NBR and Independent Spirit Award Predictions: American Fiction, Barbie



The Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, a day before the National Board of Review will weigh in on its selections for the best films and performances of 2023. They’ll be following the New York Film Critics Circle who kicked off the season last week by crowning Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” as its top choice. Its West Coast counterpart, Los Angeles Film Critics, will drop their choices on Sunday. Safe to say, the awards season is fully underway.

Celebrating the spirits of indie cinema, the unknown nominating committee will select movies with budgets $30 million and under. Some of this year’s presumed top contenders such as “Barbie,” “Maestro” and “Oppenheimer” go beyond those figures so don’t expect to see any of those called out tomorrow. However, we are suspecting a good day for Cord Jefferson’s “American Fiction,” Celine Song’s “Past Lives” and Todd Haynes’ “May December.”

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

Celebrating its 95th year, the National Board of Review has the opportunity to kickstart a film’s awards chances. Noteworthy, the early days of these precursors can often be misleading. For example, before “The Shape of Water” won best picture, it was absent from NBR’s top ten list and was also omitted from multiple prestigious orgs such as New York and L.A. Film Critics. This left pundits and enthusiasts to assume it was DOA for the Academy. More interesting, all three of the “The Lord of the Rings” films were ever included in any of its respective top 10 lists. We all know how those movies turned out.

The competition is fierce, and pundits are looking for any type of clues on what the Academy could be ultimately drawn towards.

Believe it or not, despite “Inception” and “Dunkirk” under his belt, visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan has never won a prize for NBR. My suspicion is he could be granted his first for his biopic “Oppenheimer.” I wouldn’t count out the other half of “Barbenheimer,” and that’s Greta Gerwig from the billion-dollar sensation “Barbie.” A former winner for “Lady Bird” (2017), with distributor Warner Bros having a strong showing with the group over the years (i.e., Bradley Cooper for “A Star is Born” and Clint Eastwood for “American Sniper”). She could rattle some predictions with a surprise victory.

Speaking of Cooper, the director, writer, producer and star of his passion project, “Maestro” could take control of the awards season after failing to nab any mentions at the NYFCC. Two NBR best actor winners in the last decade have translated to Oscar winners — Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea” (2016) and Will Smith for “King Richard” (2021). And for the ones becoming eventual nominees? Only three men have been snubbed by the Academy in that time frame — Oscar Isaac for “A Most Violent Year” (2014), Tom Hanks for “The Post” (2017) and Adam Sandler for “Uncut Gems” (2019). A previous winner for “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), he could get serious traction.

I’d keep an eye on either Colman Domingo (“Rustin”) or Jeffrey Wright (“American Fiction”) to pop in and assert their places in the race.

Lead actress is anyone’s game.

Lily Gladstone could continue her momentum that began at the Gothams when she won for the indie “The Unknown Country.” She followed it up with the big win at NYFCC, and even today from Atlanta Film Critics. With more than a dozen viable candidates to take the award as well, such as former NBR acting winners like Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (“Origin”), Carey Mulligan (“Maestro”) and Annette Bening (“Nyad”), I’m keeping an eye on either Emma Stone (“Poor Things”) or Margot Robbie (“Barbie”) as possible spoilers.

With a slight better translation to the Oscars from the men, three NBR lead actress recipients have moved onto the Dolby Theatre stage — Brie Larson in “Room” (2015), Renée Zellweger in “Judy” (2019) and last year’s winner Michelle Yeoh from “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” As nominees, four have missed out on an Oscar mention in the last dozen years — Lesley Manville for “Another Year” (2010), Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2011), Emma Thompson for “Saving Mr. Banks” (2013) and Rachel Zegler for “West Side Story.”

Predictions for the two ceremonies are below.

National Board of Review:

Best Film: “American Fiction” (MGM)
Alternate: “The Holdovers” (Focus Features)

Director: Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer” (Universal Pictures)
Alternate: Greta Gerwig, “Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

Actor: Bradley Cooper, “Maestro” (Netflix)
Alternate: Colman Domingo, “Rustin” (Netflix)

Actress: Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)
Alternate: Margot Robbie, “Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

Supporting Actor: Dominic Sessa, “The Holdovers” (Focus Features)
Alternate: Ryan Gosling, “Barbie” (Warner Bros.)

Supporting Actress: America Ferrera, “Barbie” (Warner Bros.) and “Dumb Money” (Sony Pictures)
Alternate: Danielle Brooks, “The Color Purple” (Warner Bros.)

Original Screenplay: “May December” (Netflix) — Samy Burch
Alternate: “Past Lives” (A24) — Celine Song

Adapted Screenplay: “American Fiction” (MGM) — Cord Jefferson
Alternate: “Poor Things” (Searchlight Pictures) — Tony McNamara (based on the book by Alasdair Gray)

Animated: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony Pictures)
Alternate: “The Boy and the Heron” (GKids)

Breakthrough Performance: Cailee Spaeny — “Priscilla” (A24)
Alternate: Teyana Taylor — “A Thousand and One” (Focus Features)

Best Directorial Debut: Cord Jefferson — “American Fiction” (MGM)
Alternate: Celine Song — “Past Lives” (A24)

Best Foreign Language Film: “Society of the Snow” (Spain) — dir. J.A. Bayona
Alternate: “The Zone of Interest” (United Kingdom) — dir. Jonathan Glazer

Best Documentary: “American Symphony” (Netflix)
Alternate: “Orlando, My Political Biography” (Janus Films/Sideshow)

Best Ensemble: “The Color Purple” (Warner Bros.)
Alternate: “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)

NBR Freedom of Expression: “Origin” (Neon)
Alternate: “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)

Top 10 Films (in alphabetical order): 

  • “Air”
  • “Barbie”
  • “The Color Purple”
  • “Ferrari”
  • “Killers of the Flower Moon”
  • “Maestro”
  • “Nyad”
  • “Napoleon”
  • “Oppenheimer”
  • “Poor Things”

Top Foreign Films: 

  • “Anatomy of a Fall”
  • “Fallen Leaves”
  • “The Taste of Things”
  • “Tótem”
  • “The Zone of Interest”

Top Documentaries: 

  • “Anselm”
  • “The Eternal Memory”
  • “Four Daughters”
  • “The Mission” (National Geographic)
  • “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie”

Top Independent Films: 

  • “All of Us Strangers”
  • “BlackBerry”
  • “Monica”
  • “Passages”
  • “Past Lives”

Independent Spirit Awards:


Best Feature
“American Fiction”
“The Holdovers”
“May December”
“Past Lives”

Best Director
Todd Haynes, “May December”
Cord Jefferson, “American Fiction”
Georgia Oakley, “Blue Jean”
A.V. Rockwell, “A Thousand and One”
Celine Song, “Past Lives”

Best Lead Performance

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “You Hurt My Feelings”
Paul Giamatti, “The Holdovers”
Lily Gladstone, “The Unknown Country”
Greta Lee, “Past Lives”
Trace Lysette, “Monica”
Franz Rogowski, “Passages”
Cailee Spaeny, “Priscilla”
Teyana Taylor, “A Thousand and One”
Michelle Williams, “Showing Up”
Jeffrey Wright, “American Fiction”

Best Supporting Performance

Hong Chau, “Showing Up”
Patricia Clarkson, “Monica”
Glenn Howerton, “BlackBerry”
Patti LuPone, “Beau is Afraid”
Charles Melton, “May December”
Julianne Moore, “May December”
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “The Holdovers”
Molly Shannon, “A Good Person”
Maura Tierney, “The Iron Claw”
Leslie Uggams, “American Fiction”


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