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NBR picks 'Up in the Air' best of 2009

Posted by Ty Burr  December 3, 2009 05:02 PM

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The ever mysterious National Board of Review is always among the first to weigh in with its end-of-the-year plaudits, a sort of mainstream retweaking of the field set by The Spirit Award nominations. I've been saying to anyone who listens that Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" has all the elements of a Best Picture winner (little things like intelligently applied filmmaking craft, superb performances, timely subject matter, literate source) and the NBR apparently feels the same, naming the movie best of the year, George Clooney best actor (in a tie with Morgan Freeman as Mandela in "Invictus"), Anna Kendrick best supporting actress, and Reitman and Sheldon Turner's script best adapted screenplay. Is "Up in the Air" that good? Yeah, just about (Wesley likes it; I might add half a star) and, perhaps more important, in a season of heaviosity, it's almost insanely pleasurable.

Clint Eastwood won best director for "Invictus," which I saw today; it's a good, solid piece of civic-statuary drama but the award strikes me as more sentimental than not. (And as long as you're throwing bouquets at Freeman, why not Matt Damon as the other half of this political rugby love story?) Carey Mulligan was named best actress for "An Education," Woody Harrelson best supporting actor for "The Messenger," Gabourey Sidibe of "Precious" and Jereny Renner of "The Hurt Locker" won best breakthrough performance awards. Best documentary went to "The Cove," about Japanese dolphin depredation, and best foreign language film was "A Prophet." The Coens' "A Serious Man" picked up best original screenplay, otherwise bupkes.

The Board's top ten movies of the year (not including "Up in the Air," which actually makes, uh, eleven) are: "An Education," "(500) Days of Summer," "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds," "Invictus," "The Messenger," "A Serious Man," "Star Trek" ("Star Trek"?), "Up," and "Where the Wild Things Are." Is this what the new supersized Oscar Best Picture field will look like? At this point it's too early to tell.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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