The National Board of Review comes under fire -- We tell you how the movie awards group is coping with criticism from ex-members

The National Board of Review is the Iowa caucus of movie awards: The organization’s selections are inordinately publicized simply because they come first. But with a month to go before the NBR announces its best films of the year, the group’s legitimacy has been called into question by a complaint filed with the New York State attorney general by former and current members. It claims the board of directors is operating the nearly 100-year-old group through secret meetings and bylaw manipulation, and that it has a conflict of interest with a production company run by its president, Annie Schulhof. The NBR claims no such conflict exists, as her company ”has not produced anything yet.” Executive director Eileen Newman dismisses the complaint as ”bickering in the family.”

The Board is not a group of film critics, but rather a collection of mostly New York-based film aficionados who pay a membership fee to watch lots of movies — the best of which they laud in an early-December awards announcement and a January gala (past best-pic winners include Finding Neverland and Mystic River). That once-a-year moment of clout is unlikely to diminish, given Hollywood’s view that awards are always worth collecting, no matter who’s handing them out (exhibit A: the Golden Globes). Says one studio exec, who has attended the NBR’s $10,000-a-table awards gala for many years: ”We make a point of screening almost all our films for them, even [those] that are not necessarily award-type films, just to maintain good relations.”

Too bad the Academy doesn’t give behind-the- scenes awards: And the Oscar for Most Obscure Internecine Argument goes to…