News, Dec. 2: Depp’s “Neverland” Named Top Film, Gothams Hail “Sideways,” Brokaw Bids Adieu to Viewers, More…

Johnny Depp’s Neverland named top film by NBR

The Johnny Depp-led biopic Finding Neverland, a whimsical retelling of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie’s life, was named the best film of year by the National Board of Review. NBR prexy Annie Schulhof described the film as visually magical. “All the elements hit the page for a best NBR film–the acting, the costumes, the set design, the music, and especially the cinematography,” she told The Associated Press. Jamie Foxx, meanwhile, took the best actor honor for his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray and Annette Bening was named best actress for her role as an aging British stage star in Being Julia. Laura Linney, who plays the wife of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey, won the supporting-actress category while the cast of CloserJude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman–received an accolade for best acting by an ensemble. In other categories, the Disney and Pixar juggernaut The Incredibles, about a family of super heroes, conquered the best animated feature category, the Spanish film The Sea Inside won top foreign language film and Born Into Brothels took best documentary. Michael Mann won the best director award for his Tom Cruise starrer Collateral and scribe Charlie Kaufman‘s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, starring Jim Carrey as a man who wants to erase memories of a failed romance, won for best original screenplay.

Gothams hail Sideways

Director Alexander Payne‘s comedy Sideways was named best feature of the year Wednesday at the IFP/New York’s 14th annual Gotham Awards in New York. Helmer Jonathan Demme‘s The Agronomist, about Haitian human rights activist Jean Dominique, took best documentary. The breakthrough actor award went to Catalina Sandino, for her role in Maria Full of Grace, while that film’s director, Joshua Marston, was awarded the breakthrough director award. The Gothams aired live for the first time on cable network IFC.

Brokaw bids adieu to viewers

After almost 23 years as NBC Nightly News anchor, Tom Brokaw ended Wednesday night’s broadcast with a touching farewell. “Thanks for all that I have learned from you,” he said, expressing gratitude to his viewers. “That’s been my richest reward.” Brokaw is leaving Nightly News and daily journalism to pursue other interests, but will still contribute to NBC News, doing at least three documentaries a year, the AP reports. A South Dakota native who joined NBC in 1966, Brokaw was White House correspondent from 1973 to 1976 and anchored Today from 1976 to 1981. He began his Nightly News stint in April 1982, sharing the anchor title with Roger Mudd, and emerged as solo anchor in September 1983.

Nick and Jessica perplexed by rumor mill

During an appearance on ABC News’ Good Morning America, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey denied tabloid rumors their marriage is on the rocks. “We really are trying to think of where this whole firestorm of gossip came from,” Lachey said. “We haven’t been able to find really one instance or one public spat.” Simpson scoffed at stories she didn’t wear her wedding ring to a recent public event because of the couple’s alleged marital troubles. “It was a fashion decision,” Simpson said, explaining her yellow gold bracelets didn’t match her large platinum and diamond wedding rings. “I’m kind of finicky about gold jewelry … about matching it with silver. Now I don’t look at it as that. It’s just always going to stay on my finger. It’s never coming off.”

Knight maybe involved in Vibe melee

Authorities are investigating whether rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight played a role in the altercation at the Vibe Awards last month, in which rapper Dr. Dre was attacked. Knight, who had a falling out with Dre over their label Death Row Records in the mid-’90s, has denied any involvement in the incident in which a man, Jimmy “James” Johnson, punched Dre in the face. The assault sparked a brawl in which Johnson was stabbed and seriously injured by Dre protégé, rapper Young Buck. Unidentified sources told theLos Angeles Times police have been interviewing witnesses and reviewing video footage to examine Knight’s actions before, during and after the melee. Knight was released from prison in 2001 after serving time for assault and weapons violations and the conditions for his parole ban him from having any contact with Dre. The AP reports Knight apparently came to the Vibe Awards without an invitation and sat just a few feet behind Dre.

Joan, Raymond top Family Awards

CBS’ Joan of Arcadia and Everybody Loves Raymond were among the winners at the sixth annual Family Television Awards, presented Wednesday in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Joan and Raymond won in the drama and comedy categories, respectively, while Joan star Amber Tamblyn and Raymond‘s Doris Roberts tied for actress honors, while Bernie Mac, star of the Fox comedy The Bernie Mac Show, won in the actor category. ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition won best reality program, while the network’s Lost took the best new series prize. The awards, organized by the Family Friendly Programming Forum, honor “outstanding work in family-friendly television entertainment.”

Actor Orbach diagnosed with prostate cancer

Law & Order star Jerry Orbach has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the AP reports. “We expect he’ll be fine. He’s been playing golf, shooting his episodes and doing real well,” manager Robert Malcolm told the New York Daily News. Producer Dick Wolf told the News Orbach‘s illness will not disrupt production of the NBC show. “We expect him to make a full and swift recovery, and while he is receiving treatment, we will work around his schedule,” Wolf said.

Inflatable SpongeBobs stolen!

Be on the look out for a thief carrying around 9-foot-wide SpongeBob SquarePants inflatables. More than 50 SpongeBob-nappings have been reported from Florida to Utah since the Nickelodeon pop icon started appearing on the roofs of Burger King restaurants in a promotional tie-in with the hit movie, AP reports. “We don’t have any theories. SpongeBob SquarePants is kind of a fad. It could be a childhood prank or an adult trying to get a fad item for Christmas,” Florida’s Putnam County sheriff’s Lt. Steve Rose told the AP Wednesday. “If any leads come across, we will follow up in hopes of making an arrest.”

Kit Bowen contributed to this report.