By Indiewire | Indiewire December 4, 2003 at 2:0AM
National Board of Review Says "Mystic River" is Tops For 2003
by Wendy Mitchell
"Mystic River" is the best film of 2003, according to the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. That film, directed by Clint Eastwood and based on the popular mystery novel by Dennis Lehane, stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. Sean Penn was picked as the group's best actor of the year for "Mystic River" and "21 Grams."
The National Board of Review said that the other nine best films of year, in order, are "The Last Samurai," "The Station Agent," "21 Grams," "House of Sand and Fog," "Lost in Translation," "Cold Mountain," "In America," "Seabiscuit," and "Master and Commander."
"This was a strong year for the studios," said NBR President Annie Schulhof in a prepared statement. "They produced films with powerful storylines and characters with their own moral codes."
The group's top five foreign films were "The Barbarian Invasions," "Best of Youth," "Monsieur Ibrahim," "Autumn Spring," and "The Man on the Train."
The top five documentaries selected were "The Fog of War," "Capturing the Friedmans," "My Architect," "Winged Migration," and "Spellbound."
Other awards went to Diane Keaton for best actress in "Something's Gotta Give," Alec Baldwin for best supporting actor in "The Cooler," and Patricia Clarkson for best supporting actress for "Pieces of April" and "The Station Agent." The ensemble cast of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was also recognized. Breakthrough awards were given to Paul Giamatti for "American Splendor" and to Charlize Theron for "Monster."
"The Last Samurai" helmer Edward Zwick was named best director, and Vadim Perelman ("House of Sand and Fog") was recognized for best directorial debut. In the screenplay categories, Anthony Minghella won best adapted for "Cold Mountain," and the family team of Jim, Naomi, and Kirsten Sheridan won best original for "In America."
Mega-hit "Finding Nemo" won best animated feature, and HBO's "Angels in America" won best cable TV film/mini-series.
Career achievement awards will go to actor Morgan Freeman, composer Hans Zimmer, and cinematographer John Toll. Norman Jewison, director of "The Statement," will get this year's Billy Wilder Award for Excellence in Directing. Sofia Coppola will get an award for special filmmaking achievement for "Lost in Translation." The William K. Everson Award for Film History goes to Richard LaGravanese and Ted Demme for their IFC doc "A Decade Under the Influence," about '70s cinema. The producer's award, a new category for the National Board of Review, goes to Gale Anne Hurd, Kathleen Kennedy, and Christine Vachon.
The National Board of Review also recognized four films "that reflect freedom of expression": "Capturing the Friedmans," "Dirty Pretty Things," "The Magdalene Sisters," and "September 11." Special mention for excellence in filmmaking went to: "American Splendor," "Bend It Like Beckham," "The Cooler," "Dirty Pretty Things," "Girl With A Pearl Earring," "Pieces of April," "The Secret Lives of Dentists," "Shattered Glass," "The Statement," "Thirteen," and "Whale Rider."
The honorees will be presented with the awards at the group's January 13 gala at Tavern on the Green in New York City. The National Board of Review, established in 1909, screens more than 300 films per year to come up with its annual best lists.