The Oscars Red Carpet in Hollywood. Photo by John Schreiber.
The Oscars Red Carpet in Hollywood. Photo by John Schreiber.

Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette and J.K. Simmons are probably as close as you can get to being “locks” on Oscar night, but the battle for best actor at Sunday night’s ceremony is still a toss-up, while “Birdman” and “Boyhood” are in a tight race for best picture.

Looming over the best picture race, however, is the late-season box office smash “American Sniper,” which didn’t earn a best-director nomination for Clint Eastwood, but it has gained momentum in recent weeks and even pushed Bradley Cooper into a more prominent position in the best-actor category.

But it will still be a tough battle for “Sniper” to upend “Birdman” or “Boyhood,” which top a best-picture category that also includes “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Whiplash.”

“Birdman,” featuring Michael Keaton as a one-time blockbuster film actor trying to revive his career on Broadway, has been neck-and-neck in the front-runner race with “Boyhood,” the coming-of-age tale filmed over 12 years with the same cast.

Keaton, once considered a front-runner for best actor, has found himself in a tight battle with Eddie Redmayne, who gives a spot-on portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” Redmayne has already collected Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. Keaton won the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy.

Also battling for the best-actor Oscar are Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch for “The Imitation Game” and Steve Carell for his against-type dramatic role in “Foxcatcher.” Except for Cooper — who was nominated for best actor for 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and supporting actor for 2013’s “American Hustle” — all the best-actor hopefuls are first-time nominees.

Moore has swept virtually all of the pre-Oscar awards shows for her portrayal of a linguistics professor dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in “Still Alice.” Hoping to pull off an upset are Marion Cotillard for “Two Days, One Night,” Felicity Jones for “The Theory of Everything,” Rosamund Pike for “Gone Girl” and Reese Witherspoon for “Wild.”

Moore is a five-time Oscar nominee, but she has never won.

The supporting-acting awards also appear to be locks, with Arquette and Simmons collecting an armful of awards-season prizes for their roles in “Boyhood” and “Whiplash,” respectively.

Arquette, a first-time Oscar nominee, will compete for supporting actress with Laura Dern of “Wild,” Keira Knightley of “The Imitation Game,” Emma Stone for “Birdman” and Meryl Streep for “Into the Wild.”

Streep is a 19-time Oscar nominee, and a three-time winner.

Simmons is looking to best Robert Duvall of “The Judge,” Ethan Hawke of “Boyhood,” Edward Norton of “Birdman” and Mark Ruffalo of “Foxcatcher.” Simmons is the only first-time nominee in the category.

Moore, Arquette and Simmons have all won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild honors for their work.

“Birdman” and director Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” each have a leading nine nominations for the 87th Oscars, which will presented at the Dolby Theatre. “The Imitation Game” is close behind with eight, while “Boyhood” has six.

Alejandro Inarritu, who won the Directors Guild of America award for feature film directing, has the upper hand in the Oscar race, although “Boyhood’s” Richard Linklater remains a strong contender for helming his cast over 12 years. Longshots for the honor are Bennett Miller for “Foxcatcher,” Anderson for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and Morten Tyldum for “The Imitation Game.”

Inarritu, Linklater and Anderson will also square off in the original screenplay category for their films, leading a category that also features writers of “Foxcatcher” and “Nightcrawler.”

Up for adapted screenplay are “American Sniper’s” Jason Hall, Graham Moore for “The Imitation Game,” Paul Thomas Anderson for “Inherent Vice,” Anthony McCarten for “The Theory of Everything” and Damien Chazelle for “Whiplash.”

Neil Patrick Harris will host the Oscar ceremony for the first time.

Sergio Mendes, will.i.am, Jack Black, Common with John Legend, Rita Ora, Tim McGraw, Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island, Lady Gaga, Anna Kendrick and Jennifer Hudson are among those expected to perform during the event.

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