The Broadcast Film Critics Association apparently has a soft spot for Russell Crowe.

After winning two straight Best Actor trophies for The Insider and Gladiator, the country's largest critics group once again saw fit to honor the Aussie A-lister Tuesday, handing a field-best five nominations (including Best Actor, natch) to Crowe's newest film, A Beautiful Mind.

The forthcoming biopic, starring Crowe as troubled brainiac mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., also earned nominations for Ron Howard for Best Director, Jennifer Connelly for Best Actress (in her role as Nash's put-upon wife) and Akiva Goldsman for Best Screenplay.

In keeping with tradition, the Broadcast Critics picked nine other finalists for its Best Picture prize, including a handful of films that are looking increasingly familiar on critics' best-of lists: In the Bedroom, The Man Who Wasn't There, Memento, Moulin Rouge, Mulholland Drive, Ali, The Shipping News, Shrek and The Lord of the Rings.

The J.R.R. Tolkien tale followed A Beautiful Mind by scoring four nominations Tuesday, with nods for director Peter Jackson, composer Howard Shore and Enya for Best Song.

Unlike past Critics' Choice Awards, the group on Tuesday announced only nominees for each category. The winners will be announced January 11 at the Critics' Choice Awards, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The ceremony will taped for broadcast January 14 on E!.

The new format, however, means the Broadcast Critics aren't much more help when it comes to pre-Oscar oddsmaking. The group's top 10 list is packed with early favorites like Mulholland Drive, In the Bedroom and The Lord of the Rings, but it does contain a few small surprises--most notably Ali and The Shipping News, two major studio flicks that until this point had been virtually ignored by critics' best-of lists.

In the Best Actor category, Ali star Will Smith is nominated alongside Crowe and Sean Penn for his role as a mentally disabled father in I Am Sam. (Dakota Fanning, Penn's daughter in the film, also picked up a nod for Best Young Actor/Actress.)

Early Oscar darling Sissy Spacek snagged yet another Best Actress nomination for In the Bedroom, joining Renée Zellweger for Bridget Jones's Diary and Nicole Kidman for Moulin Rouge. The dizzying 19th Century Parisian musical also earned Baz Luhrmann a nomination for Best Director.

The Supporting Actor category has Ali's Jon Voight nominated with Jim Broadbent for Iris and Ben Kingsley for Sexy Beast. And for Supporting Actress, it's Connelly, Cameron Diaz for Vanilla Sky and Marisa Tomei for In the Bedroom.

The populist Broadcast Critics group--made up of some 160 TV, radio and online film followers--is a mere infant by critics' standards, having handed out kudos since only 1995. But like many early picks, they can still help shake out the upcoming Oscar race. The next year-end biggie, the Golden Globe nominations, will be announced Thursday, and it's still anybody's game. Stay tuned.

Here's a complete rundown of nominees for the Critics' Choice Awards:

Best Picture:
A Beautiful Mind
In the Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings
The Man Who Wasn't There
Moulin Rouge
Mulholland Drive
The Shipping News
Best Actor: Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind; Sean Penn, I Am Sam; Will Smith, Ali
Best Actress: Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge; Sissy Spacek, In the Bedroom; Renée Zellweger, Bridget Jones's Diary
Best Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent, Iris, Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast, Jon Voight, Ali
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind; Cameron Diaz, Vanilla Sky; Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom
Best Acting Ensemble: Gosford Park, Ocean's Eleven, The Royal Tenenbaums
Best Director: Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind; Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings; Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge
Best Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, The Man Who Wasn't There, Akiva Goldsmith, A Beautiful Mind; Christopher Nolan, Memento
Best Family Film: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Princess Diaries, Spy Kids
Best Young Actor/Actress: Dakota Fanning, I Am Sam; Haley Joel Osment, A.I. Artificial Intelligence; Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Best Animated Feature: Monsters, Inc., Shrek, Waking Life
Best Picture Made for Television: Band of Brothers, Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, The Mists of Avalon
Best Actor in a Picture Made for Television: Hank Azaria, Uprising; James Franco, James Dean; Barry Pepper, 61*
Best Actress in a Picture Made for Television: Judy Davis, Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows; Salma Hayek, In the Time of Butterflies; Emma Thompson, Wit
Best Foreign Language Film: Amélie, In the Mood for Love, No Man's Land
Best Song: Enya, "May It Be" (The Lord of the Rings); Faith Hill, "There You'll Stay" (Pearl Harbor); Sting, "Until" (Kate & Leopold); Paul McCartney, "Vanilla Sky" (Vanilla Sky)
Best Composer: Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings; John Williams, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Christopher Young, The Shipping News

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