Kudos kick off the awards season

NEW YORK — The National Board of Review has singled out Fox’s “Moulin Rouge” as best picture of 2001.

The honors are the first in the award season, which culminates with the Academy Awards on March 24.

Miramax Films’ “In the Bedroom” nabbed director and screenplay honors for first-time writer-director Todd Field, who co-wrote the script with Rob Festinger.

Field said: “I feel deeply touched to be held in such esteem by the National Board of Review.”

After hearing of the “Moulin” kudos, helmer Baz Luhrmann told Daily Variety, “As we all know, it was a very difficult film to make. We had the simple mission of trying to reinvent the musical as a popular form today. Art isn’t a horse race, but being recognized in this way is a great thing.”

Animated feature honors went to DreamWorks’ “Shrek,” while Lions Gate’s “Amores Perros” nabbed foreign film prize. Billy Bob Thornton won best actor for his combined work in “Monster’s Ball,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There” and “Bandits”; and Halle Berry won as actress for “Monster’s Ball.”

Jim Broadbent was tapped supporting actor in “Iris” and “Moulin Rouge”; Cate Blanchett, supporting actress for “The Man Who Cried,” “The Shipping News” and “The Lord of the Rings”; and breakthrough performance went to Naomi Watts for “Mulholland Drive” and Hayden Christensen for “Life as a House.”

The NBR also named runners-up for the picture of the year: “In the Bedroom,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Memento,” “Monster’s Ball,” “Black Hawk Down,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “A.I: Artificial Intelligence,” “The Pledge” and “Mulholland Drive.”

Runners-up in the foreign film category were “Behind the Sun,” “Dark Blue World,” “No Man’s Land” and “Amelie.”

“Endurance” won as top documentary, while Martin Scorsese will take home the William K. Everson award for film history, for his doc “Il Mio Viaggo in Italia,” a personal voyage through Italian cinema.

Jon Voight won a career achievement award, while the Billy Wilder Award for excellence in directing will be bestowed upon Steven Spielberg. For his work on the epic “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” Peter Jackson nabbed the NBR’s award for special achievement in filmmaking, and the pic also won for production design.

Debut director kudos went to John Cameron Mitchell for the Fine Line release “Hedwig & the Angry Inch.”

The Fred Schepisi-helmed, Michael Caine starrer “Last Orders,” which Sony Pictures acquired following the Toronto Film Festival, won kudos for ensemble acting.

The award for film made for cable TV went to HBO’s “Wit.”

For motion pictures that explicitly address issues of freedom of expression, three pics were singled out: “Baran,” “Jung (War) in the Land of the Muhjaheddin” and “Kandahar.”

A special mention for excellence in filmmaking went to “The Anniversary Party,” “The Deep End,” “Diamond Men,” “Ghost World,” “Happy Accidents, “Iris,” “Lantana,” “L.I.E,” “Pinero” and “Sexy Beast.”

The NBR, founded in l908 as a censorship board with the mandate to bestow viewing age recommendations on pictures, has evolved as an organization of New York lawyers, teachers, editors and others who form a loose film appreciation society.

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