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The 86th annual Oscar ceremony kicks off Sunday night from the Dolby Theatre. Unlike the stormy hosting of Seth MacFarlane last year, this Oscar show with host Ellen DeGeneres (pictured R) has a deliberately safe vibe of cheery song-and-dance.
The nimble and amiable DeGeneres is expected to return the broadcast to more traditional territory. Many of the night's biggest categories, too, seem to hold little chance for surprise.
|The well-established favorites include Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong'o and Jared Leto. Each comes into Oscar Sunday having won a parade of awards over the last few months, including honors at Saturday's Spirit Awards.
The night's biggest question mark won't come until the very end. The historical drama "12 Years a Slave," the 3-D space spectacle "Gravity" and the con-artist caper "American Hustle" are vying for best picture in the night's closest contest.
|"Gravity" is expected to lead the ceremony in total awards, cleaning up in technical categories like visual effects and cinematography. Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron is considered a lock for best director for seamlessly marshalling new digital technology to render the lost-in-space drama. He would be the first Latino to win the category.
While the global hit easily topped the other eight best-picture nominees at the box office, the lower budget, less widely seen "12 Years a Slave" is believed to have a narrow edge for the academy's top honor.
VIDEO: Memorable Oscar Moments:
The Nominees Are.....
An interactive look at past Oscar Speeches. Tab the arrow below one click left to look at the Academy Award nominations.
Our Academy Awards Quiz.