2016 is shaping up to have a competitive awards season as we enter into the final weeks of the year. With independent awards shows like the Gotham Awards honoring some of the best films of the year, and more and more critic nominations being announced, it’s almost time — for those of you who pay attention to these things — to start building your annual Oscar ballots. With a number of major contenders still set to be released, like La La Land, Silence, Patriot’s Day, and Hidden Figures, December is setting itself up to be one of the biggest months of the year, for both casual moviegoers (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and also the more die hard film fans.

Every year around this time the National Board of Review (comprised of New York-based intellectuals, film enthusiasts, and filmmakers) announces their best of the year lists, and this Tuesday morning, the Board revealed their picks for 2016, and the winners could be worth noting in the months to come.

Most importantly, writer and director Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea was named the best film of 2016 by the organization. After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival back in January, the film has gone on to be a major awards contender this year, with large amounts of hype and consideration being thrown towards both Lonergan’s writing and the performances of his lead actors, like Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and newcomer Lucas Hedges.

manchester by the sea best of 2016 2 Manchester by the Sea Named Best of 2016 by National Board of Review

That wasn’t the only award Manchester was given by NBR either, with Affleck winning Best Actor, Hedges winning Best Breakthrough Performance (Male), and Lonergan winning Best Original Screenplay. Not many films are able to sustain that kind of awards buzz from Sundance to the end of the year like Manchester has, which should make its presence in the competition this year that much more impressive.

Additionally, A24’s critical indie darling Moonlight went on to win numerous recognitions from NBR, including Best Director for Barry Jenkins and Best Supporting Actress for Naomie Harris. Similar to Manchester, it started out with some serious festival hype surrounding it earlier this fall and has gone on to remain one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Whether or not it’s able to break through with the Academy will have to wait to be seen.

While the National Board of Review’s picks rarely ever match up with the Academy Awards, their heavy focus on films like Manchester and Moonlight, seem to be a good indication on what films will, at the very least, be in the conversation entering into the more major awards shows and competitions early next year.

Source: National Board of Review

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