NEW YORK (AP) — With a decidedly quirky batch of selections, the National Board of Review thrust its support squarely behind the New York drama "A Most Violent Year," naming it best film and awarding its stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.
Announcing its annual awards Tuesday, the National Board of Review went for several unexpected choices. J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year," in which Isaac plays a family man struggling amid the urban crime of 1981 New York, hasn't been a favorite in the awards mix early in the season. It opens in late December.
The group also handed best director to Clint Eastwood for his upcoming Navy SEAL drama "American Sniper," also a late year release.
Isaac shares the best actor award with Michael Keaton for the showbiz satire "Birdman." Keaton's co-star, Edward Norton, was also given best supporting male actor.
Julianne Moore took best actress for "Still Alice," in which she plays a woman with early onset Alzheimer's.
The wins were the second in two days for Moore and Keaton, both honored Monday by the Gotham Independent Awards. Hollywood's lengthy awards season kicked off Monday with the New York Film Critics Circle naming Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" best film of the year, and the Gothams opting for "Birdman."
In perhaps the National Board of Review's most eccentric choice, best screenplay went to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller for their self-referential animated toy film "The Lego Movie." Yet the National Board of Review — which likes to spread its awards around to attract the most stars to its Manhattan gala — still opted to award best animated feature to the DreamWorks sequel "How to Train Your Dragon 2."
Chris Rock will receive the group's "spotlight" award for writing, directing and starring in his comedy "Top Five." The group's "freedom of expression" award will go to both Jon Stewart's "Rosewater," about a journalist unjustly imprisoned in Iran, and the Martin Luther King Jr. tale "Selma."
For his transfer of Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice," Paul Thomas Anderson was awarded best adapted screenplay. Upcoming British star Jack O'Connell was named breakthrough performance for his lead turns in both Angelina Jolie's upcoming World War II epic "Unbroken" and the British prison drama "Starred Up."
Best ensemble went to the Brad Pitt-led cast of the World War II tank thriller "Fury." The Roger Ebert doc "Life Itself" was tipped as best documentary. And the Argentine black comedy "Wild Tales" took best foreign film.
The group also named its top 10 films of the year: "American Sniper," ''Birdman," ''Boyhood," ''Fury," ''Gone Girl," ''The Imitation Game," ''Inherent Vice," ''The Lego Movie," ''Nightcrawler" and "Unbroken."
The National Board of Review, a group of film academics, students and professionals founded in 1909, will present their awards Jan. 6 in an event hosted by ABC's Lara Spencer.
Last year, the National Board of Review named Spike Jonze's futuristic romance "Her" best film.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP