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Unread Letters

December 8, 2006

Did anyone else find it odd that the National Board of Review yesterday called Letters from Iwo Jima the best movie of 2006–when the first review I know of only appeared in Variety the day after the National Board of Review’s list came out? Rotten Tomatoes only has one review; Metacritic doesn’t have a single one.

My problem with the National Board of Review publishing their list before anyone–including critics–have seen the movies in question is that they create a frontrunner, which is a particular problem during awards season when critics and Oscar voters tend to follow a herd mentality. Perhaps more of concern is that the 150 members often have terrible judgment; in 2004, they chose Finding Neverland as the best movie and didn’t even recognize Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. I’m also bothered by the Board’s lack of transparency; unlike all the American film critic societies, they don’t publish their membership. That always opens the door for shenanigans.

I’m not suggesting that Letters from Iwo Jima is bad movie–indeed, the Variety review makes it sound terrific, a subversion of the World War II war film genre–just that the NBR is giving it an unfair advantage come award season.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2006 8:57 pm

    Oh, God. Not Clint Eastwood again. Luckily the other critics’ groups don’t often vote in line with the NBR.

  2. December 13, 2006 12:35 am

    Now it’s won the L.A. Film Critics prize for best picture, so there must be something to the film after all. Btw, IWO JIMA originally was scheduled to come out next year, but I guess they moved up the release after considering its Oscar potential. This year, critics seem to be torn between three pictures: IWO JIMA, UNITED 93 (best picture from the New York Film Critics Circle and Washington, DC Area Film Critics) and THE QUEEN (best picture, New York Film Critics Online). The only one I’ve seen is THE QUEEN, which I loved.

    In my favorite critics’ award so far, Sacha Baron Cohen (BORAT) tied Forest Whitaker (LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) for the L.A. Film Critics’ best actor prize!

  3. December 13, 2006 1:21 am

    The other major outlier is the Boston Critics Film Association, which gave a bunch of awards to The Departed, including best picture.

  4. December 13, 2006 9:59 pm

    I’d say the voting this year was a little more personal (or should I say territorial?) than usual:

    New York and Washington, DC: UNITED 93

    Boston: THE DEPARTED

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