To date, the majority of critics' groups had named "Brokeback Mountain" as the top picture of 2005, but the western drama about two cowboys in love didn't place among the three main contenders for best film by the 57-member group during Saturday's vote. In fact, "Brokeback" was shut out by the National Society of Film Critics.
It took an unprecedented six ballots for "Capote" to be selected by the critics at their 40th annual meeting at Sardi's restaurant in New York. And "Capote" won by the slimmest of margins -- only one vote separated it from the runner-up for best picture, "A History of Violence."
Besides nabbing best film honors, "Capote" star Philip Seymour Hoffman was chosen as best actor. Hoffman is shaping up as the front-runner for the Academy Award, having been selected by several critics' groups, including Los Angeles, Boston and Toronto. He also was nominated for a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and an Independent Spirit award for his performance.
"History of Violence" also won two awards, for best director David Cronenberg and best supporting actor Ed Harris.
The critics named Reese Witherspoon as best actress for her role as country singer June Carter in the musical biopic, "Walk the Line." Last month, Witherspoon won best actress from the New York Film Critics' Circle; she's also a nominee for the Golden Globe and the SAG award.
Amy Adams was selected supporting actress for her turn as a young pregnant wife in "Junebug." Adams, who won a special grand jury prize at Sundance Film Festival for her work in "Junebug," was nominated for a SAG award.
Noah Baumbach received best screenplay honors for "The Squid and the Whale," his semi-autobiographical examination of two boys coping with their parents' divorce. Baumbach was nominated last week for a Writers Guild award.
Nonfiction film honors went to German director Werner Herzog for "Grizzly Man" and Christopher Doyle, Kwan Pun Leung and Lai Yiu Fai were named best cinematographers for "2046." Best foreign film went to Fatin Akin's "Head-On."
The National Society of Film Critics always has been eclectic in its choices, and is rarely in agreement with the Oscar nominations selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The National Society of Film Critics also handed out several special awards Saturday, including one to Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas, who retired recently after more than four decades of service.