Space drama Gravity is expected to scoop multiple awards at Sunday’s ceremony in Los Angeles.
The 3D film is likely to dominate the technical categories, with Alfonso Cuaron tipped for best director.
However, Oscar watchers have predicted Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave to win best picture.
The 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, take place tonight at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
Outside the venue, a section of Hollywood Boulevard has been sealed off and the red carpet is covered over to protect it from an unusual spell of wet weather.
The final round of voting by the Academy’s 6,028 members ended on Tuesday.
Many of the nominees have been attending a flurry of pre-Oscar events and screenings in and around Los Angeles.
In what is considered to be the strongest field for many years there are nine contenders for best picture.
Gravity and David O. Russell’s crime caper American Hustle lead with 10 nominations each. 12 Years a Slave has nine.
According to Hollywood Reporter, while the preferential ballot system could boost the prospects of American Hustle and Gravity, 12 Years a Slave felt more “important” than 3D science-fiction.
12 Years a Slave‘s nine nominations include best director for Steve McQueen.
The historical drama, about a free black man in New York kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana, is in a strong position, having already won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.
Its stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o have been nominated in the best actor, supporting actor and supporting actress categories.
American Hustle has nods in all four acting categories for its stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
David O. Russell pulled off the same feat with Silver Linings Playbook last year. Jennifr Lawrence went on to win best actress.
British film Philomena, based on the true story of an Irish woman trying to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption, is up for four awards, including best picture and best actress for Judi Dench.
Captain Phillips, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and Her are also among the nine best picture nominees.
There are several clear favorites in the major acting categories.
Cate Blanchett, who plays a fallen New York socialite in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, has been the runaway favorite for best actress for months.
But she faces strong competition from Judi Dench, American Hustle‘s Amy Adams, Gravity‘s Sandra Bullock, and Meryl Streep – who has her 18th Oscar nomination – for August: Osage County.
Having both missed out on BAFTA nominations, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto – from AIDS drama Dallas Buyers Club – are favorites for best actor and supporting actor respectively.
The tightest race seems to be for best supporting actress, where 12 Years A Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o – making her movie debut – is up against Jennifer Lawrence who won a BAFTA for her American Hustle role.
Also in the running are Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County and June Squibb for Nebraska.
“Usually a couple of the big awards are quite close but this year, there is just the one with best supporting actress looking set to go down to the wire,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.
In the best director category, David O. Russell faces competition from Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuaron, Nebraska‘s Alexander Payne and Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street.
Amid all the speculation, the ceremony does promise some certainties.
On the musical front, all four contenders for best original song will perform. U2 will play Ordinary Love, which they wrote for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Pharrell Williams will sing Happy from Despicable Me 2, Idina Menzel will sing Let it Go from the animated film Frozen, and Karen O will perform The Moon Song, from the Spike Jonze film Her.
Pink and Bette Midler are also to perform.
This year’s ceremony will celebrate movie heroes and a special section will mark the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz.
Ellen DeGeneres is back for a second stint as host. She hosted the 79th Academy Awards in 2007, watched by a TV audience of 39.9 million.
Before the ceremony, Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: “I think we can all agree; if Meryl Streep doesn’t win this year, her career is in real trouble.”
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