In the first honors of the 2001 award season, the National Board of Review announced Wednesday their list of this year's best movies, giving the first indication of how the Academy Award nominations may pan out.
Topping their list for best film was Baz Luhrmann's French burlesque musical Moulin Rouge, starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, followed by Todd Field's In the Bedroom. Field also nabbed best director and screenplay honors (with co-writer Rob Festinger).
Upon hearing Rouge was chosen as the No. 1 film, Luhrmann told Daily Variety, "As we all know, it was a very difficult film to make. We had the simple mission of trying to reinvent the musical as a popular form today. Art isn't a horse race, but being recognized in this way is a great thing."
Field said, "I feel deeply touched to be held in such esteem by the National Board of Review."
Billy Bob Thornton was named best actor for his performances in the Coen brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There, the death-row drama Monster's Ball and the quirky heist comedy Bandits, while his Monster's co-star Halle Berry was named best actress.
"It's gratifying to be recognized for all those films because when you have that many movies out, you're afraid some of them might not be noticed," Thornton told the Associated Press.
Cate Blanchett took the best supporting actress spot for her turns in Lord of the Rings, The Shipping News and The Man Who Cried. British actor Jim Broadbent was named best supporting actor for Moulin Rouge and Iris.
Rounding out the list, director John Cameron Mitchell was honored with the best directorial debut for his outspoken film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, while Naomi Watts and Hayden Christensen both won the breakthrough performance award for Mulholland Drive and Life as a House, respectively.
The New York-based NBR committee is comprised of mostly anonymous educators, screenwriters and film historians. The awards will be presented at a ceremony emceed by Peter Riegert Jan. 7 at New York's Tavern on the Green.