Art and Experience: “Manchester by the Sea,” a critically adored drama about a grieving janitor, was named best film of the year by the National Board of Review on Tuesday.
The film, a breakout hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, also earned a best actor award for Casey Affleck’s performance and original screenplay honors for Kenneth Lonergan, its writer and director. “Manchester” is a comeback for Lonergan, whose reputation had been bruised after his previous film, “Margaret,” became mired in lawsuits.
The National Board of Review is voted on by a mixture of academics, cinephiles, and film professionals. “Manchester by the Sea” has earned some of the year’s best reviews and is expected to dominate year-end awards. However, the group has a spotty track record as a predictor of future Oscar glory. Last year, for instance, it named “Mad Max: Fury Road” as the year’s best film, but “Spotlight” took the top prize on Oscar night. In 2014, it gave its highest honor to “A Most Violent Year,” a film that was shut out completely by Oscar voters. Other previous best film winners include “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Her,” and “The Social Network.”
This year the National Board of Review spread the wealth. Barry Jenkins was named best director for his work behind the camera on “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age story about a gay boy in Miami’s inner city. Naomie Harris won a best supporting actress award for her performance as a crack-addicted mother in the film.
“Arrival’s” Amy Adams, considered something of a bubble candidate in the lead race, was named best actress for her turn as a linguist trying to communicate with aliens. Jeff Bridges nabbed best supporting actor for his portrayal of a Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement in “Hell or High Water.”
Adapted screenplay went to “Silence,” a religious drama about jesuit priests in feudal Japan. The film is a passion project of Martin Scorsese, who has been trying to get it made for decades. He has been editing it until recently, and “Silence” has only just begun screening for critics groups. Scorsese was nominated for his script alongside co-writer Jay Cocks.
“Kubo and the Two Strings ,” a 3D stop-motion fantasy, was named best animated feature.
Breakthrough performance honors went to Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Royalty Hightower (“The Fits”), while Trey Edward Shults was recognized for his directorial debut, “Krisha.”
“The Salesman,” an Iranian drama about a couple putting on “Death of a Salesman,” won best foreign language film. “O.J. Made in America,” a six-hour film about football star and alleged murderer O.J. Simpson was named best documentary.
“Hidden Figures,” a drama about a group of African American scientists and mathematicians in the early days of the space program, snagged best ensemble. Its cast includes Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons.
Here are the other award winners:
Spotlight Award: Creative Collaboration of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “Cameraperson”
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
Top 5 Foreign Language Films
“Land of Mine”
Top 5 Documentaries
“The Eagle Huntress”
“Miss Sharon Jones!”
Top 10 Independent Films
“20th Century Women”
“Eye in the Sky”
“Hello, My Name is Doris”
“Morris from America”