'Finding Neverland' named year's top film by National Board of Review

Wednesday, December 1st 2004, 2:13 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ ``Finding Neverland,'' the whimsical, wistful story of ``Peter Pan'' creator J.M. Barrie, topped the National Board of Review's list as the best film of 2004.

Jamie Foxx was named best actor for his convincing portrayal of Ray Charles in ``Ray,'' and Annette Bening took the top female acting honors for ``Being Julia,'' a showy role in which she plays an aging British stage star.

No single film dominated the group's winners, announced Wednesday, although ``Sideways,'' about best friends on a wine-tasting road trip, was honored in three categories: Thomas Haden Church won the supporting-actor award for his role as a swaggering, washed-up TV actor; director Alexander Payne and his writing partner, Jim Taylor, shared the adapted screenplay honors; and the film was listed among the group's 10 best of the year.

Laura Linney won the supporting-actress category for ``Kinsey,'' in which she plays the wife of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. The cast of ``Closer'' _ Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman _ were honored for best acting by an ensemble.

The Pixar hit ``The Incredibles,'' about a family of super heroes, was named best animated feature. ``The Sea Inside,'' a Spanish film starring Javier Bardem as a quadriplegic fighting for his right to die, was the top foreign language film. And ``Born Into Brothels'' was the group's choice for best documentary.

Michael Mann won the best-director award for ``Collateral,'' starring Tom Cruise as a hit man on the prowl in Los Angeles, and Clint Eastwood received special filmmaking achievement honors for the boxing drama ``Million Dollar Baby,'' which he directed, produced and stars in, and for which he composed the score.

The group's top 10, in order: ``Finding Neverland,'' ``The Aviator,'' ``Closer,'' ``Million Dollar Baby,'' ``Sideways,'' ``Kinsey,'' ``Vera Drake,'' ``Ray,'' ``Collateral'' and ``Hotel Rwanda.''

The No. 1 choice of ``Finding Neverland,'' starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, came as no big surprise to Tom O'Neil, host of the awards handicapping Web site GoldDerby.com.

``The board traditionally likes movies based on real-life characters _ movies with literary credentials based on real-life characters, like `The Hours' and `Quills,''' O'Neil said.

``And they have certainly demonstrated that they have a profound impact on the Oscars,'' he added. ``They put Halle Berry on the map with `Monster's Ball.' Halle Berry's win at the National Board of Review was the only major industry award she won in the Oscar home stretch.''

But the organization _ traditionally the first to announce its top film picks each year _ doesn't always jibe with the eventual Academy Award winner. In recent years, the National Board has chosen ``Mystic River,'' ``The Hours,'' ``Moulin Rouge'' and ``Quills,'' none of which won the best-picture Oscar. In 1999, however, it match up with the Oscars, picking ``American Beauty.''

The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, formed 95 years ago, is composed of film historians, students and educators.