New York critics honor Brokeback, while Capote and Transamerica take NBR acting kudos

BY Mike Grippi

December 13 2005 12:00 AM ET

Gay cowboy love
story Brokeback Mountain won three of the top
four awards from the New York Film Critics Circle on
Monday, building momentum as the critics' favorite for
Hollywood's top honors, the Oscars. Earlier the
National Board of Review, a New York group of 150 film
professionals, academics, and students, announced its
annual awards, naming George Clooney's McCarthy-era drama
Good Night, and Good Luck as the best film of
2005. The awards presented by the New York Film Critics
Circle are among a string of second-tier awards
leading up to the March 5 Academy Awards. The slew of
awards announced in December traditionally helps narrow the
field for the Oscars.

Director Ang
Lee's film Brokeback Mountain is shaping up as
the critics' favorite, despite concerns that its depiction
of a love affair between two men may have trouble winning
over audiences in more conservative parts of the
country. The New York Film Critics Circle gave the
film its awards for Best Film, Best Director, and Best
Actor—for Heath Ledger, who appears on the cover of
the January 17 issue of The Advocate, on sale
December 20. Brokeback Mountain already won Best Film
from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association on
Saturday, and it earned eight nominations for the
Critics Choice Awards on Sunday.

The
National Board of Review's prize for directing went to Lee
for Brokeback Mountain. Lee's résumé boasts
a varied string of hits, including the Jane Austen
adaptation Sense and Sensibility in 1995 and
the martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon
in 2000. "A lot of people among critics are
responding to it because it is so daring," said Gene
Seymour, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle.
"It has all the sweep of what we have come to know as
a major Hollywood romance, but it carries within it such a
grand departure," he said.

The New York Film
Critics named Reese Witherspoon as Best Actress for her
role in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.
Their awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting
Actress went to William Hurt and Maria Bello for their
roles in A History of Violence. Critically acclaimed
Capote, directed by Bennett Miller, won an award
for Best First Film, while Werner Herzog will be honored for
two nonfiction films, Grizzly Man and White
Diamond
, the group said. Hong Kong director Wong
Kar Wai's 2046 was named Best Foreign Language
Film, and Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's
Moving Castle
won Best Animated Film.

The National
Board of Review, which has sometimes raised eyebrows for its
esoteric picks, appeared not to have gone too far out on a
limb this year. It picked Philip Seymour Hoffman as
Best Actor for Capote and Desperate
Housewives
star Felicity Huffman as Best Actress for
Transamerica. The National Board of Review also
listed its 10 best films of the year in a selection that
included many of those named by the Critics Choice
Awards on Sunday.

The list, which
was not ranked in order, included independents such as
Brokeback Mountain, Crash, and Capote as
well as A History of Violence, the political
thriller Syriana, and big studio productions Walk
the Line
and Memoirs of a Geisha.
Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen made the list for
Munich and Match Point, respectively.
Paradise Now, about Palestinian suicide
bombers, was named Best Foreign-Language Film, and March
of the Penguins
was given Best Documentary by
the National Board of Review. The National Board of Review's
picks have traditionally been closely watched because
it has been the first to announce its awards, but its
announcement was delayed this year amid controversy
over its voting procedures. (Claudia Parsons, Reuters)

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