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National Board of Review Awards: Sentimental J.M. Barrie Movie Tops

J.M. Barrie movie Finding Neverland Johnny Depp Freddie HighmoreJ.M. Barrie movie Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp as the Peter Pan author/playwright and Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn Davies: Marc Forster’s never-never version of Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family is the National Board of Review’s Best Film winner.
  • National Board of Review Awards: Starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland – an unabashedly fictionalized account of author/playwright J.M. Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family and of the creation of his best-known work, Peter Pan – is the National Board of Review’s Best Film of the year.
  • Other National Board of Review winners include Best Foreign Language Film The Sea Inside, Best Actress Annette Bening for Being Julia, Best Supporting Actress Laura Linney for Kinsey, Best Actor Jamie Foxx for Ray, and Best Supporting Actor Thomas Haden Church for Sideways.

National Board of Review Awards: Marc Forster’s sentimental J.M. Barrie movie Finding Neverland named best release of the year

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

According to the (largely unidentified) members of the New York City-based National Board of Review (NBR), Finding Neverland – Miramax Films’ Marc Forster-directed never-never version (from Allan Knee’s play) of J.M. Barrie’s relationship with the boys who inspired Peter Pan – is the Best Film to come out in the United States in 2004.

Besides Johnny Depp as a never-never version of Barrie – the eccentric, odd-looking turn-of-the-20th-century author/playwright is portrayed as a playful, soulful, altruistic, movie-star-like man-child – Finding Neverland features Kate Winslet as the boys’ mother, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies; Radha Mitchell as Barrie’s wife, Mary Ansell Barrie; Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn Davies, who, as per the movie, inspired Peter Pan; and Oscar-winning veteran Julie Christie (Darling, 1965) as Sylvia’s mother, Emma du Maurier.

Curiously, Finding Neverland topped only one other NBR category: Best Film Music Composition for Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.

In the Best Director category, Marc Forster was bypassed in favor of veteran Michael Mann for the crime thriller Collateral, a box office hit starring Tom Cruise as a work-ethics-conscious hitman and Jamie Foxx as his cab driver/hostage.

Annette Bening & Laura Linney among acting picks

In the NBR’s acting categories, portrayals of fictional actors and real-life characters prevailed.

Annette Bening was named Best Actress for bringing to temperamental life an aging 1930s West End star in István Szabó’s comedy Being Julia, while Laura Linney was chosen Best Supporting Actress for Bill Condon’s biopic Kinsey, in which she plays Clara McMillen, the wife of polemical sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson in the movie).

Another real-life individual – singer Ray Charles – earned Jamie Foxx the NBR’s Best Actor citation for Taylor Hackford’s hit biopic Ray, while the Best Supporting Actor winner was Thomas Haden Church for his self-centered, sexually insatiable actor in Alexander Payne’s enthusiastically received (by both critics and moviegoers) road movie comedy Sideways.

The Best Ensemble consisted of Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen in veteran Mike Nichols’ expletive-filled sex/relationship drama Closer.

Spanish-language titles dominate Top Five Foreign Language Films

Selected as the year’s Best Foreign Language Film, Alejandro Amenábar’s audience-friendly euthanasia drama The Sea Inside / Mar adentro (Spain) – starring Javier Bardem as a tetraplegic fighting for the right to end his life – was one of four (at least part-)Spanish-language titles among the NBR’s Top Five Foreign Language Films.

The other three were Joshua Marston’s drug-smuggling drama Maria Full of Grace (U.S. | Colombia), Pedro Almodóvar’s gay-themed film noir(ish) Bad Education / La mala educación (Spain), and Walter Salles’ politically tinted road movie The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de motocicleta (U.S. | U.K. | Argentina | Brazil | etc.).

The lone Spanish-dialogueless exception was Christophe Barratier’s French-language The Chorus / Les choristes.

It should be noted that only The Sea Inside and The Chorus are potential Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award contenders.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey Kate WinsletEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet: Written by Charlie Kaufman, the Michel Gondry-directed romantic/psychological drama was the National Board of Review’s Best Original Screenplay winner.

Best writing and other award categories

The NBR’s Best Original Screenplay selection was the Charlie Kaufman-written Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which former lovers Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet attempt to – literally – erase their memories of their past relationship. Michel Gondry directed.

The Best Adapted Screenplay was Alexander Payne’s and Jim Taylor’s Sideways, based on Rex Pickett’s novel (that also came out this year) about the emotional travails of two men-babies touring Southern California’s Wine Country. Paul Giamatti, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh (Payne’s real-life wife), and NBR winner Thomas Haden Church star.

Set in Calcutta’s red-light district, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids was the Best Documentary Feature, while Brad Bird’s action-comedy The Incredibles, which chronicles the adventures of a family of suburban superheroes, was the Best Animated Feature.

The Best Production Design winner was Huo Tingxiao for Zhang Yimou’s semi-historical epic House of Flying Daggers, set during the declining years of China’s Tang Dynasty. It should be noted that House of Flying Daggers was the only non-English-language title to top any of the National Board of Review’s regular categories – apart, of course, from Best Foreign Language Film.

NBR’s Career Achievement & Freedom of Expression honorees

Below are a few special National Board of Review honorees:

  • Four-time Academy Award-nominated Actor Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show, 1971, etc.) was named the recipient of the Career Achievement Award.
  • Four-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff, 1983; etc.) was named the recipient of the Career Achievement Award – Cinematography.
  • Two-time Best Director Oscar winner Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975; Amadeus, 1984) was named the recipient of the Billy Wilder Award for Excellence in Directing.

The NBR’s Freedom of Expression mentions went to the following:

Lastly, the NBR’s Producers Award went to Jerry Bruckheimer, whose credits include Flashdance, Top Gun, The Rock, Con Air, and Armageddon. And that says just about everything you need to know about the National Board of Review and (at least some of) its membership.

Full list of National Board of Review winners

Best Film: Finding Neverland.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside.

Best Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia.

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Linney, Kinsey.

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Best Ensemble: Closer (Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman).

Best Director: Michael Mann, Collateral.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways.

Best Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Best Music: Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Finding Neverland.

Best Production Design: Huo Tingxiao, House of Flying Daggers.

Best Documentary: Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids.

Best Animated Feature: The Incredibles.

Best Directorial Debut: Zach Braff, Garden State.

Breakthrough Actor: Topher Grace, In Good Company & P.S..

Breakthrough Actress: Emmy Rossum, The Phantom of the Opera.

Top Ten Films (in alphabetical order)
The Aviator.
Finding Neverland.
Hotel Rwanda.
Million Dollar Baby.
Vera Drake.

Top Five Foreign Films (in alphabetical order)
Bad Education.
The Chorus.
Maria Full of Grace.
The Motorcycle Diaries.
The Sea Inside.

Top Five Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids.
Paper Clips.
The Story of the Weeping Camel / Die Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel.
Super Size Me.
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.

Special Recognition for Excellence in Filmmaking (in alphabetical order)
The Assassination of Richard Nixon.
Before Sunset.
The Door in the Floor.
Enduring Love.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Facing Windows / La finestra di fronte.
Garden State.
A Home at the End of the World.
Imaginary Heroes.
Since Otar Left / Depuis qu’Otar est parti….
Stage Beauty.
The Woodsman.

Freedom of Expression Award
Conspiracy of Silence.
Fahrenheit 9/11.
The Passion of the Christ.

Career Achievement Award
Jeff Bridges.

Career Achievement Award – Cinematography
Caleb Deschanel.

Billy Wilder Award for Excellence in Directing
Milos Forman.

Producers Award
Jerry Bruckheimer.

Special Achievement Award
Clint Eastwood, for producing, directing, acting in and composing the score for Million Dollar Baby.

William K. Everson Film History Award
Richard Schickel.

“National Board of Review Awards: J.M. Barrie Movie” endnotes

National Board of Review website.

As it turned out, the National Board of Review was an outlier in the Best Film category, as the majority of U.S. critics groups – including those in Los Angeles and New York City – opted instead for Alexander Payne’s Sideways.

The year’s Best Picture Oscar winner was Million Dollar Baby, which earned a mere two mentions from the National Board of Review: It was one of the Top Ten (English-language) Films while Clint Eastwood received a special mention for multitasking as director, actor, producer, and composer.

Freddie Highmore and Johnny Depp Finding Neverland movie image: Miramax Films.

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind image: Focus Features.

“National Board of Review Awards: Sentimental J.M. Barrie Movie Tops” last updated in April 2023.

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