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Producers Guild makes best picture nominations

The Howard Hughes biography The Aviator, the animated superhero tale The Incredibles and the road-trip romp Sideways were among Producers Guild of America nominees for best picture of 2004.

Also nominated were Finding Neverland, which examines the creative roots of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and the stark boxing drama Million Dollar Baby.

The 16th annual awards by the guild, which represents Hollywood producers, will be presented Jan. 22.

The honors are a solid predictor for the top Academy Awards winner. Past victors that went on to win the best picture Oscar include Chicago, Gladiator, American Beauty and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

The Aviator, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes, generally has been viewed as the early front-runner to win the best picture Oscar.

Sideways, starring Paul Giamatti as a loser who finds a fresh chance at love, has proven the year's critical darling, scoring well among critics groups and heading many reviewers' top-10 lists.

Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, starring Hilary Swank as a boxer whose life takes a tragic turn, and Finding Neverland, starring Johnny Depp as playwright Barrie, also were critical favorites.

The Incredibles, the latest cartoon adventure from Pixar Animation, faces an Oscar showdown with Shrek 2 for best animated picture.

Other nominations:

_ Long-form television: Angels in America, Horatio Hornblower, Ike, The Lion in Winter and Something the Lord Made.

_ Episodic TV drama: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Nip/Tuck, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and The West Wing.

_ Episodic TV comedy: Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Scrubs, Sex and the City and Will & Grace.

_ Non-Fiction TV: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Inside the Actors Studio, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

_ Variety TV: Chappelle's Show, Saturday Night Live, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Show With David Letterman, and The 76th Annual Academy Awards.

Honorary awards will be presented to DreamWorks studio co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, producers Laura Ziskin and John Wells, and former Warner Bros. studio boss Terry Semel, now chairman of Yahoo Inc.