Story by: Jack Foley
FINDING Neverland has strengthened its Oscar credentials by being
named as the best film of 2004 by The National Board of Review.
The accolade, which marks the first major award of the season,
was bestowed upon the film recently, when it was placed ahead
of The Aviator, Closer,
Clint Eastwood's Million
Dollar Baby and Sideways.
The film stars Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet and takes a fictional
look at the inspiration behind JM Barrie's Peter Pan. It has already
been tipped as a strong Oscar contender for Depp.
In other categories, Jamie Foxx was named best actor for his
outstanding portrayal of the late musician Ray Charles in Ray,
while Annette Bening won best actress for Being
Michael Mann took the best director accolade for his urban thriller,
Collateral, which starred Tom
Cruise as a hitman who hijacks Jamie Foxx's cab driver for a night
Current box office favourite, The
Incredibles beat Summer hit, Shrek
2 and groundbreaking Christmas flick, Polar
Express, to the best animated feature prize.
While two of the year's most notorious
films, The Passion of the Christ
and Fahrenheit 9/11,
by Mel Gibson and Michael Moore respectively, were honoured for
'special recognition of films that reflect the freedom of expression'.
Conspiracy of Silence was also included in the mention.
Another hotly-tipped Oscar contender, Alejandro Amenabar's The
Sea Inside, was named best foreign language film, boosting
the profile of star Javier Bardem (who also appears in Collateral).
Born into Brothels, a film about the children of prostitutes
in Calcutta, won best documentary.
Cinema luminaries, Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges (who appeared
in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot together), were given career achievement
Eastwood received a special film-making achievement for producing,
directing, acting and composing the score for Million
Dollar Baby, which reaches UK cinemas in January (and US in
The National Board of Review awards - which are chosen by a 150-strong
board of US film professionals - are seen as an early indicator
of which fims might feature prominently among the nominees at
the Academy Awards in February.
Last year, Eastwood's Mystic
River was named best film by the board, only to be beaten
at the Oscars by Lord
of the Rings: The Return of the King.
However, two of its stars, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, did win
the best actor and best supporting actor prizes, respectively.