January 31, 2003
28 Zulkaedah 1423
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Oscar voters face crucial deadline for movie picks

Oscar voters face crucial deadline for movie picks

LOS ANGELES Jan 30 - Oscar voters on Wednesday faced a crucial deadline to finalize their choices of movies to be nominated for 2003 Academy Awards as Hollywood's frenzied awards race shifted into top gear.

Voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body that runs cinema's most prestigious awards, had until 5:00pm (0100 GMT) Wednesday to hand in their completed nominations ballots, officials said.

``All eligible Academy members may cast their votes for best picture nominees, while the other 22 categories are picked by 12 separate branches of members from the various fields of film-making,'' said spokeswoman Dawn Newell.

Nominations for the diamond anniversary awards will be announced in Beverly Hills on February 11, an event that signifies that the final stretch of Tinseltown's annual awards competition is underway.

Nomination ballots for the 75th Academy Awards were mailed to the Academy's 5,816 voting members on January 10 to allow them to select their favourite movie achievements of 2002.

The completed ballot papers must be received by the Academy's auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers ahead of the 5:00pm deadline or their picks of 2003 Oscar nominees will not be taken into account, officials warned.

The names of movies, their stars and their crews that are eligible to win a golden statuette this year will be unveiled at a dawn ceremony in less then two weeks time, severely narrowing the broad field of Oscar contenders.

Pundits faced with a dizzying number new movie releases and award hopefuls have had a tough time predicting which films released in 2002 were likely to make it through to the Oscars ceremony which will be held in March.

Only in recent days have a few front-runners in the competition emerged following the bestowing of the 60th annual Golden Globe awards on January 19 and the announcement of nominations for other key prizes.

The musical sensation ``Chicago,'' starring Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the wrenching drama portraying the dilemmas of three women linked by literature, ``The Hours,'' appear to be leading the pack.

``Chicago'' won the Globe for best musical picture while Gere and Zellweger took best actor statuettes, while ``The Hours,'' starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, took the awards for best drama and best dramatic actress for Kidman.

In addition, both films also featured large in recent nominations for awards given out by two influential industry trade unions, the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

Other films vying for Oscar nominations this year include ``About Schmidt,'' starring veteran Jack Nicholson as an ageing insurance agent reassessing his life and Martin Scorcese's historical epic ``Gangs of New York.''

Also tipped for some sort of industry recognition this year are Roman Polanski for his World War II story of a Jewish musician's battle to survive the holocaust, ``The Pianist,'' and Peter Jackson's second movie installment of JRR Tolkien's fantasy tales, ``The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.''

Other notables include ``Adaptation,'' the story of a neurotic Los Angeles screenwriter starring Nicolas Cage and Streep and ``Far from Heaven,'' starring Julianne Moore as a 1950s housewife married to a man harbouring a dark secret.

The Oscars will be bestowed in a glittering ceremony in their new home in Hollywood on March 23, providing the climax to months of tension and speculation in Tinseltown. - AFP


 

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