Quills, wins season's first Film Awards.

  Quills, a drama built around the French writer the Marquis de Sade, was named best film of the year by the National Board of Review on Wednesday, kicking off the movie honors season that culminates with the Academy Awards. The main acting awards both honored portrayals of real people. Best actress went to Julia Roberts, Hollywood's biggest female star, for her performance as a real-life legal crusader in "Erin Brockovich," while Javier Bardem was named best actor for "Before Night Falls," based on the memoirs of Cuban novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas.
  The National Board of Review and other critics' associations' awards are seen as harbingers of Hollywood's Holy Grail -- the Oscars, which are handed out in March. "Quills," a fictional story about freedom of speech and expression with the notorious French writer the Marquis de Sade at its center, beat out nine other films that the board also cited for excellence in what many critics considered a weak year. "Quills" stars Geoffrey Rush, Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Winslet and Michael Caine and is directed by Philip Kaufman.
  "Traffic," "Croupier," "You Can Count on Me," "Billy Elliot," "Before Night Falls," "Gladiator," "Wonder Boys," "Sunshine" and "Dancer in the Dark" were the rest of the board's "10 best films of 2000."

  Best supporting actor went to Phoenix for his performances in three films, "Gladiator," "Quills" and "The Yards," while best supporting actress went to Lupe Ontiveros for the offbeat film "Chuck and Buck." Steven Soderbergh was named best director for "Erin Brockovich" and "Traffic," while Ted Tally won best screenplay for "All the Pretty Horses."
  The National Board of Review also honored "State and Main" for best ensemble, and "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" as best documentary. "Chicken Run" won best animated feature. Best foreign film was Ang Lee's martial arts-inspired "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Decalogue" series was honored for outstanding achievement in foreign film. Michelle Rodriguez was cited for a breakthrough performance for "Girlfight," about female boxers, while Jamie Bell was named outstanding young actor as the aspiring ballet dancer in the British hit "Billy Elliot." "Gladiator," director Ridley Scott's hit starring Russell Crowe set in ancient Rome, won for production design/art direction, while Sweden's Bjork received a nod for outstanding dramatic musical performance by an actress for "Dancer in the Dark."
  The board will present actress Ellen Burstyn, seen on screens this year in a reissue of "The Exorcist" and several other films, a career achievement award when it hands out its honors on Jan. 16 at Manhattan's Tavern on the Green restaurant. Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote and directed the critical hit "You Can Count on Me," also will be honored for special filmmaking achievement. The New York Film Critics Circle, considered among the most prestigious film awards, announces its winners on Dec. 13th.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Press Release

Fox Searchlight's 'Quills' Awarded Best Film of the Year By National Board of Review
Joaquin Phoenix Wins Best Supporting Actor Award

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 6 -- Fox Searchlight's high profile Marquis de Sade drama ''Quills'' has been named Best Film of the Year by the National Board of Review. Joaquin Phoenix also won Best Supporting Actor for his critically-acclaimed performance as the Abbe de Coulmier in ''Quills,'' as well as for his roles in ''Gladiator'' and ''The Yards.''
''Quills'' was also one of the films singled out for inclusion in the Special Recognition of Films category that celebrates the Freedom of Expression. The film employs the Marquis de Sade, an infamous French writer, who was both persecuted and celebrated for his scandalous writing, to illustrate a complex debate about censorship and the potential corruptive power of art.
''We are honored that 'Quills' has won such a prestigious award,'' said Searchlight President Peter Rice. ''Ecstatic reviews, sell out crowds and winning the first best picture award of the season is the perfect triumvirate.'' Rice adds, ''Joaquin Phoenix is an extraordinarily gifted actor and his win is also well deserved. Phil Kaufman has made a remarkably brave and provocative film, and we are proud the National Board of Review and audiences agree.''
Since opening on November 22, ''Quills'' has become an unequivocal arthouse hit and is set to expand outside the traditional niche market. It is currently in five cities on nine screens, averaging $75,000 per screen. To date it has cumed an impressive $685,432.
On December 15 it will widen out to additional markets and will open nationally on December 25. ''Quills'' is directed by Philip Kaufman and was written by Doug Wright from his Obie Award-winning play. The film stars Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine. It was produced by Julia Chasman, Nick Wechsler and Peter Kaufman.