The Lord Of The Rings: THE RETURN OF THE KING has been voted the best film of 2003 by the influential NEW YORK FILM CRITICS' CIRCLE.

The selection has surprised many, as the critical group - made up by writers from New York's major newspapers and magazines - usually votes for independent, art-house films.

And now movie insiders are saying The Return Of The King will clean up at The Oscars in February (04).

Chairman ANDREW JOHNSTONE says, "It's just beautifully made, it's pure cinema, it does everything.

"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."

MOVIE AWARDS author TOM O'NEILL says, "This pushes Lord of the Rings to the Oscar forefront.

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

Elsewhere, Lost In Translation picked up the best director award for SOFIA COPPOLA and best actor recognition for Bill Murray.

16/12/2003 21:07