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Film critics group postpones its awards

National Board of Review ‘inadvertently’ omitted eligible films from ballot
/ Source: Reuters

The group that traditionally presents the first big movie awards of the Oscar season said Wednesday it had delayed announcing its winners after complaints about its voting process.

The National Board of Review awards are sometimes an indicator of what to expect in the race for the Academy Awards in March but frequently its choices are more esoteric and its legitimacy has been called into question by some critics.

One critic this year said the group had omitted directors of such critically acclaimed films as “Capote,” “Pride and Prejudice “ and “Walk the Line” from its eligibility list.

The delay will cost the NBR its position as the first award of the season since the Los Angeles Film Critics Association is due to announce its film of the year on Dec. 10 — one of several awards that narrow the field for next March’s Oscars.

The NBR said after a meeting late Tuesday that the announcement of its awards would be postponed until Monday Dec. 12 “in fairness to all eligible films, filmmakers and actors.”

Spokesman Gary Springer said voters had erroneously been sent an “eligibility list” that did not include all films screened in the past year. After complaints from studios, they had been asked to disregard that list and vote again.

“We are sorry for the inadvertent omissions,” the NBR said in a statement.

The New York-based non-profit group founded in 1909 has come under fire in recent months for its secretive selection practices and infighting among former and current members.

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In a recent article criticizing what he called the “idiotic awards,” Fox News movie columnist Roger Friedman said that among contenders excluded from the original eligibility list were directors Bennett Miller (“Capote”), James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) and Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice.”)

The board’s membership includes film professionals, educators, students and historians who view more than 300 films each year at screenings that are often followed by panel discussions with actors, directors and producers.

“This Skull and Bones-type group ... has at their discretion the chance to give out all kinds of prizes and gifts to those who’ve been nice to them during the year,” Friedman wrote.

Last month a letter of complaint about the NBR was sent by former members to the New York State attorney general, saying the board of directors operated through secret meetings and bylaw manipulation. It also alleged a conflict of interest with a production company run by its president, Annie Schulhof.

Springer dismissed the letter as a “family feud,” noting that the attorney general had taken no action and “everybody has a production company.”

Last year the NBR chose “Finding Neverland” as best film, while Jamie Foxx and Annette Bening won the top acting awards for their roles in “Ray” and “Being Julia.”