LOS ANGELES, March 7 (UPI) -- Oscar-watchers will be paying close attention this weekend, looking for clues to the Academy Award outcomes, as the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America hand out their annual awards.
SAG and DGA awards have tended to be fairly reliable predictors of Oscar success.
Russell Crowe and Sissy Spacek are widely regarded as front-runners for SAG's top movie honors, although Spacek shapes up as the stronger favorite for her performance as a mother coping with the tragic death of her son in "In the Bedroom."
Spacek -- who won the Oscar in 1980 for her performance as country singer Loretta Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter" -- has virtually run the table during the current award season, capturing most lead actress honors, including the Golden Globe.
The other SAG nominees for female actor in a lead role are Halle Berry for "Monster's Ball," Jennifer Connelly for "A Beautiful Mind," Judi Dench for "Iris" and Renée Zellweger for "Bridget Jones's Diary."
Berry was named best actress by the National Board of Review. All but Connelly are up for the best actress Oscar.
Connelly was nominated for the supporting actress Oscar for her turn as the impossibly patient and loving wife of John Nash, one of the most highly decorated performances of the awards season so far. She won the AFI award for featured actress and the Golden Globe for supporting actress.
Crowe won a Golden Globe and could land his first Actor Award for his performance as the schizophrenic Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. in "A Beautiful Mind." However, he has not dominated the award season the way Spacek has and has shared the top acting prizes with Denzel Washington and Billy Bob Thornton.
Washington, who was named best actor at the first-ever American Film Institute Awards, is up for an Actor and an Oscar for his turn as a rogue cop in "Training Day." Thornton -- who won best actor honors from the National Board of Review for "Bandits," "Monster's Ball" and "The Man Who Wasn't There" -- was overlooked by both SAG and the Academy.
Notably absent from the list of SAG nominees is Nicole Kidman, who won a Golden Globe for actress in a musical or comedy movie for her performance as the tragic courtesan Satine in "Moulin Rouge." Kidman was nominated for a best actress Oscar, but she will need to buck the trend of history to take home an Academy Award.
In five of the last seven years, the winner of SAG's trophy for female actor in a leading role went on to win the best actress Oscar. Jodie Foster won the SAG award for "Nell" in 1994, when Jessica Lange won the Oscar for "Blue Sky," and Annette Bening won the SAG award in 1999 for "American Beauty," while Hilary Swank took the Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry."
The trend is even stronger among male actors. In six of the last seven years, the winner of the SAG award for male actor in a leading role has gone on to win the best actor Oscar. The exception came last year, when SAG named Benicio del Toro best actor for "Traffic." Del Toro went on to win the supporting actor Oscar, as Crowe won best actor for "Gladiator."
The nominees for male actor in a supporting role are Jim Broadbent ("Iris"), Hayden Christensen ("Life as a House"), Ethan Hawke ("Training Day"), Ben Kingsley ("Sexy Beast") and Ian McKellen ("The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring").
The nominees for female actor in a supporting role are Cate Blanchett ("Bandits"), Judi Dench ("The Shipping News"), Cameron Diaz ("Vanilla Sky"), Dakota Fanning ("I Am Sam") and Helen Mirren ("Gosford Park").
SAG also presents an ensemble award to the outstanding cast of a theatrical motion picture. The nominated casts are from "A Beautiful Mind," "Gosford Park," "In the Bedroom," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and "Moulin Rouge."
The SAG Awards will be handed out Sunday in Los Angeles in ceremonies to be televised live by TNT.
The nominees for the Directors Guild of America's feature film directing award -- to be handed out Saturday in Los Angeles -- are Ron Howard ("A Beautiful Mind"), Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"), Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge"), Christopher Nolan ("Memento") and Ridley Scott ("Black Hawk Down") for its feature film directing award -- installing them as frontrunners for the directing Oscar.
Since the guild established the award in 1949, the directing Oscar has gone to the DGA winner every year but five.
The exceptions were 1968, when Anthony Harvey won the DGA award for "The Lion in Winter" while Carol Reed took the Oscar for "Oliver!"; 1972, when Francis Ford Coppola won the DGA award for "The Godfather" while the Oscar went to Bob Fosse for "Cabaret"; 1985, when the DGA honored Steven Spielberg for "The Color Purple" while the Academy went with Sydney Pollack for "Out of Africa"; 1995, when the guild award went to Howard for "Apollo 13" while the Oscar went to Mel Gibson for "Braveheart"; and last year, when Ang Lee won the DGA award for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" while Steven Soderbergh won the Oscar for directing "Traffic."
The DGA Awards will be handed out Saturday in Los Angeles, in ceremonies to be hosted by Carl Reiner.
The 74th Academy Awards will be presented March 24 at the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, in ceremonies to be televised live by ABC.