“The NBR is proud to honor ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ Spike Lee, and the film’s incredible ensemble cast, along with all of our 2020 awardees,” NBR president Annie Schulhof said in a statement.

“Lee is one of our greatest filmmakers, a bold auteur with a cinematic vision and an astute perspective on human relationships, focusing at times on that intersection between the personal and the political. ‘Da 5 Bloods’ is not only a unique portrait of the experience and lingering trauma of Black Vietnam War veterans, but also a moving story of enduring friendship, a suspenseful jungle treasure hunt, and a powerful reckoning with the American dream. We are also honored to present the posthumous NBR Icon Award to Chadwick Boseman, an extraordinary talent who represented the best of what an actor could be no matter what the role.”

The NBR was established in 1909 by theater owners protesting the New York mayor’s attempt to block the exhibition of motion pictures in the city.

According to The Wrap, In the 88 years it has been naming the year’s best film, it has agreed with the Oscars 22 times, though only once (“Green Book”) in the last 11 years.

The National Board of Review is not a critics’ organization. The group is made up of “knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students” in the New York area.

The Wrap said much of its relatively high profile comes from the fact that it is normally one of the first groups to pick the year’s best films — although in this year’s extended awards season, it made its choices well after the critics’ groups that adhered to calendar-year eligibility.

Like the Oscars and most guilds, the NBR allowed films to qualify this year as long as they were being released by Feb. 28, 2021.

Plans for an awards ceremony to celebrate 2020 winners will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the full list of winners below:

Best Film:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Director:  Spike Lee, “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Actor:  Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”

Best Actress:  Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Supporting Actor:  Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Best Supporting Actress:  Youn Yuh-jung, “Minari”

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies, “News of the World”

Best Original Screenplay:  Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Breakthrough Performance:  Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Best Directorial Debut:  Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth”

Best Animated Feature:  “Soul”

Best Foreign Language Film:  “La Llorona”

Best Documentary:  “Time”

NBR Icon Award:  Chadwick Boseman

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “One Night in Miami”

NBR Spotlight Award: Radha Blank for writing, directing, producing and starring in “The Forty-Year-Old Version”

Best Ensemble:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography:  Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”

Top Films (in alphabetical order):

First Cow
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Judas and the Black Messiah
The Midnight Sky
News of the World
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order):

Dear Comrades
The Mole Agent
Night of the Kings

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order): 

All In: The Fight for Democracy
Boys State
Dick Johnson is Dead
Miss Americana
The Truffle Hunters

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order): 

The Climb
Farewell Amor
Miss Juneteenth
The Nest
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The Outpost
Saint Frances

By Lynn Venhaus
A quietly devastating film without a false move, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” will permeate your psyche and stay there. Its documentary-like realism gives this unassuming film power as it sneaks up on viewers like a velvet hammer.

A familiar tale of young blue-collar girls stuck in a rut in a dead-end town is not ordinary at all. Because of an unintended pregnancy, these rural Pennsylvania teens (Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder) travel to New York City to seek medical help. Writer-director Eliza Hittman has located the sweet spot between fine young talent and a non-conventional storytelling method.

Winner of a special U.S. Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival for neorealism, the film also won the Grand Jury Prix (Silver Berlin Bear) at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Truly Moving Picture Award at the Heartland Film Festival this year.

Repressed and sad, Autumn, 17, channels her emotions into her love of music but rarely acts up or out in public. With a dismal family life and jerky high school boys certainly no prize catches in this hopeless rust belt hamlet, she has the look of defeat before she even embarks on a life. Newcomer Sidney Flanigan’s face telegraphs everything she doesn’t say – and it’s a mesmerizing standout debut.

What isn’t said is more gut-wrenching than the sparse dialogue that lets us know just enough information. Clearly Autumn’s hiding a secret. After her pregnancy is confirmed, we never know who the father is but there are two obvious suspects, and whoa, she’s left with little choice and no support. She would need parental permission in Pennsylvania for a procedure. Her mother is remarried to a real creep and has two young children to care for, so it’s complicated.

I am not going to get into a moral debate about abortion, nor make any judgments, but Autumn’s hopeless circumstances lead her to travel to the unfamiliar and intimidating NYC on the train with her loyal cousin Skylar. As a fellow store clerk, Talia Ryder demonstrates why she is such a resourceful, smart and bold girl. They may be small-town rubes but what bravery is displayed as they seek the necessary help. We should all be so lucky to have someone like Skylar to count on in a very cold cruel world.

In the movie’s keynote scene, a frightened Autumn must answer a medical questionnaire with either “never, rarely, sometimes or always.” Showing a masterful control beyond her years, Flanagan’s responses may answer your questions and influence your assumptions.

It’s also disturbing, and you feel the desperation. Neither girl can afford to be vulnerable, and as they navigate a stacked-deck existence, it’s unsettling to see how casual sexual harassment and predatory behavior is in their world. These girls have learned early on how to navigate around these typical toxic males. But for how long?

The film takes place over a short time frame but makes a lasting impact. You just want to scream “Run like the wind” to them and hope they land on their feet somewhere, anywhere but there. And female friendship is a potent tool in anyone’s life.

Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder are impressive in “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a drama, 141 minutes, rated PG-13 for disturbing/mature thematic content, language, some sexual references and teen drinking. Lynn’s Grade: B+
Note: This film is available on demand and on streaming services

Webster-Kirkwood Times published a version of this review as well.