The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures gave its best-picture award Monday to "Good Night, and Good Luck," George Clooney's sparse, black-and-white depiction of Edward R. Murrow's on-air battles against Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
The group spread the awards around, naming Ang Lee as best director for the cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain."
Two performers who underwent significant transformations for their roles received the top acting honors: Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in "Capote," and Felicity Huffman as a preoperative transsexual in "Transamerica."
Even though "Good Night" takes place a half-century ago, the National Board of Review was struck by its relevance to the current state of journalism. David Strathairn stars as Murrow, the pioneering CBS News anchor who criticized McCarthy for his communist witch hunts of the 1950s. Clooney is the director and co-star.
"The press is very much on the tip of everybody's tongue — what they're reporting, how much they're reporting," said Annie Schulhof, National Board of Review president.
"I think it was an extraordinary film. Mr. Clooney really nailed it. He really understood the issues," Schulhof added. "It got people talking, and many times, that's what a good film does."
Supporting acting honors went to Jake Gyllenhaal for "Brokeback Mountain" and Gong Li for "Memoirs of a Geisha." "Mrs. Henderson Presents," about a wealthy widow who started a nude revue in 1930s London, received the ensemble acting award.
Also on Monday, the New York Film Critics Circle planned to announce its choices for the top films of 2005. Golden Globe nominations were scheduled for Tuesday morning.
The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, formed in 1909, is composed of film historians, students and educators.