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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.

Gravity eyes prizes as Oscars countdown begins

Gravity eyes prizes as Oscars countdown begins

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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London Critics’ Circle Film Awards 2014 winners in full:

Film of the Year

12 Years a Slave

Foreign-language Film of the Year

Blue Is the Warmest Color

Documentary of the Year

The Act of Killing

British Film of the Year

The Selfish Giant

Director of the Year

Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Screenwriter of the Year

Gary Oldman was presented with the Dilys Powell award for excellence in film

Gary Oldman was presented with the Dilys Powell award for excellence in film

Ethan Coen & Joel Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis

Actor of the Year

Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Actress of the Year

Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor of the Year

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Supporting Actress of the Year

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

British Actor of the Year

James McAvoy – Filth / Trance / Welcome to the Punch

British Actress of the Year

Judi Dench – Philomena

Young British Performer of the Year

Conner Chapman – The Selfish Giant

Breakthrough British Filmmaker

Jon S. Baird – Filth

Technical Achievement Award

Gravity – Tim Webber, special effects

Dilys Powell Award for Excellence in Film

Gary Oldman

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Alfonso Cuaron has picked up the top film honor from the Directors Guild of America (DGA) for space drama Gravity.

The prestigious win for Gravity could give Alfonso Cuaron the edge at March’s Academy Awards.

In the DGA’s 65-year history, the winner has only failed to also pick up the best director Oscar seven times.

Accepting the award, Alfonso Cuaron said: “What you cannot see from up there [in space] is this bizarre experiment of nature that is the human experience.

“That experiment is what directors try to sort out with our films. Thankfully, that experience is as diverse as the films as these film-makers make.”

The film-maker also thanked his son and Gravity co-writer Jonas Cuaron.

Alfonso Cuaron has picked up the top film honor from the Directors Guild of America for space drama Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron has picked up the top film honor from the Directors Guild of America for space drama Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron’s film saw off competition from Paul Greengrass’s piracy film Captain Phillips, Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave, David O. Russell’s 1970s crime caper American Hustle and Martin Scorsese’s black comedy The Wolf of Wall Street.

Other than the Writers’ Guild Awards on February 1st, there are no more major US awards before the Oscars, which take place on March 2nd. The UK’s BAFTA awards take place in London on February 16.

Recent awards, including the Golden Globes and the Producers’ Guild Awards, have seen a split in honors between Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle.

Gravity and American Hustle lead the Oscar nominations with 10 nods apiece. 12 Years A Slave has nine nominations.

Other DGA winners included Jehane Noujaim, who won the documentary prize for The Square, about the Egyptian uprising that began in 2011. The film was acquired by subscription service Netflix last year.

Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra mirrored its Golden Globes success by winning the best TV movie or mini-series. The film stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as flamboyant pianist Liberace and his partner Scott Thorson respectively.

Steven Soderbergh, who was once a first vice-president of the Directors’ Guild, was also honoured with the Robert B. Aldrich Award for his services to the organization.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan won his first DGA award for the series finale of the hit drama.

Other winners included Beth McCarthy-Miller for 30 Rock (best comedy series) and Don Roy King for Saturday Night Live (best variety series).

The awards took place at the Hollywood and Highland complex in Los Angeles, hosted by Glee actress Jane Lynch – the first woman to present the ceremony.

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Critics’ Choice Movie Awards 2014. The complete list of winners:

Picture – 12 Years a Slave

Actor – Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Actress – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Supporting actor – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting actress – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Young actor/actress – Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue Is The Warmest Colour

Acting Ensemble – American Hustle

Director – Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

Original screenplay – Spike Jonze, Her

Leonardo DiCaprio followed up his Golden Globe win another best actor in a comedy prize for The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio followed up his Golden Globe win another best actor in a comedy prize for The Wolf of Wall Street

Adapted screenplay – John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave

Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity

Art direction – Catherine Martin (production designer), Beverley Dunn (set decorator), The Great Gatsby

Editing – Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger, Gravity

Costume design – Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby

Hair and make-up – American Hustle

Visual effects – Gravity

Animated feature – Frozen

Action movie – Lone Survivor

Actor in an action movie – Mark Wahlberg, Lone Survivor

Actress in an action movie – Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Comedy – American Hustle

Actor in a comedy – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Actress in a comedy – Amy Adams, American Hustle

Sci-fi/horror movie – Gravity

Foreign language film – Blue Is the Warmest Color

Documentary feature – 20 Feet From Stardom

Song – Let It Go, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Frozen

Score – Steven Price, Gravity

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Gravity movie leads this year’s BAFTAs, scoring 11 nominations including best film and best British film.

Sandra Bullock is up for best actress, while Alfonso Cuaron is nominated for best director.

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave had 10 nods, with five in the main categories including best film, best director and best actor for Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o also landed supporting nominations.

American Hustle equaled 12 Years a Slave‘s tally, with nominations in all the acting categories for its stars Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.

The 1970s drama, about two con artists who get entangled with the FBI, is also up for best film, with David O. Russell nominated for best director and original screenplay.

Chiwetel Ejiofor will compete for his award against Christian Bale, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, Bruce Dern for Nebraska and Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street.

The best actress category will see Sandra Bullock challenge Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks and Judi Dench for Philomena.

The nominations saw Judi Dench set a BAFTA record, with her 15th acting nomination.

That puts her one ahead of Meryl Streep, who was overlooked in the best actress category for August: Osage County.

BAFTA 2014 winners will be announced at a ceremony at London's Royal Opera House on February 16

BAFTA 2014 winners will be announced at a ceremony at London’s Royal Opera House on February 16

Other movies competing for best film include Captain Phillips and Philomena, while the latter is also nominated for best British film alongside Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Saving Mr. Banks, The Selfish Giant and Rush.

Gravity, Saving Mr. Banks and Rush all qualified for the British film category because they were either filmed in the UK, utilized British effects companies or employed other British talent, from writers to producers.

The rules are set out by the BFI’s cultural test, which determines which films are eligible for UK tax relief.

The best director category mirrored that of the Directors Guild of America – which announced its film nominations on Tuesday. Both bodies shortlisted Steve McQueen, Alfonso Cuaron and David O. Russell alongside Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips and Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street.

Notable snubs in the acting categories included Robert Redford for sea drama All is Lost and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club – both of whom have been tipped for Oscar consideration this year.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony at London’s Royal Opera House on February 16.

BAFTA 2014: Most nominated films

Gravity – 11

American Hustle – 10

12 Years a Slave – 10

Captain Phillips – 9

Behind the Candelabra – 5

Saving Mr. Banks – 5

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Sci-fi film Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is to open the 2013 Venice Film Festival in August.

The 3D movie, directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, sees George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts on an ill-fated mission.

Alfonso Cuaron’s Y tu mama tambien won two awards at the festival in 2001 – best scenario and best young male talent for actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.

The gala on the Venice Lido runs from 28 August to 7 September.

Sci-fi film Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is to open the 2013 Venice Film Festival in August

Sci-fi film Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is to open the 2013 Venice Film Festival in August

Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci – whose debut film, The Grim Reaper, showed at the festival in 1962 – will lead the jury for this year’s Golden Lion for best film.

US director William Friedkin, best known for his films The French Connection and The Exorcist, will also receive a lifetime achievement award.

He described the festival as his “spiritual home”, adding he would accept the honorary prize “with gratitude and love”.

Alfonso Cuaron’s film features George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts attempting to return to Earth after debris crashes into their space shuttle, leaving them drifting alone in orbit.

The rest of the festival line-up is yet to be announced, but films being tipped to be screened include Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien and Twelve Years a Slave, the latest film from British director Steve McQueen starring Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender.

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