"Up in the Air," a serio-comic look at the world of corporate downsizing, was named best film of 2009 Thursday by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
Directed by Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air" revolves around a corporate downsizer (George Clooney) who begins to question his isolated life. The film, which opens today (see review on D1), also won awards for best actor (Clooney shared the prize with Morgan Freeman for his role as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus"), supporting actress for Anna Kendrick and best adapted screenplay for Reitman and Sheldon Turner.
Board of Review favorite Clint Eastwood earned best director honors for "Invictus," a drama about how South African President Mandela brought the country together in 1995 through the Rugby World Cup. Eastwood won best actor last year from the group for "Gran Torino." And his 2003 drama "Mystic River" and 2006 war drama "Letters From Iwo Jima" won best film from the group.
The Board of Review comprises film professionals, educators, historians and students. The group is often a leading bellwether for the Academy Awards. For the last two years its best film selections -- "No Country for Old Men" and "Slumdog Millionaire" -- went on to receive the Oscar for best picture.
Carey Mulligan won best actress for "An Education" as a British teenager in the 1960s who falls in love with an older man. Woody Harrelson was named supporting actor for "The Messenger." And Joel and Ethan Coen earned original screenplay honors for "A Serious Man."
Jeremy Renner won breakthrough performance by an actor for "The Hurt Locker," and Gabourey Sidibe earned breakthrough performance by an actress for "Precious."
Earlier this week, "The Hurt Locker" won the Gotham Independent Award for best film, and "Precious" and "The Last Station" dominated the nominations for Film Independent's Spirit Awards. The awards season kicks into high gear the week of Dec. 13 with the American Film Institute, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle making their selections along with the announcement of nominations for the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The NBR awards will be presented at their annual gala Jan. 12 at Cipriani's 42nd Street in New York.
Other winners announced Thursday include:
Best foreign-language film: "The Prophet"
Best documentary: "The Cove"
Best animated feature: "Up"
Best ensemble cast: "It's Complicated"
Spotlight Award for best directorial debut: Duncan Jones for "Moon," Oren Moverman for "The Messenger" and Marc Webb for "(500) Days of Summer."
Special filmmaking achievement award: Wes Anderson for "Fantastic Mr. Fox"
William K. Everson Film History Award: Jean Picker Firstenberg
NBR Freedom of Expression: "Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country," "Invictus" and "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"
For a complete list go to www.nbrmp.org