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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 15:14 GMT
Oscar critics go for Rings finale
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Jonathan Ross
Ross predicted that Mystic River would win best film
The Return of the King is the choice of some of the UK's leading film critics to sweep the Oscars on Sunday.

They have tipped the final part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy to win best film, and its director Peter Jackson to take the best director prize.

Most of those questioned in a BBC News Online survey chose Sean Penn as best actor for crime drama Mystic River.

The eight leading critics were unanimous in nominating Charlize Theron as best actress for biopic Monster.

Battle scene
Lord of the Rings includes some ferocious battle scenes

Theron stars in the true story of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute executed for killing seven men in Florida during the 1980s.

In Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, Penn is Jimmy Marcus, the anguished father of a girl found murdered in a gritty tale of three childhood friends.

Film experts, critics and journalists from some of the UK's leading movie media and industry publications were asked who they thought would win the main categories.

Taking part were: Jonathan Ross, of Film 2004; Mark Kermode, of BBC Radio Five Live; Philip French (The Observer); Steven Gaydos (Variety); Stuart Kemp (Hollywood Reporter); Matt Mueller (Total Film); Chris Hewitt (Empire); and Rob Mitchell (Screen International).

All with the exception of Ross chose The Return of the King as the film most likely to win the best picture award, with Ross opting for Mystic River.

Charlize Theron
Theron's performance in Monster unites the critics
Each of them went for New Zealander Jackson as best director, and Theron in the leading actress category.

When it came to best actor, the vote was split between Penn for Mystic River and Bill Murray for the comedy Lost in Translation. Five plumped for Penn - on his fourth Oscar nomination - and three for Murray.

Most critics were almost certain that Peter Jackson's fantasy epic - already victorious in the Baftas and Golden Globes - would clean up.

Steven Gaydos, executive editor of the industry magazine Variety, said: "I would say best film will be Return of the King, with one caveat: never in the history of the Oscars has a fantasy film won."

Matt Mueller, editor of Total Film magazine, said the best film and director categories were not as wide open as many observers might believe.

Sean Penn, Mystic River
Penn's role in Mystic River has been universally praised
"Mystic River could cause a possible upset, though I think it will be Return of the King," he said.

"Charlize Theron is the closest we have to a shoo-in this year. I think Penn will win best actor, but Murray is a close second."

Mark Kermode, resident film critic on Radio Five Live, said: "There's an outside chance of Lost In Translation and Sofia Coppola, but I think it will be Lord of the Rings and Jackson.

"I would like Bill Murray to win best actor but I think it will be Penn."

'Outstanding'

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The Observer's Philip French selected Theron as best actress, although he said he would rather see Diane Keaton win for comedy Something's Gotta Give.

"For direction I go for Peter Jackson, though I'd prefer Clint Eastwood or [Master and Commander director] Peter Weir."

Rob Mitchell, box office analyst at Screen International, said of Theron: "She is outstandingly good and overshadows the film and her fellow nominees."

He said Murray - never previously nominated - was "on the edge of being liked in Hollywood", while the rebellious Penn shunned awards shows and might be considered too political.

This year's Academy Awards will be shown live in the UK on BBC One, with coverage starting at 0050 GMT in the early hours of Monday.

The critics' tips:

  • Jonathan Ross, Film 2004: Film - Mystic River; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Sean Penn; actress - Charlize Theron.

  • Mark Kermode, BBC Radio Five Live: Film - The Return of the King; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Sean Penn; actress - Charlize Theron.

  • Philip French, The Observer: Film - The Return of the King; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Bill Murray; actress - Charlize Theron.

  • Steven Gaydos, Variety: Film - The Return of the King; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Sean Penn; actress - Charlize Theron.

  • Stuart Kemp, Hollywood Reporter: Film - The Return of the King; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Sean Penn; actress - Charlize Theron.

  • Matt Mueller, Total Film: Film - The Return of the King; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Sean Penn; actress - Charlize Theron.

  • Chris Hewitt, Empire: Film - Mystic River; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Bill Murray; actress - Charlize Theron.

  • Rob Mitchell, Screen International: Film - The Return of the King; director - Peter Jackson; actor - Bill Murray; actress - Charlize Theron.


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