Steven Spielberg's Abraham Lincoln bio-picture "Lincoln" went into Sunday's high-profile competition with a leading 12 nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Director for Spielberg and Best Actor for Lincoln doppelganger Daniel Day-Lewis. If Day-Lewis wins Sunday night as he is widely expected to, he will be the first person to win three Best Actor statuettes.
The visually stunning Indian fable "Life of Pi" is runner-up for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and a clutch of technical prizes.
Based on previous awards competitions this season, "Argo," a thriller set during the 1979-80 Iran hostage crisis, is the movie to beat in the Best Picture category. Anne Hathaway is considered a lock for her portrayal of a tragic heroine in the movie musical "Les Miserables," which is also up for Best Picture.
The dramedy "Silver Linings Playbook" has the distinction of being the only Best Picture contender with nominees in all four acting categories. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are up for Best Actor and Actress, while Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver earned nods in the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races. David O. Russell is also nominated for the Best Director Oscar and his "Playbook" script for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Best Actress race is regarded as wide open. Although Lawrence and Chastain have been giving acceptance speeches all season, it is possible the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could instead reward "The Impossible" star Naomi Watts, "Amour" veteran Emmanuelle Riva or "Beasts of the Southern Wild" cutie Quvenzhane Wallis. Riva at 85 is the oldest Oscar nominee ever to be mentioned in this category, while Wallis at 9 is the youngest.
Other nominees for the top prize of Best Picture are "Amour," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Django Unchained" and "Zero Dark Thirty."