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Just three days after the Golden Globes in Los Angeles, stars from this year’s hottest films got gussied up again for the National Board of Review awards dinner in New York, sponsored by Bulgari. But no one was complaining.

It’s just nice to be recognized for their work, the actors said. And they get to see so many of their idols. But “Doubt” star Amy Adams, by now considered a pro on the awards circuit, admitted that for her it’s all about “the ritual burrito at the end of the night.”

This story first appeared in the January 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

She had a long way to go on Wednesday as 20 trophys were handed out over three-plus hours at Cipriani 42nd Street. Meryl Streep kicked things off, presenting her “Doubt” costar Viola Davis with the Breakthrough Performance trophy and, what must be for an actor, the ultimate compliment. “[Her performance] annhilated me,” Streep said of her scene partner.

In the wings, Salma Hayek, who accepted Best Supporting Actress on behalf of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” star Penelopé Cruz, whispered incredulously, “I have to go up after Meryl Streep?” But Hayek held her own, ribbing her absent friend for not leaving her instructions on who she’d like to thank. “I would thank the caterers because the food in Spain is always fantastic, and the grips because they had to work after lunch, after wine…and Woody Allen. He is the one person I know who is almost as hypochondriac as Penelopé.”

Emcee Whoopi Goldberg then mispronounced Josh Brolin’s name which provoked the “Milk” actor to tell the crowd, “Bra-lin. That’s how f—ing famous I am.”

But there was no mistaking “Gran Torino” director and star Clint Eastwood who introduced Best Original Screenplay winner Nick Schenk (who wrote “Gran Torino”) by saying, “This is one of the scripts I changed the least in all of my history.” The craggy screen icon later won the Best Actor prize and said that he got into acting when a high school friend persuaded him to take drama class. “Everyone was playing chicken and walking around the room. But there were 30 great looking girls and five guys. I said, ‘You know, this class needs me.’”

The evening wore on, Anne Hathaway insisted that her award for Best Supporting Actress in “Rachel Getting Married” “must be a fluke” and everyone, it seemed, had something to say about sleeper hit “Slumdog Millionaire.”

In fact, Julian Schnabel had more to say about that film than he did Brolin’s performance in “Milk,” which he was supposed to be touting. “Thanks, Julian. I feel like I was in ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” Brolin said accepting Best Supporting Actor.

“It’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ fever everywhere I go,” said Alec Baldwin who presented Dev Patel with the Best Actor trophy. “I don’t think this kid knows what’s coming at him.”

“Slumdog” director Danny Boyle had expressed similar concerns earlier in the evening. “I thought that I’d have to do the big speech, you know, breathe but don’t inhale, what they say about L.A. But I didn’t.”

Indeed, it seems the poised and gracious Patel has his priorities straight. Accepting his trophy, he said, “I should be in school right now.”

2008 National Board of Review Awards
Breakthrough Performance: Viola Davis, Doubt; Dev Patel, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Foreign Language Film: “Mongol”
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Best Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Best Actor: Clint Eastwood, “Gran Torino”
Spotlight Award: Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”; Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Best Acting by an Ensemble: Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis; “Doubt”
William K. Everson Film History Award: Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris
Best Documentary: “Man on Wire”
Best Original Screenplay: Nick Schenk, “Gran Torino”
Bulgari Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: Trumbo
Best Directorial Debut: Courtney Hunt, “Frozen River”
Best Animated Feature: “Wall-E”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”; Eric Roth, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Best Director: David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Best Film: “Slumdog Millionaire”

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