Los Angeles: In one of the most competitive Academy Awards races, Steve Mcqueen`s slavery drama `12 Years a Slave`
and Alfonso Cuaron`s stunning space disaster story `Gravity` are being seen as the prime claimants to the best picture Oscar gold tonight.
Nine films -- `American Hustle`, `Captain Phillips`, `Dallas Buyers Club`, `Gravity`, `Her`, Nebraska`, `Philomena`, `12 Years a Slave` and `The Wolf of Wall Street` -- are nominated for the best picture Oscar but industry experts are putting their bets on `12 Years a Slave` for its portrayal of America`s brutal slavery history.
The film is facing a tough competition from Sandra Bullock-George Clooney starrer outer space drama while David O Russell`s `American Hustle` is being seen as the dark horse of the race which could upset the other two movies.
With 2013 being touted as the best year of cinema in Hollywood since 1939, it is being seen as the most competitive year for the best actor Oscar as well.
So far, Matthew McConaughey, who lost almost 20 kgs of weight to portray AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in `Dallas Buyers Club` is being seen as the front-runner but it also being seen as the best chance for Leonardo Di Caorio, who has been nominated for the fifth time, to take home the golden statuette.
These two actors are facing tough competition from Chiwetel Ejiofor from `12 Years a Slave` while veteran actor Bruce Dern`s performance in `Nebraska` and Christian Bale`s role as con man in `American Hustle` are equally good.
The best actress race may not be that competitive with Cate Blanchett leading the race for her role in Woody Allen`s `Blue Jasmine` but previous Oscar winner Sandra Bullock`s brilliant performance in the 3D film is standing between Blanchett`s Jasmine and the Oscar statue.
Amy Adams is another strong candidate in the category to take home her first Oscar for `American Hustle` while actresses Judi Dench and Meryl Streep too can script an upset in the category tonight for `Philomena` and `August: Osage County` respectively.