Story by: Jack Foley
CLINT Eastwoods 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 Februarys Oscars ceremony.
Of the other major winners, Diane Keaton was selected as best
actress, for her performance alongside Jack Nicholson in the upcoming
Somethings 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 years 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,
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 Sheridans heartfelt, In
America, Tobey Maguires 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.