This Sunday, Ellen Degeneres will be the least host to attempt to successfully helm The Oscars. Credit: ABC/Andrew Eccles This Sunday, Ellen Degeneres will be the least host to attempt to successfully helm The Oscars.
Credit: ABC/Andrew Eccles

It's that time again. The end of the annual film calendar is nearly upon us, with the 86th Academy Awards set for Sunday evening. Here's a sample of what to expect on Hollywood's biggest night.

The 86th Oscars: A Primer

Here are some tips on what to look out for during Sunday's ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Returning producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan say the theme for this year's Oscars is a salute to heroes and heroines of all stripes, celebrating everything from "Norma Rae" and "Captain Phillips" to "Harry Potter" and "Ghostbusters." There will also be a segment celebrating the 75th anniversary of "The Wizard of Oz."

 

Music will be a big part of the ceremony, which is great considering so many bold-faced names are nominated in the Best Song category. (Performances of the nominated songs were skipped all together in 2010 and 2012.) U2 ("Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"), Pharrell Williams ("Despicable Me 2"), Karen O ("Her") and Idina Menzel ("Frozen") will all take the stage, as will Pink and Bette Midler for other performances. But host DeGeneres has already insisted that she herself won't be singing, unlike last year's host, Seth MacFarlane.

With 46 famous faces presenting over the course of the night, it's going to be a busy stage. Presenters include previous winners like Jennifer Lawrence, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Spacey and Angelina Jolie, plus popular names like Zac Efron, Channing Tatum and Kristen Bell. One we're definitely excited about is "Vertigo" star Kim Novak, making a rare public appearance at the ceremony.

This marks the 13th year the Oscars have been presented in the same venue, though the name has changed. What was the Kodak Theatre up until 2011 is now known as the Dolby Theatre. And if the ceremony feels long, just be thankful it's not 2000 anymore. That year, the proceedings clocked in at a whopping four hours and four minutes, while they generally average around three and a half hours long. The first Oscars in 1929, by the way, lasted 15 minutes. If only.

Nominees Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep enjoy a rare warm moment in "August: Osage County." Credit: Clare Fogler Nominees Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep enjoy a rare warm moment in "August: Osage County."
Credit: Clare Fogler

Did you know…

While her odds of winning are pretty long, Meryl Streep's nod for Best Actress in "August: Osage County" marks her 18th Oscar nomination, breaking the record for most nominations earned by an actor or actress previously held by … Meryl Streep.

If Jennifer Lawrence wins for Best Supporting Actress in "American Hustle" — she's considered neck-and-neck with Lupita Nyong'o — she'll become the youngest person to win two acting Oscars. She'd also be the first actress to win back-to-back awards in different categories and for the same director. She's already the youngest actress to earn three nominations.

This year marks only the second time that Pixar has released a film ("Monsters University") that hasn't earned a Best Animated Picture nomination. The first was 2011's "Cars 2."

Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Actress nominee Amy Adams are currently tied at five career nominations and zero wins each.

With his nomination for "The Book Thief," John Williams extends his ridiculous lead as the living person with the most Oscar nods, at 49. If you factor in the deceased, he's catching up to 60-time nominee Walt Disney.

"Frozen" composer Bobby Lopez, one of the songwriters nominated for Best Song favorite "Let It Go," would become the 12th person in show business history to achieve the "E.G.O.T." — winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

David O. Russell's "American Hustle" is the 15th film to earn nominations across all four acting categories (and his 2012 film "Silver Linings Playbook" was the 14th). Other notables among that distinguished list include "Network," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Sunset Boulevard." However, only two of the previous 14 films "From Here to Eternity" and "Mrs. Miniver" also won Best Picture.

Ellen DeGeneres reprises her role as the ceremony's host, following her last turn at the gig in 2007. She's got a long way to go to get into the record books, though, as Bob Hope holds the title with 19 hosting appearances, while Billy Crystal sits comfortably in second place at nine. And Whoopi Goldberg holds the title for most appearances by a female host, with four.

Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o are both nominated for "12 Years a Slave." Credit: Francois Duhamel Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o are both nominated for "12 Years a Slave."
Credit: Francois Duhamel

Our predictions (for now)

We're going ahead and calling most of the races all locked up, but there is still room for surprises — Best Supporting Actress and Best Picture seem particularly hard to pin down. But we're pinning them down anyway! If you win your office pool with this, we get a cut, OK?

Who will win…

BEST PICTURE: "12 Years a Slave"
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity"
BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spike Jonze, "Her"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: John Ridley, "12 Years a Slave"
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: "Frozen"
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: "Gravity"
BEST DOCUMENTARY: "The Act of Killing"
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: "The Great Beauty"
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Steven Price, "Gravity"
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "Let It Go," "Frozen"
BEST EDITING: "Gravity"
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: "Gravity"
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: "The Great Gatsby"
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: "American Hustle"

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