WITH THE race for the Oscars closer and more unpredictable than it has been in years, tomorrow night's awards ceremony is threatening to turn into a battlefield.

Terrence Malick, the writer-director of one of the five Best Picture nominees, The Thin Red Line, has launched a mini-war of his own against the film's producers, Robert Geisler and John Roberdeau, after they wrote in Vanity Fair magazine that they went broke trying to indulge Malick's whims.

Meanwhile, several writers and directors blacklisted during the McCarthy era intend to demonstrate outside the ceremony against the Lifetime Achievement Award being presented to Elia Kazan, 89, the director of On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, who betrayed eight of his friends to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. They have called on guests to sit on their hands rather than applaud as the award is presented.

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And the winner will be ... ,

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