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 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'sfilm "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.
"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 resume boasts a varied string of hits from the Jane Austen adaptation "Sense and Sensibility" in 1995 to 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 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 non-fiction 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 film-maker Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" won best animated film.
NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW AWARDS
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 Phillip 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.