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Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 11:46 GMT
Long shots hope for Oscar glory
Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey won an Oscar in 2000 for American Beauty
US film critics are worried that there appears to be no clear frontrunners for next year's Academy Awards, leaving the field wide open for long shots.

The 31 December deadline for nominations is looming and best picture hopefuls seem to be early-year releases, such as Gladiator and Erin Brockovich.

Russell Crowe in Gladiator
Gladiator could win Oscar success

"In past years, you had an idea about what was coming out. But this seems to be a year where there's nothing to grab hold of," said a veteran marketing executive.

The British movie Billy Elliot is also being spoken of as an Oscar hopeful.

Studios and producers have to put forward their films before a film can be considered for an Oscar nomination.

It is not unknown for a strong favourite to emerge in December, with the ceremony itself just three months away.

The best picture winner this year, American Beauty, was being "talked up", along with The Cider House Rules, from an early stage.

Some critics are blaming the situation on a bad year at the US box office - takings are down 15% on 1999.

Roberto Benigni
Roberto Benigni treads new ground at the Oscars
There is even talk of a foreign language film walking off with the most prestigious award, which has never happened in the 73-year history of the Academy Awards.

Ang Lee's film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an early favourite for best foreign language film but is also being spoken of as a potential best picture winner.

In 1999 Roberto Benigni broke new ground when he became the first actor to win the award for best actor in a leading role for a performance in a foreign language film.

Many film studios are now hoping that film releases in the next few weeks could emerge as Oscar potentials.

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See also:

21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Crouching Tiger leads Oscars assault
25 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Honours fall at Billy's feet
17 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Missing Oscars' new plot twist
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