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National Board of Review Award Winners: Julie Christie Returns

Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men by Joel and Ethan Cohen

Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent in Away from HerThe best thing about the 2007 National Board of Review (NBR) winners is the presence of veteran Julie Christie (right, with Gordon Pinsent) as best actress for her superb portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease in Sarah Polley's Away from Her.

Christie, one of the best film actresses of the last half century – in fact, one of the best film actresses ever – has received widespread acclaim for her performance, though this is her first Away from Her win so far. (Earlier this year, Christie was nominated for the Vancouver Film Critics' best actress in a Canadian film award but lost out to Carrie-Anne Moss in Fido.)

The National Board of Review's choice for best actor was not Christie's excellent leading man in Away from Her, Gordon Pinsent, but George Clooney, who plays an attorney suffering a crisis of conscience in Michael Clayton.

The NBR's best film was critics' darling No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen's violent tale about drugs, money (fast-depreciating dollars, unfortunately), and loads of dead bodies. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem (top photo), Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, and Kelly Macdonald, all of whom (presumably) shared the best ensemble award.

The Two Coens were given the best adapted screenplay award, but the best director was Tim Burton for his adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's dark musical Sweeney Todd, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

Mathieu Amalric, Marina Hands in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The best foreign (or rather, foreign-language) film was Julian Schnabel's French-made The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which stars Mathieu Amalric (above, with Marina Hands) as a man who writes a book – by blinking one eye – after suffering a paralyzing stroke. I found Schnabel's film both too artsy and too superficial, but – as usual – I seem to be in the minority. Earlier this year, Schnabel was given the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival, and his film recently won the audience award at the 2007 AFI FEST in Los Angeles. (In my view, the best thing about The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is Marie-Josée Croze's performance. To the best of my knowledge, she hasn't won any awards for it as of yet.)

Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro's Body of War – about an American Iraqi War veteran who, after becoming a paraplegic, fights to end that bloody folly – was voted best documentary, while Ratatouille was the best animated feature. The former production has been shortlisted as one of the fifteen documentaries vying for an Academy Award nomination, while the latter has received the most nominations for this year's Annie Awards.

Casey Affleck and two-time Tony Award nominee Amy Ryan took best supporting honors for, respectively, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Gone Baby Gone. Ben Affleck was voted best new director for the latter film, in which Casey also stars.

Other winners include: a best original screenplay tie – Diablo Cody for the teen pregnancy comedy Juno and Nancy Oliver for the sugary Lars and the Real Girl; best breakthrough performers Emile Hirsch for Into the Wild and Ellen Page for Juno; plus special awards for TCM presenter and Oscar historian Robert Osborne; cinematographer Roger Deakins; and actor Michael Douglas (right). (Perhaps Joan Fontaine, Jennifer Jones, and Max von Sydow were unavailable.)

The National Board of Review Awards ceremony will be held at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City on Jan. 15, 2008. Jesse L. Martin will host the event.

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