untouchables
  • A Woman Under the Influence

And there are a few I had to leave out. The NBR is pretty great.

And finally…

The 10 Weirdest/Most Random Picks (and my rationale for picking them):

  • The Day of the Dolphin – It’s a serious film that features talking dolphins. It’s a total WTF film.
  • Lassie Come Home – It’s a damn Lassie movie. They took this and not For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • Lot in Sodom – This is the sort of film I’m surprised anyone outside of the most avant-garde circles even knew existed. But the NBR knew, too.
  • The Man Who Understood Women – It’s a random romantic comedy, without any distinguishing features that I can discern, and it’s apparently not very good. I have no idea how they settled on it.
  • Promised Land – Big name director, yes (Gus Van Sant), but it got pretty weak reviews and was a complete failure as awards-bait. Fracking is apparently not a box-office draw.
  • Question 7 – Not only is it a film barely anyone knows of, it was their #1 of the year!
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – I can dig it, since I like the film (and saw it on Christmas with my parents, so I have a sentimental attachment there), but…this got mixed reviews at best. I’m glad they’re finally embracing Ben Stiller as a director, but wouldn’t Tropic Thunder have been the better choice?
  • Tarzan the Ape Man – Genre movies, and this early in the game, too. I like it, but remember: they overlooked Grand Hotel for this.
  • Who Killed Cock Robin? – It’s a Disney cartoon short. It’s not even the only one they cited, but seriously–a short?

Profiles on individual years to follow…eventually.

  • Yellow Submarine
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