Clint KO’s Nat’l Crix Society

'Baby' beats 'Sideways,' 'Sunset'

NEW YORK — Warner Bros.’ “Million Dollar Baby” won on points as the National Society of Film Critics named Clint Eastwood-helmed drama the year’s best movie Saturday evening.

Boxing pic narrowly beat Alexander Payne’s “Sideways” to win the decision. Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset” placed third in the voting.

Zhang Yimou was voted helmer of the year for his martial arts epics “House of Flying Daggers,” from Sony Pictures Classics, and Miramax Films’ “Hero.” Zhang aced Payne and Eastwood out of the top spot.

Imelda Staunton (New Line’s “Vera Drake”) and “Baby’s” Hilary Swank tied for top honors in the actress category, beating Julie Delpy in “Before Sunset.”

Jamie Foxx took actor for the funnyman’s serious turns in “Ray” (Universal) and “Collateral” (DreamWorks). Paul Giamatti came in second for his perf as a frustrated writer in “Sideways,” while Eastwood brought up the rear for his turn in “Baby” as a grizzled boxing trainer.

Popular on Variety

In the supporting categories, Payne’s Fox Searchlight release ruled, with Virginia Madsen and Thomas Haden Church both winning for “Sideways.”

Supporting actress runners-up were Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator,” “Coffee and Cigarettes”) and Laura Linney (“Kinsey”). Morgan Freeman (“Baby”) missed the supporting actor honor by one vote, and Peter Sarsgaard was in the running for his racy role in “Kinsey.”

Screenplay prize went to “Sideways” for its hip twist on the buddy comedy, penned by Payne and Jim Taylor.

Coming in second in the scribe race was Charlie Kaufman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). Richard Linklater, Delpy and Ethan Hawke placed third for “Sunset.”

Foreign-lingo pic winner was Ousmane Sembene’s drama centering on female genital mutilation in Africa, “Moolaade” (New Yorker Films). The film beat out Yimou’s “Daggers” and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Notre Musique.”

In the docu derby, Jonathan Caouette’s experimental “Tarnation” (Wellspring) took the nonfiction feature prize. Import “The Story of the Weeping Camel” and Ross McElwee’s “Bright Leaves” followed behind, respectively.

“Daggers” beat out “Hero” and Michael Mann’s “Collateral” to take cinematography honors.

Launched in 1966, the NSFC consists of 56 U.S. movie critics. Org voted at showbiz haunt Sardi’s in Gotham. Scrolls will be sent to the winners as the society has no formal awards gala.

A special citation was granted this year to Richard Schickel, Brian Jamieson and Warner Bros. Home Video for restoration of Samuel Fuller’s “The Big Red One.” Another citation went to Turner Classic Movies for its programming.

The society also granted a spate of film heritage awards honoring the DVD releases of “The Leopard,” “John Cassavetes — Five Films,” “More Treasures From American Film Archives,” “The Fritz Lang Collection” and “M.”