LOS ANGELES, March 4 (UPI) -- The producers and writers guilds have spoken, so all that's left is to hear from the actors and directors, and Oscar handicappers will have just about all the information they're going to get -- for use in the annual ritual of guessing in advance which picture will be the big winner at the Academy Awards.
In Los Angeles on Sunday, the Producers Guild of America presented its top film honor -- Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award -- to "Moulin Rouge." History teaches that the distinction gives director Baz Luhrmann's fanciful tale of dancehall Paris at the dawn of the 20th century a leg up in the race for Oscar gold.
In nine of the 12 previous years in which the PGA presented this award, the winner has gone on to take the Oscar for best picture.
"American Beauty" (1999), "Dances With Wolves" (1990), "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), "The English Patient" (1996), "Forrest Gump" (1994), "Gladiator" (2000), "Schindler's List" (1993), "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) and "Titanic" (1997) -- all have gone on to take the top Oscar to go with the PGA prize.
The exceptions occurred in 1998, when producers gave their top award to "Saving Private Ryan" while the Academy preferred "Shakespeare in Love"; 1995, when the producers honored "Apollo 13" while Academy voters went with "Braveheart"; and 1992, when producers honored "The Crying Game" but the Oscar went to "Unforgiven."
Note, however, that the anomalies occurred at three-year intervals -- 1992, 1995 and 1998. If that pattern holds, then it's time for the PGA and the Academy to reach different conclusions about the best picture of 2001.
Note too -- in case it means anything -- that Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" was one of the pictures involved in one of the exceptional years when the PGA and the Academy picked different best picture winners. Howard's "A Beautiful Mind" is up for best picture this year, along with "Gosford Park," "In the Bedroom," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and "Moulin Rouge."
When "A Beautiful Mind" and "Gosford Park" won top honors at the 54th Annual Writers Guild Awards, presented Saturday in dual ceremonies in Beverly Hills, Calif. and New York, one of them -- it's not possible to say which one -- became a front-runner for a screenwriting Oscar.
Although the WGA winner for original screenplay has gone to win the Oscar six times in the past 10 years, and the WGA winner for adapted screenplay has won the Oscar seven times over that span, the WGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have agreed on winners in both categories only three times in 10 years.
That makes it likely -- if history is a guide -- that one of the two WGA winners will come away from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on March 24 without a screenwriting Oscar.
By the way, screenplay Oscars do not seem to be predictive of the best picture award.
In just five of the past 10 years, the best picture winners -- "Gladiator" (2000), "Titanic" (1997) "The English Patient" (1996), "Braveheart" (1995) and "Unforgiven" (1992) -- did not win for either original or adapted screenplay.
Over the same span, three WGA winners for original screenplay -- "American Beauty" (1999), "Shakespeare in Love" (1998) and "Braveheart" -- have won best picture Oscars. Likewise, only three WGA winners for adapted screenplay -- "Forrest Gump," "Schindler's List" (1993) and "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) have won the top Oscar.
The Directors Guild of America will present its 54th annual awards on Saturday. The Screen Actors Guild will present its 8th Annual Actor Awards on Sunday.
The DGA nominated Ron Howard for "A Beautiful Mind", Peter Jackson for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring", Baz Luhrmann for "Moulin Rouge", Christopher Nolan for "Memento" and Ridley Scott for "Black Hawk Down."
Since the guild established the award in 1949, the directing Oscar has gone to the DGA winner in all but five years. One of those exceptions involved Howard.
In 1995, when Howard won the DGA award "Apollo 13," the Oscar went to Mel Gibson for "Braveheart."
The other 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" and the Academy went with Sydney Pollack for "Out of Africa"; and last year, when Ang Lee won the DGA award for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" while Steven Soderbergh won the Oscar for directing "Traffic."
Winners at next Sunday's 8th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will move into the lead in the Oscars sweepstakes.
Russell Crowe is up for an Actor -- that's what SAG calls its statuette -- for outstanding male actor in a leading role for his portrayal of the schizophrenic, Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind." Sissy Spacek is up for outstanding female actor in a leading role for her work as a woman struggling to cope with the tragic loss of a child in "In the Bedroom."
Both Crowe and Spacek won Golden Globe Awards for their performances. Both are previous Oscar winners -- Crowe last year for "Gladiator," Spacek in 1980 for "Coal Miner's Daughter."
The other nominees for male actor in a leading role are Kevin Kline ("Life as a House"), Sean Penn ("I Am Sam"), Denzel Washington ("Training Day") and Tom Wilkinson ("In the Bedroom"). All but Kline are also up for the best actor Oscar. Will Smith is the fifth Oscar nominee for "Ali."
The other nominees for female actor in a leading role are Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind"), Judi Dench ("Iris") and Renée Zellweger ("Bridget Jones's Diary"). All but Connelly are up for the best actress Oscar. The other nominee for the Oscar is Nicole Kidman for "Moulin Rouge."
Connelly is nominated for best supporting actress for her turn as the impossibly patient and loving wife of John Nash.
In five of the last seven years, the winner of SAG's female actor in a leading role statuette 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."
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."
By next Monday, all the major pre-Oscars awards will have been presented, odds makers will have most of the information they need to handicap the race, and the 2001 Oscars guessing game will enter the home stretch.