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'Moulin Rouge' Named Best Film

Awards* National Board of Review also presents Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry top acting honors.


Let the movie awards season begin.

The race for the Oscars kicked off Wednesday with "Moulin Rouge," Baz Luhrmann's expressionistic and audacious musical drama, being named best film of 2001 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

"It's fabulous news," said Luhrmann, reached in London where he is casting the opera version of "Moulin Rouge." "I think there has been a building acceptance of 'Moulin Rouge' over the past three months.... We set out to make a musical work in a popular way again."

The National Board of Review, comprising educators, writers, film historians and film students, named Billy Bob Thornton best actor for his role as a hardened prison guard in "Monster's Ball," his performance as a laconic barber in "The Man Who Wasn't There" and his comedic turn as an eccentric bank robber in "Bandits." Thornton's "Monster's Ball" co-star, Halle Berry, won for best actress as the wife of a man Thornton's prison guard has just executed. "Monster's Ball" opens later this month.

Britain's Jim Broadbent was named best supporting actor for his work in the upcoming "Iris" as well as in "Moulin Rouge," and Cate Blanchett was awarded best supporting actress honors for "The Man Who Cried" and two upcoming films, "Shipping News" and "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring."

Actor and director Todd Field won as best director for his acclaimed family drama, "In the Bedroom," and the film garnered best screenplay honors for Field and Rob Festinger. John Cameron Mitchell was saluted for best directorial debut for his gender-bender musical drama "Hedwig & the Angry Inch."

Best documentary honors went to "The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition." Mexico's "Amores Perros" was named best foreign film.

The board's top 10 list for 2001 also included "In the Bedroom," "Ocean's Eleven," "Memento," "Monster's Ball," "Black Hawk Down," "The Man Who Wasn't There," "A.I. Artificial Intelligence," "The Pledge" and "Mulholland Dr."

The acting ensemble award went to the British drama "Last Orders," starring Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings and Tom Courtenay. Naomi Watts ("Mulholland Dr.") and Hayden Christensen ("Life as a House") were named for breakthrough performance.

The year's top-grossing film, the computer-animation comedy "Shrek," was named best animated feature and HBO's Emmy Award-winning drama "Wit" received the honors for best film made for cable TV.

Peter Jackson was named for Special Achievement in Filmmaking for "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring," which opens Dec. 19. Martin Scorsese was given the William K. Everson Award for Film History for "My Voyage to Italy," his documentary on the Italian movies he watched as a youth.

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