Movies: The Oscar Crunch

Panic at Morton's! Flop sweats at The Ivy! This Oscar season, squeezed at both ends, is making the movie biz nervous and may have changed the game forever

It's the movie industry's Super Bowl and America's favorite excuse for show-biz gambling. Oscar night, Feb. 29, is less than four weeks away, and inquiring sportsmen want to know:

A) Is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King a dead cert for Best Picture? Already the sixth all-time worldwide top-grossing film, the finale to Peter Jackson's hobbit-forming trilogy has also received plenty of critics' laurels. But to grab the big statuette, LOTR: ROTK will need to overturn a serious Academy prejudice: no flat-out fantasy film has ever nabbed the top Oscar.

B) Can Clint Eastwood outmuscle Jackson...

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