'Capote's' comeback

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"Capote," the screen biography of writer Truman Capote, was named 2005's best film Saturday by the National Society of Film Critics, and Philip Seymour Hoffman won best actor in the film's title role.

Best actress went to Reese Witherspoon in another real-life role as June Carter Cash, the wife of country singer Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line," while Canadian David Cronenberg was named best director for the drama "A History of Violence," the society said in a statement.

In one of a series of early film awards in the run-up to the all-important Oscars, the association of prominent film critics notably snubbed "Brokeback Mountain," the story of a conflicted love affair between two cowboys, which had dominated the awards season thus far.

In protracted balloting and an unusually close vote, the critics chose "A History of Violence" as runner-up for the year's best film, and also honored Ed Harris as best supporting actor for his role as an organized crime thug in that film.

Best supporting actress went to Amy Adams for "Junebug," while "The Squid and the Whale" writer and director Noah Baumbach won best screenplay for the domestic divorce drama.

Runners-up for the top acting awards went to Jeff Daniels for "The Squid and the Whale" and Keira Knightley for "Pride and Prejudice." Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man" was named the year's best documentary, or non-fiction film, while best foreign language film honors went to "Head-On."

The 57 members of the National Society of Film Critics gather annually at Sardi's Restaurant in Manhattan's theater district to debate the merits of the year's top films and performances before voting. The critics work for major newspapers and magazines across the United States.

Early critical picks and other awards can focus attention for the list of potential nominees for Oscars, the U.S. film industry's top awards given out this year on March 5 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

So far this year "Brokeback Mountain" has dominated the early awards to an extent unseen for many years, being named best film by the New York Film Critics Circle and several other critics' groups and dominating the nominations for other awards including the Screen Actors Guild awards and Golden Globes.

But the best the Ang Lee directed film could manage was Health Ledger's third-place finish for best actor.

The film critics' other top picks included "2046" for best cinematography, with the film runner-up as best foreign language film and Wong Kar-wai runner-up for best director.

Veteran Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas was also given a special citation from the group.

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