Hollywood Tension Mounts As Oscar Clock Ticks

Hollywood | Updated: Feb 26 2004, 05:30am hrs
Hollywood crossed its fingers as Oscar voters finalised their picks for cinemas top honours, with Lord Of The Rings looking set to reign over Sundays glittering ceremony.

The deadline for the more than 5,800 voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to hand in their ballot papers for the 76th annual Oscars expired at 5:00 PM (0630 IST), sealing the fate of this years 50 golden statuettes. This is it, said Academy communications director John Pavlik. If people havent got them in, they wont count now, he said as the outcome of the 2004 awards passed into the hands of two Pricewaterhouse Coopers auditors.

Tallying the precious ballots will begin today in a secret location where two specially-charged accountants will slip the names of the winners into the famous envelopes that will be opened at the Oscars ceremony.

But with five days still to go before the Oscars, pundits said the result in the awards top category appeared predestined, with one film poised to lord it over Hollywood - The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

The hobbits and the elves of The Lord Of The Rings have nothing to fear from any other films this year, Oscars expert and awards predictor Tom ONeil told AFP, adding that oscar voters were moving to honour the entire trilogy. Meanwhile, Oscar-nominee Naomi Watts, Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie and Pulp Fiction star Uma Thurman will join the star-studded cast of academy award presenters this weekend, organisers said.