LOS ANGELES -- Steven Spielberg is hoping for good news Thursday as Oscar nominees are unveiled, with his "Lincoln" among frontrunners, albeit in a wide field as Hollywood's awards season enters the home straight.
Taiwan-born Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and Osama bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty" by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow are also expected to rack up Academy Award nods, as is actor-director Ben Affleck's Iran hostage drama "Argo."
Amid no overwhelming favorite so far -- Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" and musical "Les Miserables" are also in the running -- Tinseltown is holding its breath for the pre-dawn Oscar announcement.
Best actor tips include Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln," Hugh Jackman in "Les Miz" and Bradley Cooper for "Silver Linings Playbook," while Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty") and Helen Mirren ("Hitchcock") lead on the actress side.
Spielberg's political drama "Lincoln," about the 16th US president's drive to abolish slavery during the American Civil War, already picked up most nods for the Golden Globes, competing in seven categories in the show this weekend.
The film has also garnered top nominations for the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America and Britain's BAFTA awards, in the run-up to the Oscars announcement.
Its British-Irish star Day-Lewis will be vying to win a record third best actor Oscar, after winning the accolade in 1990 for "My Left Foot" and in 2008 for "There Will Be Blood."
Visually stunning 3D adventure "Life of Pi," about an Indian boy cast adrift with a Bengal tiger, will be Lee's third bid for Oscars glory after a 2001 nod for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and a best director 2006 win for "Brokeback Mountain."
The movie secured three Golden Globe nominations, nine BAFTA nods and was on the DGA's five-strong best film shortlist.
"Zero Dark Thirty," about the decade-long manhunt for bin Laden after 9/11, has drawn criticism -- including from the CIA -- for its hard-hitting depiction of how enhanced interrogation, or torture, helped find the Al-Qaeda chief.
Chastain is widely seen as a best actress favorite for playing a relentless CIA agent who tracked bin Laden down to his Abbottabad, Pakistan hideout, while Bigelow could get more gongs to go with her 2009 "Hurt Locker" best film Oscar.
Affleck has also drawn fire for taking liberties with historical accuracy in "Argo," about a CIA mission to extract six US diplomats who took refuge in the Canadian ambassador's residence during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
But the film is up in five Golden Globe categories, and Oscar watchers say it may win over voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences too.
Tarantino's latest bloodfest "Django Unchained," with Jamie Foxx as a slave shooting his way to free his wife from Leonardo DiCaprio's clutches, had to delay a red-carpet premiere after a pre-Christmas school shooting in Connecticut.
Romcom "Silver Linings Playbook" has also drawn lots of Hollywood buzz, notably for "Hangover" star Cooper but also for being a relatively light-hearted film in a field heavy on drama and history.
For Hollywood veteran Spielberg, a best film or best director Oscar would go with his two top-drawer Academy Awards for 1993's "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" in 1999.
The nominees will be revealed around 5:30 am (1330 GMT) Thursday -- the early hour to fit in with East Coast and other global viewers, waiting to hear who's up for the famous golden statuettes, to be handed out on February 24.
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