Winner of top film prize is clear

Daily Variety usually refrains from the seasonal sport of Oscar handicapping, but this year, given the history of film awards, it’s clear which pic will win the top prize Sunday night.

With a pace-setting 13 nominations, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” is a shoo-in: In 18 of the last 19 years, the pic with the most noms won the top prize. Historical precedent: dark horse “Shakespeare in Love.”

“Moulin Rouge” is bound to win: The pic won the Producers Guild of America award, which has predicted Oscar in nine of the past 12 years. Historical precedent: visual feast “Gladiator.”

“A Beautiful Mind” is a sure bet: Ron Howard won the Directors Guild award, which has foreshadowed the Oscar helming win in 48 of 53 years, and Oscar statistically gives its helming and pic trophies to the same film. Historical precedent: uplifting drama “Rain Man.”

“In the Bedroom” will triumph. Little film, strong acting vehicle, but viewed (incorrectly) as a long shot because there’s no nomination for its director. Precedent: touching, small-budget “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“Gosford Park”: You can put money on it. While everyone is concentrating on the battle among the “front-runners,” the little British film sneaks in. Precedent: the meticulous, much-admired “Chariots of Fire.”

Cop-out? Kinda. But this year, don’t bet money on any one of the five, unless you’re prepared to lose the bet. It’s too wide open a year. Still, hidden among the above five paragraphs is the correct prediction of the winner. Remember, you heard it here first.

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