Variety has a mid-year Oscar column… you need a subscription to read it, but has the article on the front page in full. It includes this little tidbit:

“Most of these films are not finished, so at this point it’s really a guessing game. There is one film, however, that always figures in the guessing, even though no one’s seen it: New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

“It’s their year. It’s the film we’re all waiting to see,” said an awards strategist from a rival studio. Director Peter Jackson hit home runs with the first two “Rings” pics, and the third offers the most personal and emotional story. But, the Oscar campaigner noted with a word of warning, the film’s years-in-the-making momentum and Hollywood’s anticipation means “it’s also the one that everyone’s going to try to knock down.”