By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Board of Review on Tuesday awarded "A Most Violent Year," a drama about a man fighting to protect his business in early 1980s New York City, prizes for best film, actor and supporting actress in the second major film awards in the run-up to the Oscars.
The star of the film, Oscar Isaac, shared the best acting prize with Michael Keaton, who portrayed a has-been actor in "Birdman." Jessica Chastain nabbed the supporting actress prize for playing Isaac's wife.
"The film is an exhilarating crime drama," Annie Schulhof, the president of the NBR, said about "A Most Violent Year."
"It is a compelling story that has outstanding performances and it is visually stunning," she added.
Clint Eastwood was named best director for "American Sniper," about a Navy SEAL played by Bradley Cooper. Edward Norton picked up the best supporting actor prize for his role in "Birdman," and Julianne Moore won the top actress award for her portrayal of a 50-year-old woman with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in "Still Alice."
"Her performance is breathtaking and so nuanced and heartbreaking. She is one of our most consummate actresses," Schulhof said of Moore.
The NBR, a U.S.-based group of movie industry watchers and film professionals, will present the awards in New York on Jan. 6.
The prizes pit "A Most Violent Year" against the coming-of-age film "Boyhood," which won three New York Film Critics Circle prizes - best film, director and supporting actress - on Monday as leading contenders ahead of the Academy Awards on Feb. 22.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller received the best original screenplay award from the NBR for their film "The Lego Movie, and Paul Thomas Anderson earned the best adapted screenplay for "Inherent Vice."
"How to Train Your Dragon 2, was named best animated feature, while "Wild Tales," directed by Argentine Damian Szifron, won the top foreign language film prize.
The NBR awarded the best documentary to "Life Itself," about the film critic Roger Ebert, and gave Jack O'Connell, who appeared in "Starred Up" and "Unbroken," its breakthrough performance award.
Gillian Robespierre won the best directorial debut prize for the romantic comedy "Obvious Child" and the World War Two film "Fury," starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, picked up the best ensemble award.
Comedian Chris Rock, who wrote, directed and stars in the film "Top Five," won the NBR's spotlight award.
(Editing by Eric Kelsey and G Crosse)