Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Chinese-language audience and critics' favourite which has been wowing the festival circuit since an out of competition world premiere at Cannes this year has been named the official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award by Taiwan.

The nod from Taiwan gives Crouching Tiger a firm start on the road to Oscar glory and, like Life Is Beautiful in 1998, speculation is already being voiced that it could be nominated in both the Best Foreign Language Film category and the Best Picture category.

Obviously if it achieved that goal, it would be breaking new ground for Asian cinema which is enjoying a banner year in terms of US releases with other talked-up films including In The Mood For Love (USA Films) from Hong Kong, Yi-Yi (Winstar) from Taiwan, Chunhyang (Lot 47) from South Korea and Suzhou River (Strand) from China. In The Mood For Love and Chunhyang have also been submitted for the category.

Sony Pictures Classics is opening Crouching Tiger on Dec 8 in New York and widening to Los Angeles the following weekend. The company is planning a considerable awards campaign to support the film which could give director Ang Lee his first Best Director nomination. He was curiously omitted from the list in 1995 when Sense And Sensbibility won a Best Picture nomination and neither The Ice Storm or Ride With The Devil could correct that.

However Lee did win Best Foreign Language Film nominations in 1993 for The Wedding Banquet and 1994 for Eat Drink Man Woman, both representing Taiwan.