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Board of Review picks 'No Country'

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"No Country for Old Men," Joel and Ethan Coen's visceral crime thriller based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, was named best film of 2007 Wednesday by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

George Clooney was named best actor for his role as a "fixer" at a high-powered New York law firm in "Michael Clayton" and veteran Julie Christie received best actress honors as a woman suffering from Alzheimer's in "Away From Her." Best director went to Tim Burton for his adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

Casey Affleck was named best supporting actor for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," and Amy Ryan was selected supporting actress for "Gone Baby Gone."

Julian Schnabel's French-language drama, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was NBR's selection for best foreign film. Best documentary honors went to "Body of War."

With the announcement of the honorees, the award season officially kicks into high gear.

In the week ahead, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the New York Film Critics Circle will announce their winners for the year and the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which gives out the Golden Globes, will announce their nominees.

The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures is traditionally the first high-profile group of the award season to anoint winners, and it has developed a standing as a predictor of statuettes to come.

Last year, it honored Forest Whitaker as best actor for "The Last King of Scotland," Helen Mirren as best actress for "The Queen," Jennifer Hudson as co-winner of the best breakthrough performance actress for "Dreamgirls," and Martin Scorsese as best director for "The Departed," and recognized "An Inconvenient Truth" as best documentary. All went on to win Oscars. Nonetheless, the National Board of Review is an award season oddity: Though other taste-making groups are made up of critics (the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.), journalists (the Golden Globes) or movie industry peers (the Academy of Mo

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