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Oscar gets ready for big night

Actor Ben Affleck is shown in a scene from his film “Argo.” The nine competitors for Hollywood’s top film award sold a combined $2 billion in tickets worldwide heading into Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

Actor Ben Affleck is shown in a scene from his film “Argo.” The nine competitors for Hollywood’s top film award sold a combined $2 billion in tickets worldwide heading into Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

LOS ANGELES — From the moment stars step out of their limos and onto the red carpet at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, the show begins. Every entertainment writer, host and paparazzo within 1,000 miles will begin to offer smiles, congratulations, and of course, ask the most important question of all: Who are you wearing?

After celebrities survive their walk on the red carpet, the show must go on.

Never quite recovering from the glory days with classic longtime host Billy Crystal, the Academy has recently attempted to breathe fresh air into its show with a variety of hosts — testing new ones each year like celebrities try on dresses. This year’s ceremony will place “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane in the spotlight.

At the end of the night, the winners will celebrate their triumph at the after parties, others will be glad to have just been nominated, and critics will be busy analyzing speeches and formulating their best- and worst-dressed lists. Anyway you put it, all the players will ultimately do what they do best — put on a show.

Here’s a look at the nominees in the night’s most anticipated races. Based on this year’s previous awards ceremonies, critic reviews and word on the street, we’re predicting our own list of winners.

FASHION OUTLOOK

If clothes make the man, then Oscar should be well-dressed tonight, since the first thing that viewers see often is what is remembered far more even than who won what award.

On Hollywood’s biggest night, expect celebrities to pull out all the stops in hopes of dazzling audiences with their appearance as much as with their performance.

So far this awards season, fashion trends have leant themselves to bold, bright hues of blue, purple and orange, with few truly horrendous What were they thinking? moments. More often than not, the stars who shine the brightest on the red carpet runway are those who choose a color outside of this year’s predictable color scheme.

Tonight, cameras will undoubtedly capture both the fashion-forward moments that will become iconic, and also forever preserve memories of outfits that others would rather forget. Get ready, Fashion Police.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Amy Adams, “The Master”

Sally Field, “Lincoln”

Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”

Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”

Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Actresses portraying a wife, first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, a penniless prostitute, a professional sex surrogate and a protective mother comprise this year’s nominee list.

While each actress has received favorable reviews for her performance, the obvious standout is former Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway for her depiction of Fantine in “Les Miserables.”

Picking up the role her mother once played, Hathaway has proven that she has the chops to compete with the best. And unlike the doomed Fantine, Hathaway’s dreams will most likely come true.

Prediction: There’s no doubt; it’s Hathaway. Hathaway has swept the awards season so far, and we don’t see that changing.

If the shock of the night happens, we would love to see the always endearing Sally Field receive her third Academy Award, but if any category this year is predictable, this is it. And we appreciate that Hathaway herself gave props to Field in her first acceptance speech of the season at the Golden Globes. An actress who could have easily been marked as only frills and fluff early in her career, Hathaway thanked Field for being a “vanguard against typecasting.”

“Because as the girl who started out as the princess of Genovia, Sally, I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to know that the Flying Nun grew up to be Norma Rae, and grew up to be Mama Gump, and grew up to be Mary Todd Lincoln. Thank you.”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Alan Arkin, “Argo”

Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”

Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

Respectively portraying a Hollywood producer, a concerned father, a religious leader, a zealous U.S. Congressman and a bounty hunter, this year’s race employs five academy award-winning actors in a variety of roles.

Prediction: Although Christoph Waltz won the Golden Globe, it was Tommy Lee Jones who won the Screen Actors Guild, which is thought to present a more accurate foretelling of who will win the Oscar. It’s too close to call, but we would appreciate seeing the sometimes underappreciated Jones take home his second Oscar.

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Actor Daniel Day Lewis portrays President Abraham Lincoln in the Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln.”

BEST DIRECTOR

Michael Haneke, “Amour”

Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”

Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”

David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”

The most interesting surprises of this category are not who was nominated, but who was not. In two of the biggest snubs this season, former Oscar winners Ben Affleck (“Argo”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) were left out.

Both films have received critical acclaim and garnered nominations in multiple categories. While Affleck has taken the high road, it seems that other award institutions have fought back, rewarding Affleck with the best director honor at the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild Awards.

Prediction: Since none of the nominees has yet won a directing award this season, there is no clear frontrunner. But with all of the positive Oscar recognition “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook” have received, it looks to be a tight race between Spielburg and Russell.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”

Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”

Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”

Denzel Washington, “Flight”

This year’s nominees run the gamut in their roles from Jackman’s parole-violating ex-convict to Day-Lewis’ portrayal of one of America’s most beloved presidents. In his critically-acclaimed performance, Cooper shows he has come a long way since “The Hangover,” and Washington delivers in his portrayal of a heroic airline pilot flying under the influence.

Prediction: We would love to see Jackman rewarded for his intense and diverse work in “Les Miserables,” but we predict Day-Lewis will receive his third Oscar for Best Actor.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”

Quvenzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”

In a film based on actual events, Watts shines as a wife and mother struggling for survival in the aftermath of Thailand’s 2004 tsunami. An Oscar nomination is a nice birthday present for Riva, who turns 86 today, and 9-year-old Wallis’ performance has charmed audiences and the Academy alike, but the real battle is between Chastain and Lawrence for their roles as a CIA officer obsessed with finding Osama bin Laden and a mysterious girl with a troubled past.

Prediction: As much as we would love to see consecutive Oscar nominee Chastain (nominated last year for her supporting role in “The Help”) win this time around, the edge goes to Lawrence. So far this year, Chastain and Lawrence have both won Golden Globes for their performances, but it was Lawrence who received the actor-voted Screen Actors Guild Award. Her film, “Silver Linings Playbook,” is an apparent Oscar favorite, as it is the 42nd film in Oscar history to receive nominations in all “Big Five” categories: Best Actor/Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture. In the world of the Oscar, that’s saying something.

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Actors Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Anne Hathaway and director Tom Hooper promote the film “Les Miserables” at the 63rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin recently.

BEST PICTURE

“Amour”

An octogenarian couple’s life changes after one must become a caretaker for the other following a debilitating stroke.

“Argo”

A CIA specialist creates a fake movie production in order to rescue six American hostages in Iran.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Set in the future, “Beasts” chronicles a young girl’s experiences as she and her father struggle for survival in a poverty-stricken bayou.

“Django Unchained”

This pre-Civil War film tells the story of a bounty hunter and a former slave who join together to fight the injustice of a brutal plantation owner.

“Les Miserables”

The classic novel-turned-opera is brought to life on screen and explores the revolutionary history of France through the life of Jean Valjean, a wrongfully accused ex-convict on a quest for redemption.

“Life of Pi”

Based on a fantasy-adventure novel which explores concepts of spirituality, “Life of Pi” depicts the journey of two shipwreck survivors — a boy and a Bengal tiger.

“Lincoln”

In a time of crisis for America, President Abraham Lincoln must unite the nation and lead it to prosperity once again.

“Silver Linings Playbook”

A former teacher begins to rebuild his life after spending time in a mental institution.

“Zero Dark Thirty”

This intense drama details the CIA’s hunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Prediction: This is a close race, with several films capable of taking home the win. We would love to see Les Miserables rewarded for its originality. Its complexity and comprehensive storytelling are top-notch, while its unique method of on-screen singing — live instead of pre-recorded in a studio — sets it apart from any film in recent years.

But it is “Argo” that has racked up the most wins thus far for motion picture, cast ensemble and directing, upsetting favorites “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Laura Williams is Deputy News Editor at The Albany Herald.