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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 08:49 GMT
Rings wins US film critics' prize
The Return of the King
The Return of the King opens worldwide this week
The final instalment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy has been named best picture of the year by the New York Film Critics Circle.

The Return of the King was described as "epic film-making" by the group's chairman, Andrew Johnston.

Bill Murray was named best actor for offbeat comedy Lost In Translation, while the film's director Sofia Coppola was awarded the best director prize.

The awards are seen as an early indicator of possible Oscar success.

They are voted by film critics for New York newspapers and magazines, who often vote for less populist films than the Oscar judges.

'Epic scope'

"It's just beautifully made, it's pure cinema, it does everything," said chairman Andrew Johnston, critic for Radar magazine.

"It's got amazing, epic scope to the drama, to the battle scenes, a lot of strong emotional stuff, really complex, well-rendered characters and effective comic relief where it needs it," he said.

Other films which competed for the top prize included Mystic River, American Splendor and Lost in Translation.

Author Tom O'Neil believed winning the prize had made The Return of the King a front-runner for Oscar success.

City of God
Brazil's City of God won best foreign film

"The critics usually go for little indie movies. When they go for the blockbusters - The Silence of the Lambs or Schindler's List - they usually go all the way," he said.

Mr Johnston said the Lord of the Rings trilogy had been "far better than anyone could have imagined" and that the finale was in keeping with previous winners chosen by the New York critics.

Hope Davis won best actress for her roles in American Splendor and The Secret Life of Dentists.

The Secret Life of Dentists also won best script, while best foreign film was won by the Brazilian crime drama City of God.

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