December 12, 2005 05:00 PM

Brokeback Mountain, director Ang Lee’s sweeping yet intimate romantic tale of two cowboys – played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal – continued its award-winning roll on Monday when the New York Film Critics Circle named it best picture of the year, Lee director of the year and Ledger best actor.

The New York Circle, generally considered the most prestigious of the nation’s reviewing groups, also named Reese Witherspoon best actress for her role as June Carter Cash, the second wife of Johnny Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix), in Walk the Line.

In awarding Brokeback Mountain its highest honor, the New York Circle echoed the weekend decisions by Los Angeles and Boston critics’ groups in selecting the western as the year’s finest. In addition, the Critics Choice Awards nominated the film in eight categories, including best film and best actor Ledger.

Brokeback Mountain was also named one of AFI’s top 10 films of 2005, along with Syriana; Munich; Crash; Capote; Good Night, and Good Luck; King Kong; The 40-Year-Old Virgin and The Squid and the Whale.

The National Board of Review on Monday, however, named George Clooney’s documentary-like drama Good Night, and Good Luck, about CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow’s bringing down Sen. Joseph McCarthy, its best picture.

The board, organized in 1909 and the oldest film organization in the business, also named Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote its best actor, and Felicity Huffman as a preoperative transsexual in Transamerica its best actress. Supporting acting awards went to Gong Li for Memoirs of a Geisha and to Gyllenhaal for Brokeback Mountain.

Tuesday morning will bring the Golden Globe nominations.

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