NEW YORK (Reuters) - "There Will Be Blood" took top honors from the National Society of Film Critics on Saturday, scoring wins for best picture, best actor for Daniel Day-Lewis and best director for Paul Thomas Anderson.
The strong showing by "There Will be Blood," a grim tale of power, corruption and greed surrounding an early 20th-century oil prospector (Day-Lewis), put the epic drama in solid contention for next month's Oscars.
The movie by Anderson, renowned for such offbeat fare as "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia," was his loose adaptation of a 1927 Upton Sinclair novel, "Oil!"
Julie Christie was named best actress by the critics' association for her role as a woman struggling with Alzheimer's disease in "Away From Her."
With the win, Christie added to a list of prizes that position her as a front-runner for the best-actress Oscar. She already has been cited by several well-known groups, including the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, and nominated for best actress by the Screen Actors Guild among others.
The National Society of Film Critics includes 61 members from major newspapers in Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Chicago as well as from Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker and Salon.com.
Critics' awards are important in helping build momentum heading toward the Academy Awards, or Oscars, which are the world's top film awards given out on the final Sunday in February by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Honors for best supporting performances went to Casey Affleck for the biopic "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," and Cate Blanchett in a gender-bending performance as one of six characters embodying an aspect of musician Bob Dylan's life and work in "I'm Not There."
The award for best foreign language film was won by Romania's "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days," about a woman's attempts to secure an illegal abortion. The film also won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
The film critics, in their 42nd annual awards, named "No End in Sight," the documentary about the Bush administration's policies in Iraq and the war there, as the year's best nonfiction film.
Shut out of the awards were highly touted films including "Sweeney Todd" and the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men" that won several prizes in the award season's early weeks.
Tamara Jenkins won best screenplay for "The Savages," a comic drama she also directed, starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as siblings coping with their ailing father.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Peter Cooney