'Slumdog' is NBR's best film of year

Clint Eastwood best actor for 'Gran Torino'

Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire," Danny Boyle's tale of a Mumbai orphan who beats the odds, was named best film of the year by the National Board of Review.

The New York-based organization, which is always one of the first out of the gate with year-end film kudos, bestowed its best actor honors on Clint Eastwood, who plays an ex-Marine at war with a changing world in "Gran Torino," and its best actress honors on Anne Hathaway, who appears as a disruptive, recovering addict in "Rachel Getting Married."

"Slumdog's" Dev Patel also was recognized for breakthrough performance by an actor. The film's screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, was cited for best adapted screenplay, sharing that award with Eric Roth, who penned "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

The best original screenplay prize went to Nick Schenk for "Gran Torino."

"Button," the epic love story about a man whose life runs backwards, earned David Fincher the best director prize.

Supporting actor honors went to Josh Brolin, who plays the assassin Dan White in "Milk," and Penelope Cruz, who appears as a tempetuous divorcee in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Sergei Bodrov's "Mongol" was named best foreign-language film, while James Marsh's "Man on Wire" was singled out as best documentary.

Pixar/Disney's "WALL-E" walked off with the prize for best animated feature.

Miramax's "Doubt" earned the prize for best supporting cast, with its Viola Davis cited for breakthrough performance by an actress.

"Frozen River's" Melissa Leo, who just took top acting honors at the Gotham Awards, shared the Spotlight Award with "The Visitor's" Richard Jenkins.

The Bvlgaricq Award for NBR Freedom of Expression went to Peter Askin's documentary "Trumbo."

The NBR, which is comprised of 122 film buffs, academics, professionals and historians, also cited its top ten films of the year. In alphabetical order, they are "Burn After Reading," "Changeling," "Button," "The Dark Knight," "Defiance," "Frost/Nixon," "Torino," "Milk," "WALL-E" and "The Wrestler."

Its five top foreign-language films are "Edge of Heaven," Let the Right One In," Roman de Gare," "A Secret" and "Waltz with Bashir."

Its top five docs are "American Teen," "The Betrayal" (Nerakhoon), "Dear Zachary," "Encounters at the End of the World" and "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired."

The group also gave its William K. Everson Film History Award to married film critics Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris.

The awards will be presented at the NBR's annual gala on Jan. 14 at Cipriani's 42nd St. in New York.