The National Board of Review threw a fireball into Hollywood's awards season, naming the rollicking apocalyptic adventure "Mad Max: Fury Road" the best film of 2015.
George Miller's latest installment in the 1979-born action franchise is an unconventional pick from the National Board of Review, one of the oldest awards bodies in movies. But the group, founded in 1909, has recently tried to shed its stodgy image, previously giving J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year" (in 2014) and Spike Jonze's "Her" (in 2013) its top honor.
In the awards announced Tuesday, the science-fiction hit "The Martian" came away with the most wins, taking best actor for Matt Damon, best director for Ridley Scott and best adapted screenplay for Drew Goddard. In the early going of awards season, "The Martian" is seen as the popular, big-budget contender likely to compete at the Academy Awards.
The National Board of Review, a collection of film enthusiasts and academics, eschewed several of the top independent contenders, like the journalism drama "Spotlight" (the big winner at Monday night's Gotham Independent Film Awards) and the 1950s romance "Carol."
Instead, the NBRs gave Quentin Tarantino's upcoming Western, "The Hateful Eight," awards for Tarantino's screenplay and Jennifer Jason Leigh's supporting actress performance. Sylvester Stallone was named best supporting actor for "Creed," the acclaimed reboot of Stallone's "Rocky" franchise.
Brie Larson won best actress for her performance as a captive mother in "Room." The group also singled out Larson's young co-star, Jacob Tremblay, for breakthrough performance, an award he shares with another young actor, Abraham Attah, the child soldier of the Netflix release "Beasts of No Nation."
The National Board of Review is known for spreading its awards around as much as possible, attracting a roomful of celebrities to its annual dinner in midtown New York. This year's ceremony will be hosted by NBC's Willie Geist on Jan. 5.
An award for best ensemble to Adam McKay's "The Big Short" — featuring Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt — will surely add star power to the gala.
The group awarded best documentary to the Amy Winehouse film "Amy"; best animated film to Pixar's "Inside Out"; and best foreign language film to the Holocaust drama "Son of Saul." The Mexican drug war thriller "Sicario" was singled out for the "spotlight award" for its "collaborative vision."