Cruise, Crowe, 'Mystic' as Oscar Faves
So far, according to reports, Clint Eastwood's grim but riveting "Mystic River" -- starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon and Laura Linney as a modern-day Lady Macbeth -- appears to be in the lead.
Los Angeles Times film reporter Patrick Goldstein gives the thriller, which opened this year's New York Film Festival, odds of 6-1 to be named Best Picture. His second favorite, with odds of 8-1, is Peter Jackson's final film in the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King."
Emmanuel Levy, author of the book "Oscar Fever" and a film reporter for Variety, also picked "Mystic River," along with Peter Weir's "Master and Commander," starring Russell Crowe, for the crown.
In terms of Best Actor nominees, Levy predicts Crowe will be a shoo-in, along with Bill Murray for "Lost in Translation" and Tom Cruise for "The Last Samurai." His Best Actress picks are Naomi Watts for "21 Grams" and Gywneth Paltrow for "Sylvia," suggesting that, no matter who the other nominees are, the Oscar will go to one of those two.
Goldstein's third choice for Best Picture is director Anthony Minghella's still-to-be released "Cold Mountain," starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law.
His longshots are the animated "Finding Nemo," "The House of Sand and Fog" (with Ben Kingsley) and the Crowe and Cruise movies.
Both Goldstein and Levy predict this will be the year of the blockbuster, giving the advantage to "Master and Commander" and "The Last Samurai." (For all its critical praise, "Mystic River" is a quiet film.)
The 76th annual Academy Awards presentation will take place at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 29, 2004. Nominations are to be announced next Jan. 27.
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