LOS ANGELES, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- This year's Oscar race is shaping up, with the Producer's Guild of America naming its own top five picks for best picture.
The nominees are "A Beautiful Mind," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Moulin Rouge" and "Shrek."
In nine of the 12 years in which the group has presented its Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award, the winner has gone on to win the Academy Award for best picture.
More recent history suggests that the group's list of picks contains at least a few likely Oscar nominees. In each of the past three years, three of the five PGA nominees went on to receive a best picture nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
This year's nominees seem to reflect a preference for big studio, big-budget productions.
"A Beautiful Mind," starring Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe as the brilliant but schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, was directed by Ron Howard -- one of the most mainstream directors working in Hollywood over the past 15 years.
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," Warner Bros. film adaptation of the first J.K. Rowling novel about a young wizard's battle against evil, was the highest grossing movie of 2001 -- adding to Chris Columbus' status as one of the most commercially successful directors of all time.
"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," the first of a trilogy of screen adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic book series, has elevated director Peter Jackson to the top of his profession, and may stand a chance of outgrossing "Harry Potter."
"Moulin Rouge" is a musical starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in an MTV-style take on Paris at the dawn of the 20th century. Like Jackson with "Rings," director Baz Luhrmann has won a place on Hollywood's A-list with his work on "Moulin Rouge."
"Shrek," the computer-animated story of a gruff but lovable ogre, became DreamWorks' biggest box-office hit ever -- and is often mentioned as a possible nominee for the best picture Oscar. It's doubtless a heavy favorite for the first-ever Oscar for best animated feature.
The group's choices, as they tend to be, are considerably more mainstream than the choices made so far by critics groups for best picture honors, although "Moulin Rouge" was named best picture by another film group.
Critics have tended to go with out-of-the-way, independent productions such as "In the Bedroom," "Memento" and "Mulholland Drive." The producers' established preference for movies that are both commercially and artistically successful has usually resonated with Academy voters -- accounting for the nearly predictable Oscar success of the group's best picture winners.
Winners that went on to win the Oscar included "American Beauty"; "Dances With Wolves"; "Driving Miss Daisy"; "The English Patient"; "Forrest Gump"; "Gladiator"; "Schindler's List"; "The Silence of the Lambs"; and "Titanic".
Exceptions happened in 1992, when the group named "The Crying Game" best picture, but the Academy went with "Unforgiven". When it honored "Apollo 13", the Academy chose "Braveheart." In 1998, when the producers made "Saving Private Ryan" its best picture, the Academy gave the prize to "Shakespeare in Love."
If you're looking for omens, note that anomalies have happened at three-year intervals. If the pattern holds, it's time for the producer group and the Academy to reach different conclusions about the best picture of 2001.
Note too -- in case it means anything -- that Howard's "Apollo 13" was one of the pictures involved in one of the exceptional years when the two groups picked different best picture winners.
The group also announced nominees for outstanding television programming.
The nominees for the Norman Felton Award for best TV drama series are "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS), "Law & Order" (NBC), "Six Feet Under" (HBO), "The Sopranos" (HBO) and "The West Wing" (NBC).
The nominees for the Danny Thomas Award for outstanding TV comedy series are "Frasier" (NBC), "Friends" (NBC), "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox), "Sex and the City" (HBO) and "Will & Grace" (NBC).
The nominees for the David L. Wolper award for best movie, miniseries or other long-form TV are "61*" (HBO), "Anne Frank" (ABC), "Band of Brothers" (HBO), "Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows" (ABC) and "Wit" (HBO).
HBO led the competition with six of the 15 TV nominations. NBC had five.