Another day, another critics group picking a new contender as best picture of 2002. This time, it's ''The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.'' Perhaps not surprisingly, the first group to endorse this movie was the Web surfers who make up the Online Film Critics Society. They honored the Tolkien sequel with citations for best picture, best director (Peter Jackson), best ensemble cast, and three other awards.
The group, which consists of 132 Internet-based reviewers, gave an equal number of prizes to ''Far From Heaven,'' including best actress (Julianne Moore), supporting actor (Dennis Quaid), and original screenplay (Todd Haynes). Best actor was ''Gangs of New York'''s Daniel Day-Lewis, while best supporting actress was the previously unheralded Samantha Morton, who played Tom Cruise's psychic friend in ''Minority Report.'' ''Secretary'''s S&M-minded star Maggie Gyllenhaal won best breakthrough performance, while best breakthrough filmmaker went to ''One Hour Photo'' director Mark Romanek. Best adapted screenplay went, aptly, to ''Adaptation,'' credited to Charlie Kaufman and imaginary twin brother Donald Kaufman. Echoing earlier groups, the Online Critics voted ''Bowling for Columbine'' best documentary and ''Y Tu Mamá También'' best foreign film.
Shut out entirely were such late-opening pictures as ''The Hours,'' ''Chicago,'' ''Catch Me if You Can,'' ''About Schmidt,'' ''The Pianist,'' and ''Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,'' all cited by other groups for year-end awards. ''Chicago'' and ''The Hours'' lead the nominees for Golden Globes, the next major test of Oscar viability.