Kudos kickoff

Board of Review taps 'Beauty' best pic

NEW YORK — DreamWorks’ “American Beauty” was named best film of the year by National Board of Review, whose annual announcement traditionally marks the launch of the awards season.

The org spread the major honors across several films, naming Russell Crowe best actor for Disney’s “The Insider,” Janet McTeer best actress for Fine Line’s “Tumbleweeds,” and Anthony Minghella best director for Paramount-Miramax’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

“Ripley,” which was shown to the board in an unfinished print, was ranked the second best film of the year, followed by New Line’s “Magnolia.”

“Magnolia” was given an award for best ensemble. Supporting actor nods also went to the pic’s Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore. Hoffman’s roll as a wealthy American expat in “Ripley,” and Moore’s turns in First Look’s “A Map of the World,” Miramax’s “An Ideal Husband” and USA Films’ “Cookie’s Fortune,” were also cited.

“The Insider” was named the fourth best film, followed by “The Straight Story” and “Cradle Will Rock,” both from Disney. In addition, Tim Robbins will be given a special filmmaking achievement nod for his writing and directing of “Cradle.”

Fox Searchlight’s “Boys Don’t Cry” nabbed the seventh spot, with director Kimberly Peirce named best debut director and actress Hilary Swank given the breakthrough performance award. “American Beauty’s” Wes Bentley will share the breakthrough honor with Swank.

USA Films’ “Being John Malkovich,” Fine Line’s “Tumbleweeds” and Warner Bros.’ “Three Kings” round out the top 10. In what was the sole nod for Miramax’s “The Cider House Rules,” John Irving was awarded best screenplay for his adaptation of his own novel.

Foreign fare

Evidence of Gotham-based Sony Picture’s Classics growing reputation as the premiere distrib for foreign lingo films, four of the National Board of Review’s five best foreign films were SPC releases — “All About My Mother,” “Run Lola Run,” “East-West” and “The Emperor and the Assassin”– with Paramount Classics’ “Cabaret Balkan” the lone exception.

A career achievement award will be given to Clint Eastwood, and the Billy Wilder award will be given to helmer John Frankenheimer. Freedom of expression awards will be given to Michael Mann for “The Insider” and Joan Chen for “Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.”

This year, the org gave a special mention for outstanding indie films. Listing them alphabetically, they were: “A Map of the World,” “A Walk on the Moon” “Election,” “Go,” “Limbo” “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Man of the Century,” “Stir of Echoes,” “This is My Father” and “Twin Falls Idaho.”

The National Board of Review awards will be presented Jan. 18 at Gotham’s Tavern on the Green.

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