By Michelle Graff

Although it's yet to bow in theaters, Blood Diamond  got its first serious Academy Awards boost today (Oprah notwithstanding) as the National Board of Review (NBR) picked it among its 10 best of the year and actor Djimon Hounsou as best supporting actor. Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima was chosen as best film of the year. Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter.

For those unfamiliar with the group, NBR is a non-profit that consists of film professionals, educators, students and historians. Their opinions and influence are hotly debated during awards season, but without question, their annual awards serve as the first big precursor on who and what will get Oscar nominations. In the past two years, all five Academy Awards' best picture nominees were in the group's top 10.

The fact that Blood Diamond was included may mean nothing in the end, but it certainly doesn't hurt the film's chances. Also chosen by the group were Babel, The Departed, The Devil Wears Prada, Flags of Our Fathers, The History Boys, Little Miss Sunshine, Notes on a Scandal and The Painted Veil. Of the four others I've seen, I'd personally put two (The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine) ahead of Blood Diamond, while Babel, Flags, Notes and Painted Veil have thus far received more "Oscar buzz." Two notable NBR snubs, Dreamgirls and The Queen, have, up until this point, been receiving a lot more Oscar-potential ink.

Ultimately, I don't think Blood Diamond will get a best picture nomination, but if jewelers hope it drops off the radar after opening, this is an indicator that the blitz has only just begun.

And if nothing else, this makes Hounsou a serious contender for a supporting actor nomination.

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