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Mystic River named best film by National Board of Review/Penn wins best actor



Story by: Jack Foley

CLINT Eastwood’s Mystic River has bolstered its claim to being an early Oscar favourite, by winning the first major prize of the year's film award season.

The film topped the US National Board of Review's (NBR) list of the best ten films of 2003, and earned one of its stars, Sean Penn, the best actor accolade.

The NBR panel includes film professionals, teachers and historians, who traditionally pick the first winners of the awards season, which eventually culminates with February’s Oscars ceremony.

Of the other major winners, Diane Keaton was selected as best actress, for her performance alongside Jack Nicholson in the upcoming Something’s Gotta Give (which also features Keanu Reeves as a doctor), and Alec Baldwin, who took the supporting actor prize, for his critically-acclaimed turn as a sleazy casino owner, in The Cooler, alongside William H Macy.

In announcing the top ten films, NBR president, Annie Schulhof, said it had been ‘a strong year for the studios’, which had produced films with powerful storylines and characters with their own moral codes.

Penn, who appears in Mystic River as a father coming to terms with the murder of his daughter, and who harbours a dark secret from his own past, was given the best actor prize jointly for that film and another drama, 21 Grams, which finds him as a man in need of a heart transplant, who strikes up a relationship with the widow of the man who eventually provides one for him.

He has also won the top award at the Venice Film Festival for 21 Grams, making him an early Oscar favourite in the best actor category.

Of the ten films, Tom Cruise's forthcoming epic, The Last Samurai, came second, while its director, Edward Zwick, was named as best director.

The Station Agent, which tells the story of a loner in rural America, and which was a favourite at this year’s London Film Festival, was third, while 21 Grams - which co-stars Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts, and which marks the second film from Amores Peros director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, came fourth.

House of Sand and Fog, starring Jennifer Connelly, Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray, and Cold Mountain, with Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, came next in the list, with Jim Sheridan’s heartfelt, In America, Tobey Maguire’s Seabiscuit, and Russell Crowe's Master and Commander rounding off the top 10.

The Fog of War was also named best documentary and The Barbarian Invasions received the top foreign film accolade.

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