Tim Burton picks up directing award

See Winners

The Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” from Miramax and Paramount Vantage, was named best picture of the year by the National Board of Review, while Tim Burton drew the director nod for DreamWorks-Warner Bros. musical “Sweeney Todd.”

“No Country” also picked up the awards for adapted screenplay and ensemble cast, which includes Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Kelly Macdonald. With three nods, pic won the most of any film.

There’s always a certain amount of mystery surrounding the NBR, a group of film educators and other professionals with no official Hollywood ties, but the org’s yearly announcement is considered an early bellwether of potential award winners, and its top 10 list, which it releases in alphabetical order, is among the first that roll out in December.

George Clooney picked up NBR’s actor nod for his performance in Warner Bros.’ “Michael Clayton,” while Julie Christie won the actress prize for Lionsgate’s “Away from Her.”

Casey Affleck received the supporting actor prize for Warner’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” while Amy Ryan won supporting actress for “Gone Baby Gone.”

NBR lauded Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille” for animated feature, while French film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” took foreign film. Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro’s Iraqi war doc “Body of War” drew the documentary nod. Ben Affleck won for directorial debut with “Gone Baby Gone.” Both “Gone” and “Diving Bell” are distributed by Miramax.

In previous years, the NBR included the winning film in its list of the top 10 films of the year. This round, the org changed its rules to keep the year’s best film separate, creating what amounts to a top 11 list.

Warner took three of the spots on the list: Andrew Dominik’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” Rob Reiner’s “The Bucket List” and Tony Gilroy’s “Clayton.” Vantage took two with Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” and Marc Forster’s “The Kite Runner.”

“Sweeney,” which DreamWorks- Paramount is distributing domestically, also made the list, as did Focus Features’ “Atonement,” Universal’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” Fox Searchlight’s “Juno” and MGM-Sidney Kimmel’s “Lars and the Real Girl.”

“We screened 328 films, and the diversity of these narratives is reflected in our 2007 ten best films,” NBR prexy Annie Schulhof said. “No Country for Old Men” is a “brilliant convergence of extraordinary directing, a masterful screenplay and incredible ensemble performances.”

Miramax is distributing the pic domestically.

A number of the films landing on the top 10 roster haven’t yet opened in the U.S., so distribs will try to use the NBR mention to up the profile of their pics. Joe Wright’s “Atonement” opens Friday, “Kite Runner” opens Dec. 14, “Sweeney” unspools Dec. 21, and “Bucket List” bows Christmas Day.

“Juno,” which opened Wednesday, will look for an immediate boost. Ellen Page won NBR’s prize for breakthrough performance by an actress for her role in the pic, while Emile Hirsch took breakthrough perf by an actor for “Into the Wild.”

“Juno” scribe Diablo Cody and “Lars and the Real Girl” scribe Nancy Oliver tied for the original screenplay prize; Joel and Ethan Coen drew adapted screenplay kudos for “No Country,” based on the tome by Cormac McCarthy.

Among the pics on NBR’s list of top 10 independent movies were Sarah Polley’s “Away from Her,” Craig Zobel’s “Great World of Sound” (Magnolia Pictures), John Sayles’ “Honeydripper” (Emerging Pictures), Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah” (Warner Independent), Michael Winterbottom’s “A Mighty Heart” (Vantage) and Andrew Wagner’s “Starting Out in the Evening” (Roadside Attractions).

Searchlight scored four of the spots on the indie list with Mira Nair’s “The Namesake,” Tamara Jenkins’ “The Savages,” John Carney’s “Once” and Adrienne Shelly’s “Waitress.”

Making the shortlist of top foreign films were “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “The Band’s Visit,” “The Counterfeiters,” “La Vie en rose” and “Lust, Caution.”

“Darfur Now,” “In the Shadow of the Moon,” “Nanking,” “Taxi to the Darkside” and “Toots” were named the top five docus.

Michael Douglas will receive NBR’s career achievement award, while the William K. Everson Film History Award will go to Robert Osborne. Longtime Coen brothers collaborator Roger Deakins will receive the award for career achievement. The Bulgari Award for NBR Freedom of Expression will go to films “The Great Debaters” and “Persepolis.”

Kudos will be handed out during a Jan. 15 gala dinner at Cipriani in Gotham.

And the nominees are…

Director:
Tim Burton, “Sweeney Todd”

Actor:
George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”

Actress:
Julie Christie, “Away From Her”

Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”

Supporting Actress:
Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”

Foreign Film:
“The Diving Bell And The Butterfly”

Documentary:
“Body Of War”

Animated Feature:
“Ratatouille”

Ensemble Cast:
“No Country For Old Men”

Breakthrough Performance by an Actor:
Emile Hirsch, “Into The Wild”

Breakthrough Performance by an Actress:
Ellen Page, “Juno”

Best Directorial Debut:
Ben Affleck, “Gone Baby Gone”

Best Original Screenplay (tie):
Diablo Cody, “Juno” and
Nancy Oliver, “Lars and the Real Girl”

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country For Old Men”

Besides “No Country,” here’s NBR’s top ten, in alphabetical order:
“The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford”
“Atonement”
“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“The Bucket List”
“Into The Wild”
“Juno”
“The Kite Runner”
“Lars And The Real Girl”
“Michael Clayton”
“Sweeney Todd”

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