The homage to imagination, childhood innocence and the long, lost land of make believe, starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, was named best film of 2004 by the National Board of Review in a set of results which offer a rich insight into potential Oscar winners next year.
Other awards given out by the panel of 150 US film professionals included a best actor gong for breakout star Jamie Foxx for his vivid portrayal of blind soul musician Ray Charles in the biopic Ray.
Annette Bening received the equivalent female accolade for her part in the 1930s-set love and revenge thriller, Being Julia, directed by Hungarian director Istvan Szabo.
The much-coveted best director award was given to Michael Mann for Collateral, as much for his innovative use of colours and camera as for having the nerve to cast Tom Cruise as an anti-hero.
Among the other awards given out were a career achievement award for Jeff Bridges and a special filmmaking achievement award for Clint Eastwood for his work on producing, directing, acting and composing the score for Million Dollar Baby.
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