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Monday, 26 February, 2001, 15:05 GMT
Baftas fuel Oscars race
jamie Bell
Bafta's best actor Jamie Bell
Gladiator, Billy Elliot and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon triumphed at the Bafta Film Awards in February, but as far as the Oscars are concerned the outcome is not yet in the bag, as BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas reports.

The British movie industry considers the Baftas Europe's equivalent to the Oscars as it is the only other truly international annual film awards event.

Its move this year to precede the Academy Awards has added weight to its importance, although most industry insiders would agree trying to steal a march on the Oscars is a vain cause.

Gladiator
Gladiator: Likely to win best film Oscar

However, what the Baftas and other well-publicised anticipatory ceremonies - such as the Golden Globes - do is give a good indication of those films and stars most likely to triumph at the Oscars.

What they may also do is have a "drip, drip" effect on the opinion of the Academy members if they see the same films being praised again and again.

Roman glory

One such film is undoubtedly Gladiator, starring Antipodean heart-throb Russell Crowe and directed by Britain's Ridley Scott.

Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe: May not be good enough to win best actor
The Roman epic revival emerged as the Baftas' big winner, taking five awards including the most coveted trophy for best film.

It's a pattern that has been repeated in the last few months in the UK and the US since the annual awards season begun.

Most significantly, however, Gladiator won the best film category at the Golden Globes in January.

Elsewhere, the influencial New York Film Critics Circle voted Steven Soderbergh's war-on-drugs epic Traffic best film.

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks stands out for Cast Away
Their Los Angeles counterparts then picked Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as their best film.

But it is the Golden Globes ceremony which is regarded as one of the more significant Oscars predictors.

Statistically, the Globes' choice of best picture has coincided with the Oscar winner 41 times in the last 57 years.

Leading Hanks

As for the movie's star, Russell Crowe, and maker, Ridley Scott, victory as best actor and best director are far from sure.

For all his heroic posturing in Gladiator, Crowe did not earn the best actor title from Bafta, the Golden Globes or the New York or LA critics.

Coming attractions
10 March - Directors Guild of America Awards
11 March - Screen Actors Guild Awards
25 March - Academy Awards
Now his fiercest competitor looks increasingly likely to be Tom Hanks for his solo performance in Cast Away.

Already a double Oscar-winner, Hanks won the Golden Globe for best actor.

While Bafta may have honoured British star Jamie Bell with the best actor title for Billy Elliot, he has been left out of the Oscar nominations altogether.

Gladiator director Ridley Scott also looks unlikely to win the best director Oscar.

Tiger's chance

The fight scenes in Gladiator are magnificently choreographed but Ang Lee's in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are arguably more imaginative and skilled.

They won him the Bafta in the direction category for the Chinese-language martial arts movie. They also earned him this year's Golden Globe.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger: Most likely to win Ang Lee the best director Oscar

Generally, there has been all-round praise for the Taiwanese film-maker's ability to produce a foreign language film with global appeal.

Also in strong contention for this Oscar, and garnering a lot of lesser US awards including the New York Film Critics, is Steven Soderbergh.

He has been Oscar-nominated twice for both legal drama Erin Brockovich and drug war thriller Traffic - an achievement in itself.

Of the two films, Erin Brockovich has been praised for Soderbergh's ability to produce a powerful performance from Julia Roberts - an actress most associated with romantic comedies.

Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich
Julia Roberts winning all-round praise for Erin Brockovich

So much so, that Roberts - named best leading actress at the Globes and the Baftas - seems increasingly likely to win the Oscar too - beating Juliette Binoche for Chocolat and Ellen Burstyn for Requiem for a Dream.

When the Directors Guild in Los Angeles hands out its best director trophy on 10 March the recipient stands a high chance of winning the best director Oscar on 25 March.

All may not be over for young Jamie Bell this gong season - he still has his US Screen Actors Guild best actor nomination to hang his hopes on for 11 March.

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See also:

26 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Billy Elliot director 'delighted'
22 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Globes honour Gladiator
30 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Billy Elliot star up for Hollywood award
13 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Gladiator leads Oscar battle
13 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Oscar nominees in full
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