Oscars get ready for action

(CNN)The 87th Academy Awards began with a surprise: Rain on the red carpet.

There might be a few more surprises before the night is out.

The wet stars have a rather competitive night to look forward to, particularly for best picture. The two leading candidates suggest a Battle of the Bs: « Birdman » or « Boyhood. »

Who’s going to win? Check out our Oscar ballot

Both movies play with time — « Birdman » through the appearance of consisting of one single shot, « Boyhood » through a 12-year journey of growing up — but that’s where the similarities end.

« Birdman » stars Michael Keaton as a former superhero actor trying to reignite his career with a Broadway show. It’s taut, intense and occasionally frantic, with the performances set to a propulsive drum soundtrack.

    Oscar-winning best picturesThe first Academy Awards were given out at a dinner on May 16, 1929. The best picture winner was 1927s quot;Wings,quot; a film about World War I pilots starring Clara Bow, right, Charles quot;Buddyquot; Rogers, left,  Richard Arlen and Gary Cooper. Even today, the silent films aerial sequences stand out as some of the most exciting ever filmed. Another film, quot;Sunrise,quot; was given an Oscar as most quot;unique and artistic production,quot; an honor that was eliminated the next year. The academy didnt begin using a calendar year for awards until movies made in 1934 (with ceremonies held in 1935).‘Wings’ (1927)The first Academy Awards were given out at a dinner on May 16, 1929. The best picture winner was 1927’s « Wings, » a film about World War I pilots starring Clara Bow, right, Charles « Buddy » Rogers, left, Richard Arlen and Gary Cooper. Even today, the silent film’s aerial sequences stand out as some of the most exciting ever filmed. Another film, « Sunrise, » was given an Oscar as most « unique and artistic production, » an honor that was eliminated the next year. The academy didn’t begin using a calendar year for awards until movies made in 1934 (with ceremonies held in 1935).The musical quot;The Broadway Melodyquot; was the first sound film to win best picture. The film stars Charles King, Anita Page and Bessie Love.quot;All Quiet on the Western Front,quot; best picture of 1929-30, was the film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarques classic novel. The film stars Lewis Wolheim and Lew Ayres and was directed by Lewis Milestone.quot;Cimarron,quot; based on the Edna Ferber novel, is best remembered for its portrayal of the 1889 Oklahoma Land Rush, which literally featured a cast of thousands. Richard Dix and Irene Dunne star in the film.The all-star cast of quot;Grand Hotel,quot; including Greta Garbo and John Barrymore (pictured), portrayed characters in a mix of plot lines at a Berlin hotel. The film won just the one Oscar, but has been immortalized for one of Garbos lines of dialogue: quot;I want to be alone.quot;quot;Cavalcade,quot; based on a Noel Coward play, won the 1932-33 prize for best picture. The film follows a London family from 1899 to 1933 and stars, left to right, Una OConnor, Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook.quot;It Happened One Nightquot; was one of the great underdog winners. Its studio, Columbia, wasnt considered one of the majors at the time, and neither Clark Gable nor Claudette Colbert, its stars, were excited about the project. But it became the first film to sweep the five major categories of picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay. To this day, only two other films -- quot;One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nestquot; (1975) and quot;The Silence of the Lambsquot; (1991) -- have pulled off the same trick. Clark Gable was in the best picture winner the next year as well, playing Fletcher Christian in the 1935 version of quot;Mutiny on the Bounty.quot; Charles Laughton plays Captain Bligh. Luise Rainer stars in quot;The Great Ziegfeld.quot; She picked up an Oscar for best actress, though William Powell, who played the title figure, came up empty (although he was nominated for another movie, quot;My Man Godfreyquot;).quot;The Life of Emile Zolaquot; won three Oscars, including best picture. The film is a biography of the famed French author. Star Paul Muni was nominated for best actor but lost to Spencer Tracy (quot;Captains Courageousquot;).quot;You Cant Take It With Youquot; is one of the rare comedies to win best picture. The film, based on the George Kaufman and Moss Hart play, stars James Stewart, Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore. It also won a best director Oscar for Frank Capra, Capras third in five years.Still considered one of the great Hollywood epics, 1939s quot;Gone With the Windquot; won 10 Oscars, including best picture and best actress for star Vivien Leigh, right. Though Clark Gable was nominated for best actor, he lost to Robert Donat (quot;Goodbye, Mr. Chipsquot;) in one of the great Oscar upsets.After quot;Gone With the Wind,quot; producer David O. Selznick scored again with another adaptation of a best-seller, Daphne du Mauriers quot;Rebecca.quot; He brought Alfred Hitchcock from Britain to direct Laurence Olivier and lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/16/showbiz/joan-fontaine-obit/quot;gt;Joan Fontainelt;/agt; in a tale of a shy young woman living in the shadow of her husbands first wife. quot;Rebeccaquot; was not only Hitchcocks first American film, but also his only one to win a best picture Oscar.lt;a href=quot;http://www.afi.com/100Years/movies10.aspxquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;The movie many critics regard as the greatest American filmlt;/agt; didnt win the best picture Oscar for 1941. Orson Welles quot;Citizen Kanequot; lost to a film directed by another classic director, John Ford, who helped re-create a Welsh mining village in California for quot;How Green Was My Valley.quot; Roddy McDowall, left, and Walter Pidgeon starred.Hollywoods war effort went full throttle with William Wylers quot;Mrs. Miniverquot; starring Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson as a heroic couple whose family endures German air raids during the Battle of Britain. Garson also won the best actress award and received much flak for a lengthy acceptance speech that became the stuff of Hollywood legend.Well always have Bogart and Bergman, aka Rick and Ilsa, in Michael Curtizs quot;Casablanca.quot; Nobody at Warner Bros. expected this movie, based on an unproduced play, quot;Everybody Comes to Ricks,quot; to be a classic when it came out, but the lt;a href=quot;http://www.afi.com/100Years/movies10.aspxquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;American Film Institute ranked this best picture winner as the third-greatest U.S. filmlt;/agt; more than 60 years later. Hollywoods favorite crooner became its favorite priest. Bing Crosby, left, won the best actor award as Father Chuck OMalley in quot;Going My Way.quot; He encountered resistance from a crusty old priest (Barry Fitzgerald) when he tried to help an impoverished church parish.With World War II coming to an end, Hollywood turned to dark subject matter, such as alcoholism in Billy Wilders quot;The Lost Weekend.quot; Star Ray Milland, left, won the best actor award as a writer on a binge. Howard Da Silva was the bartender.Veterans Fredric March, pictured, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell returned home to adjust to life in post-war America in this William Wyler classic. Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright and Cathy ODonnell were the women in their lives who also found the world much more complicated with the wars end. Russell, a real vet, lost both hands in World War II. Elia Kazans quot;Gentlemans Agreementquot; continued Hollywoods exploration of more serious subject matter, this time anti-Semitism. Gregory Peck, right, plays a reporter who goes undercover posing as a Jew, making his girlfriend (Dorothy McGuire) face uncomfortable truths about her upper class WASP life. A young Dean Stockwell played Pecks son.A British film took home the best picture Oscar when Laurence Olivier directed himself in an Oscar-winning role as Shakespeares famous Danish prince who cannot make up his mind. Olivier trimmed the plays text and chose to do Hamlets famous soliloquy (quot;To be, or not to be, that is the questionquot;) as a voice-over. Jean Simmons was Ophelia.Unlike the 2006 remake with Sean Penn, this adaptation of Robert Penn Warrens Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was a critical and box-office success. Star Broderick Crawford also won the best actor award for his role as Willie Stark, a cynical politician who rises to become governor. Any resemblance to Louisianas Huey Long was mere coincidence.Director Joseph L. Mankiewiczs screenplay about an aging actress (Bette Davis, right) battling a scheming newcomer (Anne Baxter) remains one of the most quotable movies ever almost 65 years after its release. quot;All About Evequot; held the record for a movie with the most Oscar nominations (14) until quot;Titanicquot; tied it in 1997. A young Marilyn Monroe, center, also attracted attention in an early role. As Margo Channing (Davis character) would say, quot;Fasten your seat belts, its going to be bumpy night!quot; This MGM musical with Gene Kelly as an aspiring artist who falls for Leslie Caron in the City of Light faced stiff competition at the Oscars. But quot;An American in Parisquot; scored a major upset when it beat dramatic heavyweights quot;A Place in the Sunquot; and quot;A Streetcar Named Desirequot; for best picture.Producer-director Cecil B. DeMille had been making epics since the silents, but none had won best picture until quot;The Greatest Show on Earth,quot; a 1952 circus spectacular with Betty Hutton, pictured, and Charlton Heston. Many critics and fans dismiss the movie as one of the worst best picture Oscar winners. quot;Singin in the Rain,quot; considered lt;a href=quot;http://www.afi.com/100years/musicals.aspxquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Hollywoods greatest movie musicallt;/agt;, wasnt even nominated that year.Facing the strict movie censorship of the 1950s, director Fred Zinnemanns version of quot;From Here to Eternityquot; considerably toned down James Jones tough and profane novel about military life in Hawaii on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack. But Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerrs sexy tryst on the beach made waves among moviegoers.Marlon Brando, right, went up against corrupt union boss Lee J. Cobb in  Elia Kazans quot;On the Waterfront.quot; In one of moviedoms most famous scenes that inspired countless future actors, Brando confronts his brother, a union lawyer played by Rod Steiger, in the back seat of a car: quot;I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.quot; Hollywood studios saw television as the enemy in the 1950s as Americans stayed home in droves to watch series such as quot;I Love Lucy.quot; But live TV plays soon were providing material for movies, including 1955s best picture winner, quot;Marty.quot; Ernest Borgnine won stardom and the best actor award as a lonely butcher in the Paddy Chayefsky drama.Responding to the competition from TV, the movies turned increasingly to epics in the 1950s such as producer Mike Todds quot;Around the World in 80 Days.quot; The picture  was based on Jules Vernes novel and starred Shirley MacLaine, David Niven and Cantinflas as well as dozens of other celebrities in cameo roles, such as Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, Red Skelton and Frank Sinatra.Director David Lean proved filmmakers could make intelligent epics such as quot;The Bridge on the River Kwai.quot; Already a star in British films, Alec Guinness won international fame and a best actor Oscar as a British colonel held prisoner with his men in a Japanese camp during World War II.For one of its last great musicals, MGM turned to Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe after their success with quot;My Fair Ladyquot; to create a musical based on Colettes quot;Gigi.quot; The Vincente Minnelli film with Louis Jourdan, center, and Leslie Caron, right, won every Oscar it was nominated for (nine), including best picture and director. Legendary French star Maurice Chevalier had a memorable song with quot;Thank Heaven for Little Girls.quot;Biblical epics were all the rage in the 1950s, and none more so than William Wylers quot;Ben-Hur.quot; The movie won a then-record 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, director (Wyler) and actor (Charlton Heston, right). The chariot scene undoubtedly helped ensure lt;a href=quot;http://www.afi.com/10top10/epic.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;quot;Ben-Hursquot; No. 2 ranking on the American Film Institutes list lt;/agt;of greatest epics.Long before quot;Mad Men,quot; Billy Wilders quot;The Apartmentquot; skewered corporate life of the early 1960s. Up-and-comer Jack Lemmon stays busy loaning his apartment key to company men who need a place to cheat on their wives. He falls for Shirley MacLaine, center, who is having an affair with one of the bosses (quot;My Three Sons quot; Fred MacMurray in an unsympathetic role).quot;West Side Storyquot; used the streets of New York as backdrops for this musical version of quot;Romeo and Juliet.quot; The Jets and Sharks replaced the Montagues and Capulets as rival gangs ready to rumble, leading to tragedy for young lovers Tony (Richard Beymer) and Maria (Natalie Wood). The film took home 10 Oscars, including best supporting actor (George Chakiris), supporting actress (Rita Moreno) and direction (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, the first time the award was shared).David Lean created the lt;a href=quot;http://www.afi.com/10top10/epic.htmlquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;epic of all epicslt;/agt; with quot;Lawrence of Arabia.quot; lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/15/showbiz/peter-otoole-obit/quot;gt;Peter OToolelt;/agt;, left, with Omar Sharif, became a superstar with his portrayal of T.E. Lawrence, the legendary British officer who helped lead the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I. The movie won seven Oscars, including for Leans direction.Albert Finney tackled the amorous title role in quot;Tom Jones,quot; a British comedy based on Henry Fieldings novel about a foundling raised by a wealthy landowner. Diane Cilento, right, was one of his conquests. Tony Richardson also won the Oscar for his direction of the film.Julie Andrews fans were upset when the original Broadway star of quot;My Fair Ladyquot; wasnt chosen for the film of the Lerner-Loewe musical. Audrey Hepburn may not have been convincing as a guttersnipe in the opening scenes of George Cukors best picture winner, but no one could deny she was ravishing in Cecil Beatons costumes once Eliza Doolittle had been transformed into a swan.Forget the lt;a href=quot;http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/06/showbiz/tv/sound-of-music-live-nbc/quot;gt;recent live broadcast of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musicallt;/agt; on NBC with Carrie Underwood. For many movie fans, Julie Andrews remains the one and only Maria, governess to the von Trapp children in Austria on the eve of World War II. Marni Nixon, who dubbed the singing voices of Natalie Wood in quot;West Side Story,quot; Deborah Kerr in quot;The King and Iquot; and Audrey Hepburn in quot;My Fair Lady,quot; had her first on-screen role as a nun. Not only did quot;The Sound of Musicquot; win best picture, it was also for a time the biggest moneymaker ever.Paul Scofield re-created his stage role as Sir Thomas More in Fred Zinnemanns film version of the Robert Bolt drama quot;A Man for All Seasons.quot; The film portrayed More as a man of conscience who refused to recognize King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England because of his denial of the Popes authority. Scofield and director Zinnemann both won Oscars for their work. Susannah York, right, co-starred.Youth-oriented movies began taking over Hollywood by 1967, the year of quot;Bonnie and Clydequot; and quot;The Graduate.quot; But the best picture winner went to Norman Jewisons quot;In the Heat of the Night,quot; an old-fashioned crime drama in which an African-American detective (Sidney Poitier, left) goes South to solve a murder, working with a reluctant redneck sheriff (Rod Steiger). Poitier played the role of Virgil Tibbs in two sequels, and the movie later spawned a hit TV series with Carroll OConnor.This best picture winner was a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens quot;Oliver Twistquot; with Mark Lester as an orphan who teams up with other young pickpockets led by an old criminal. Carol Reed also took home the Oscar for best director. Two of 1968s best-remembered movies, Stanley Kubricks quot;2001: A Space Odysseyquot; and Roman Polanskis quot;Rosemarys Baby,quot; werent even nominated for best picture.John Schlesingers quot;Midnight Cowboyquot; was the first best picture Oscar winner to be rated X, reflecting the easing of censorship in the late 60s. The movie established Jon Voight, right, as a star for his portrayal of a dumb, naive Texan who fancies himself a gigolo to rich women in New York but ends up a hustler. Fresh from quot;The Graduate,quot; co-star Dustin Hoffman as con man Ratso Rizzo proved he was one of the top actors of his generation.George C. Scott made Oscar history when he became the first actor to refuse the award. Scott played the title role in this biography of volatile World War II Gen. George S. Patton Jr. The film, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, reportedly was one of President Richard Nixons favorite films.Gene Hackman as Detective quot;Popeyequot; Doyle goes after hit man Marcel Bozzuffi in William Friedkins quot;The French Connection.quot; This best picture winner about New York cops trying to stop a huge heroin shipment from France features one of the movies most memorable chase scenes.With his career in decline for nearly a decade, Marlon Brando scored a comeback as Don Vito Corleone, the aging patriarch of a crime family, in Francis Ford Coppolas quot;The Godfather.quot; Brando won his second Oscar for best actor (which he refused), and the movie made a superstar of Al Pacino as the son who takes over the quot;family business.quot; The movie ranked lt;a href=quot;http://www.afi.com/100years/movies10.aspxquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;No. 2 on the American Film Institutes list of the top 100 U.S. films.lt;/agt;With his career in decline for nearly a decade, Marlon Brando scored a comeback as Don Vito Corleone, the aging patriarch of a crime family, in Francis Ford Coppolas quot;The Godfather.quot; Brando won his second Oscar for best actor (which he refused), and the movie made a superstar of Al Pacino as the son who takes over the quot;family business.quot; The movie ranked lt;a href=quot;http://www.afi.com/100years/movies10.aspxquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;No. 2 on the American Film Institutes list of the top 100 U.S. films.lt;/agt;Teaming up again after quot;Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidquot; (1969), Paul Newman and Robert Redford in best picture winner quot;The Stingquot; helped make the buddy film one of the key movie genres of the 70s. The two played con men in 1930s Chicago in the George Roy Hill movie, which featured the music of ragtime composer Scott Joplin.Al Pacino returned as Michael Corleone in quot;The Godfather: Part II,quot; which became the first sequel to win the best picture Oscar. Francis Ford Coppola received the best director award this time, and newcomer Robert De Niro won the best supporting actor Oscar playing Vito Corleone as a young man. Coppolas quot;The Godfather: Part III,quot; released in 1990, did not repeat the success of the first two films.quot;One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nestquot; captured all four top Academy Awards, a feat that had not been accomplished in more than 40 years (not since quot;It Happened One Night.quot;) Besides best picture, the movie took home Oscars for best director (Milos Forman), actor (Jack Nicholson) and actress (Louise Fletcher). It won a fifth for best adapted screenplay. In this film of Ken Keseys novel, Nicholson, second from left, struck a chord with audiences as McMurphy, a rebellious inmate in a mental institution who faces off against the ultimate authority figure, Nurse Ratched (Fletcher).Sylvester Stallone, left, as struggling boxer Rocky Balboa, gets his shot at the championship against Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed in this best picture winner. Like its hero, quot;Rockyquot; was an underdog, a low-budget film written by Stallone, then an unknown actor, that became one of the decades biggest sleeper hits. Stallone would go on to make five sequels.Moviegoers fell in love with Diane Keaton in her Oscar-winning role as the ditsy, insecure heroine of Woody Allens autobiographical quot;Annie Hall.quot; Her thrift-store fashions and offbeat sayings (quot;La-di-da, la-di-daquot;) became hallmarks of the late 70s. Allen won Oscars for best director and original screenplay (with Marshall Brickman) for the film.Hollywood began to explore the Vietnam War in the late 70s. Michael Ciminos quot;The Deer Hunterquot; examined the effects on steelworkers, from left, John Cazale, Chuck Aspegren, Robert De Niro, John Savage and Christopher Walken. Cimino and Walken also won Oscars for best director and best supporting actor, respectively.Dustin Hoffman played a bewildered dad who had paid little attention to family life until his wife leaves him and he has to raise their son (Justin Henry, right) alone in quot;Kramer vs. Kramer.quot; A bitter custody battle ensues once the wife (played by Meryl Streep) decides she wants her son back. Both Hoffman (best actor) and Streep (best supporting actress) won Oscars for their roles, and Robert Benton took home direction and writing honors for the film.Timothy Hutton, right, played a suicidal young man struggling to cope with the death of his brother in quot;Ordinary People,quot; the first film directed by actor Robert Redford. Donald Sutherland, left, was his helpless father, and Mary Tyler Moore surprised audiences with her portrayal as Huttons icy, controlling mother.In another Oscar sleeper, quot;Chariots of Fire,quot; a small British film about two English runners competing in the 1924 Olympics, beat Warren Beattys epic film quot;Redsquot; for best picture. quot;Chariotsquot; won four Oscars, including one for its stirring score by Vangelis. The theme music also hit No. 1 on the pop charts. Beatty wasnt entirely shut out: He picked up the Oscar for best director.Director Richard Attenboroughs epic, three-hour film about the life of Mohandas K. quot;Mahatmaquot; Gandhi won eight Oscars. Ben Kingsley, here with Candice Bergen, played the inspiring leader who used nonviolent tactics to help establish the modern country of India. Among the films it beat for best picture: quot;E.T. The Extra-Terrestrialquot; and quot;Tootsie.quot;Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson starred in James L. Brooks adaptation of Larry McMurtrys novel about an up-and-down mother-daughter relationship. Brooks produced, directed and wrote the film and won Oscars for all three (best picture goes to the producer); to this day, hes the only person to pull off the trick solo.Another epic, quot;Amadeusquot; was based on Peter Shaffers award-winning play about composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) and his rival, Antonio Salieri. The film won eight Oscars, including awards for director Milos Forman -- his second, after quot;One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nestquot; -- and star F. Murray Abraham, who played Salieri. Isak Dinesens autobiographical book was turned into a movie that won seven Oscars. Meryl Streep stars as the independent-minded Danish author who spent part of her married life in British East Africa, later Kenya. She falls for a big-game hunter, played by Robert Redford, while her fragile marriage falls apart. quot;Platoonquot; made headlines in 1986 for its blunt and unsparing look at the U.S. experience in Vietnam. It follows a small group of men, including leaders Willem Dafoe, pictured, and Tom Berenger, who play on the loyalties of raw recruit Charlie Sheen. The film made director and writer Oliver Stone, himself a Vietnam veteran, a household name. quot;Platoonquot; won four Oscars, including best picture and best director.Director Bernardo Bertoluccis film about the life of Chinese emperor Puyi won nine Oscars -- quite an achievement, considering it was nominated for zero awards in the acting categories. Besides best picture, it also won best director, best adapted screenplay and best cinematography, among others.Though quot;Rain Manquot; is ostensibly about the relationship between Dustin Hoffmans autistic Raymond Babbitt and his brother, Charlie (Tom Cruise), its probably best remembered for Hoffmans performance as a savant who can do complicated calculations in his head, count cards in Las Vegas and never miss an episode of Judge Joseph Wapners quot;Peoples Court.quot; The film won four Oscars, including a best actor award for Hoffman and a best director trophy for Barry Levinson.Stage actress Jessica Tandy finally became a movie star at age 80 as an Atlanta Jewish matriarch who develops a close relationship with her driver, Hoke, played by Morgan Freeman, in Bruce Beresfords film of Alfred Uhrys Pulitzer Prize-winning play. quot;Driving Miss Daisyquot; didnt compete for best picture against some of the years most acclaimed movies -- quot;Sex, Lies, and Videotape,quot; quot;Do the Right Thingquot; and quot;Drugstore Cowboyquot; werent nominated for the top award.In what was essentially a two-horse race, Kevin Costners three-hour quot;Dances With Wolvesquot; faced off against one of Martin Scorseses best, quot;Goodfellas.quot; quot;Dances With Wolves,quot; about a Civil War soldier who falls in with a Lakota tribe in the American West, was the decisive winner, earning best picture, best director for Costner and best adapted screenplay for Michael Blake, three of its seven Oscars. quot;Goodfellasquot; won just one: Joe Pescis best supporting actor trophy. Its rare that a film released early in the year manages to even get nominated for best picture, not to mention winning the award, but quot;Lambsquot; -- based on the Thomas Harris novel about a serial killer helping an FBI agent to catch another killer -- took home best picture, best actor (Anthony Hopkins, who plays Hannibal Lecter), best actress (Jodie Foster), best director (Jonathan Demme) and best adapted screenplay. Hopkins performance had relatively little screen time -- less than 20 minutes -- but was so commanding he can be credited for the continuing fascination with Lecter, who now headlines an NBC series.quot;Its a hell of a thing, killing a man,quot; says Clint Eastwoods gunfighter, William Munny, in quot;Unforgivenquot; -- and, indeed, the Western can be seen as one of Eastwoods many meditations on the impact of violence in society. The actor and director plays Munny, a retired outlaw who is drawn back into his old role to avenge himself on a brutal sheriff (Gene Hackman). quot;Unforgivenquot; was just the third Western to win best picture, after quot;Cimarronquot; (1931) and quot;Dances With Wolvesquot; (1990).By 1993, Steven Spielberg was already known as one of the great directors in Hollywood history, but an Oscar had eluded him. That changed with quot;Schindlers List,quot; a gripping story about a German industrialist who saved more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. The film earned honors for picture, director, adapted screenplay and cinematography.Tom Hanks plays a Southern bumpkin who always seems to be in proximity to great events, whether they be the Vietnam War, U.S.-Chinese ping-pong diplomacy or the writing of quot;Imagine.quot; Though some critics hooted, the film was a popular success and also won Oscars for Hanks, director Robert Zemeckis and adapted screenplay -- six in all.Mel Gibson directed and starred in the story of Scottish warrior William Wallace, who led the Scottish army against English invaders led by King Edward I. The film won five Oscars, including best picture and best director, and has led to countless sports teams yelling quot;Freedom!quot; as they go up against opponents.Some found it lyrical. Others, such as an episode of quot;Seinfeld,quot; mocked it as boring. Either way, quot;The English Patient,quot; with Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, was a huge hit with audiences and critics -- and with the academy, which bestowed nine Oscars on the film about a burned British soldier and a loving nurse. Among the winners: director Anthony Minghella and supporting actress Juliette Binoche.In the months leading up to its release, quot;Titanicquot; was rumored to be as big a disaster as the ship on which its story was based. But director James Cameron had the last laugh: When the final results were tallied, quot;Titanic,quot; with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, had become the biggest box-office hit of all time (since surpassed by another Cameron film, quot;Avatarquot;) and winner of 11 Oscars -- the most of any film since 1959s quot;Ben-Hur.quot; Cameron took home a trophy for best director, too.Was the film really that good or had Harvey Weinstein, its co-producer and head of studio Miramax, done an exceptionally good job at lobbying? Either way, there were gasps when best picture went to quot;Shakespearequot; and not to favorite quot;Saving Private Ryan.quot; Still, quot;Shakespearequot; had plenty going for it, including an Oscar-winning best actress performance by Gwyneth Paltrow (here with Joseph Fiennes) and a clever script by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. It won seven Oscars total. Kevin Spacey stars as a frustrated middle manager who develops a crush on one of his daughters friends (Mena Suvari) in quot;American Beauty.quot; Besides the big prize, the film won best director for Sam Mendes and best actor for Spacey as part of its five Oscars. Also immortalized: a plastic bag blowing in the breeze.Russell Crowe stars as Maximus in quot;Gladiator,quot; the hugely successful Ridley Scott film about a warrior in ancient Rome. The film took home five Oscars, including best actor for Crowe.quot;A Beautiful Mind,quot; the story of troubled mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe) and his battle with mental illness, won four Oscars. For years, musicals had had a rough time at the Oscars -- indeed, theyd had a rough time in Hollywood, period -- until 2002s quot;Chicagoquot; won best picture. The movie, which stars Renee Zellweger as a wily murderess in 1920s Chicago, won six Oscars.The final film in Peter Jacksons quot;The Lord of the Ringsquot; trilogy, quot;The Return of the King,quot; swept all 11 categories in which it was nominated -- including best picture. From left, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis and Sean Astin play three of J.R.R. Tolkiens characters: Frodo Baggins, Gollum and Samwise Gamgee. quot;Million Dollar Babyquot; is about an old trainer (Clint Eastwood, left, with Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank) who takes on a female boxer, with unforeseen consequences. The film won four Oscars, including a directing prize for Eastwood, best actress for Swank and best supporting actor for Freeman.Few best pictures have been as polarizing as quot;Crash,quot; about the criss-crossing lives of several Los Angeles residents. The film touches on issues of race and justice and stars -- among many others -- Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon.Director Martin Scorseses films were often well-reviewed but couldnt win the big prize, until quot;The Departed,quot; about a Boston gangster and some corrupt cops. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, left, Ray Winstone, and Jack Nicholson, right.The Coen brothers grim quot;No Country for Old Men,quot; about a Texas drug deal gone wrong, won four Oscars. Javier Bardem received a best supporting actor award for his portrayal of the brutal enforcer Anton Chigurh, who carries around a lethal bolt gun and doesnt hesitate to use it.Another little movie that paid off big, quot;Slumdog Millionairequot; was slated to go straight to video until its American distributor found a partner. The sleeper film, about a poor Indian man (Dev Patel, left) whose success on quot;Who Wants to Be a Millionairequot; is questioned by a suspicious detective, won eight Oscars.In a David-vs.-Goliath scenario, quot;Avatar,quot; James Camerons big-budget box office king, was pitted against quot;The Hurt Locker,quot; a low-budget film about a bomb disposal unit in the Iraq War. quot;The Hurt Lockerquot; won six Oscars, including best picture and best director (Kathryn Bigelow, one of Camerons ex-wives).quot;The Kings Speech,quot; about Englands King George VI and how he overcame his stutter, won four Oscars, including a best actor trophy for star Colin Firth. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo star in quot;The Artist,quot; the first (mostly) silent film to win best picture since 1927s quot;Wings.quot; The film, about the fall and rise of a silent film star, won five Oscars. quot;Argo,quot; based on a 1980 operation to free some of the American hostages during the Iran hostage crisis, won three Oscars: best picture, best adapted screenplay and best film editing. Ben Affleck, right, directed and starred.Benedict Cumberbatch, left, and Chiwetel Ejiofor appear in quot;12 Years a Slave,quot; which won the Oscar in 2013. The story of Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), a free African-American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, won three awards: best picture, best supporting actress (Lupita Nyongo) and best adapted screenplay (John Ridley).01 oscar best picturebroadway melody RESTRICTED03 oscar best picture04 oscar best picture RESTRICTED05 oscar best picture06 oscar best picture RESTRICTED07 oscar best picture08 oscar best picture09 oscar best picture10 oscar best picture11 oscar best picture RESTRICTED12 oscar best picture13 oscar best picture14 oscar best picture15 oscar best picture16 oscar best picture17 oscar best picture18 oscar best picture RESTRICTED19 oscar best picture RESTRICTED20 oscar best picture RESTRICTED21 oscar best picture 22 oscar best picture RESTRICTED23 oscar best picture 24 oscar best picture 25 oscar best picture 26 oscar best picture 27 oscar best picture 28 oscar best picture RESTRICTED29 oscar best picture30 oscar best picture 31 oscar best picture32 oscar best picture 33 oscar best picture 34 oscar best picture35 oscar best picture 36 oscar best picture 37 oscar best picture38 oscar best picture 39 oscar best picture 40 oscar best picture 41 oscar best picture 42 oscar best picture 43 oscar best picture RESTRICTED44 oscar best picture RESTRICTED45 oscar best picture46 oscar best picture 47 oscar best picture RESTRICTED48 oscar best picture 49 oscar best picture 50 oscar best picture 51 oscar best picture 52 oscar best picture RESTRICTED53 oscar best picture RESTRICTED54 oscar best picture 55 oscar best picture 56 oscar best picture 57 oscar best picture RESTRICTED58 oscar best picture 59 oscar best picture RESTRICTED60 oscar best picture 61 oscar best picture 62 oscar best picture RESTRICTED63 oscar best picture 64 oscar best picture 65 oscar best picture 66 oscar best picture 67 oscar best picture 68 oscar best picture 69 oscar best picture 70 oscar best picture 71 oscar best picture72 oscar best picture73 oscar best picture 74 oscar best picture 75 oscar best picture 76 oscar best picture 77 oscar best picture 78 oscar best picture 79 oscar best picture80 oscar best picture RESTRICTED81 oscar best picture82 oscar best picture83 oscar best picture84 oscar best picture85 oscar best picture01 Golden Globes 1212

    « Boyhood, » on the other hand, finds its truths in small moments in the life of its central character, a 6-year-old boy (Ellar Coltrane) who was revisited in real time by director Richard Linklater over more than a decade. It’s meandering and charming where « Birdman » is in-your-face and cutting.

    « Boyhood » director Richard Linklater had a just-happy-to-be-here attitude about his unlikely best picture nominee.

    « We had a lot of people pulling for us, » he told CNN on the red carpet. « We’ll take whatever we get. »

    « Boyhood » seemed to have the early edge, but recent victories for « Birdman » — including wins at the Producers Guild Awards and Saturday’s Independent Spirit honors — have made it the frontrunner.

    Not that best picture is a sure thing for either movie. « American Sniper, » Clint Eastwood’s film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, has been a much talked about box office smash and could sneak into the winner’s circle (toting an obviously fake baby, no doubt). Certainly star Bradley Cooper, up for his third straight Oscar, may be gaining in the best actor race.

    #AskHerMore

    The weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the celebrities arriving for Hollywood’s biggest night, though their outfits appear subdued in color, with lots of whites, blacks, silvers and grays.

    Lady Gaga added some red with what appeared to be exaggerated dishwashing gloves.

    Best supporting actress nominee Patricia Arquette decided to split the difference between black and white, with her gown consisting of a white top and black skirt.

    So did comedian Kevin Hart, who was wearing a tuxedo featuring a white jacket with black lapels, along with a black shirt, black tie and white pants.

    « When you’re on the red carpet, you might as well pop, » he told CNN.

    However, a Twitter hashtag was encouraging interviewers to ask celebrities more than just « Who are you wearing? » The trending hashtag was #AskHerMore.

    NPH and ‘anticipation’

    Last year’s Oscars featured host Ellen DeGeneres and trended on Twitter as well, setting a record for most retweeted photo. This year, Neil Patrick Harris is handling the hosting duties. He’s proven to be an able emcee, having handled the Tonys and Emmys, but this is his first time in the Oscar crucible.

    Neil Patrick Harris, seen here hosting the 65th annual Tony Awards, has been tapped to emcee the Academy Awards ceremony in February 2015. Harris says its a dream come true. Lets see how he stacks up against hosts of Oscars past ...Neil Patrick Harris, seen here hosting the 65th annual Tony Awards, has been tapped to emcee the Academy Awards ceremony in February 2015. Harris says its a dream come true. Lets see how he stacks up against hosts of Oscars past ...Neil Patrick Harris, seen here hosting the 65th annual Tony Awards, has been tapped to emcee the Academy Awards ceremony in February 2015. Harris says its a dream come true. Lets see how he stacks up against hosts of Oscars past ...Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Academy Awards for the second time in 2014; her first shot at the gig was in 2007. She posed for a selfie mid-show with several famous faces during her second time out and kept the tone congenial. Some critics panned her jokes as mean-spirited, but viewers gave her a lt;a href=quot;http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/03/how-did-ellen-degeneres-do-as-oscars-host/quot;gt;big thumbs uplt;/agt; in a CNN poll.We are not making this up. In 1958, an animated (and bare-bottomed) Donald Duck co-hosted the show with Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, Rosalind Russell and James Stewart. In 1987, quot;Crocodile Dundeequot; star Paul Hogan co-hosted the show along with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. Even Hogan lt;a href=quot;http://blogs.abc.net.au/wa/2013/11/im-the-only-person-to-open-the-oscars-without-a-script-paul-hogans-recalls-his-big-buzz.html?site=perthamp;program=720_afternoonsquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;has said the experience felt like quot;a surreal moment.quot;lt;/agt;Hugh Jackman was high-energy, classy and charming when he hosted the Oscars in 2009. Who could have imagined it from Wolverine?After hosting the Academy Awards nine times from 1990 to 2012 (he also opened the 2006 Oscars), its no secret that Billy Crystal knows how to put on a good show. One of the veteran hosts most notable skits took place in 1992. Crystal lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9cERvUX6sEquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;took the stage wearing a Hannibal Lecter masklt;/agt; because quot;The Silence of the Lambsquot; was nominated for seven awards. (The thriller won best picture.)Johnny Carson, the king of late night, hosted the Academy Awards five times between 1979 and 1984. lt;a href=quot;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuTVeNS0ggYquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Carson never failed to make the audience laugh.lt;/agt;In 2010, three-time host Steve Martin teamed up with his quot;Its Complicatedquot; co-star Alec Baldwin. The pair earned laughs with their repartee and told some lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBZj7qIOAE8quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;hilarious, lighthearted jokes lt;/agt;at the expense of those present.The fact that Bob Hope hosted the Academy Awards 14 times is enough to earn him a spot on this list. Whether Hope was hosting or co-hosting, he seemed to receive praise from critics. The Academy honored him with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1960.Four-time host Whoopi Goldberg has found plenty of creative ways to open the Oscars, from dressing as the lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x67vxDnszsquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;quot;African Queenquot; in 1999lt;/agt; to lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyJmYXb-b6Uquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;entering from the ceiling in 2002lt;/agt;. But it was the 1996 Academy Awards that earned Goldberg, the first African-American woman to host the show, a spot on this list. quot;So. Didja miss me?quot; the comedian said as she took the stage. The quip referenced David Lettermans failed attempt at hosting the year before.Two-time host Jon Stewart was entertaining as ever when he took the stage in 2008 after the lt;a href=quot;http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fi-strike13feb13,0,1808341.storyquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Hollywood writers strikelt;/agt; had come to an end. With best picture nominees such as quot;There Will Be Bloodquot; and quot;No Country for Old Menquot; (which won), lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eseTSTeF_jEquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;Stewart jokedlt;/agt;, quot;Does this town need a hug?quot; Referencing another contender, quot;Juno,quot; Stewart added, quot;All I can say is thank God for teen pregnancy.quot;Critics blasted David Letterman for his hosting abilities after he told -- and retold -- the same joke over and over again at the 1995 Oscars. The quot;Late Showquot; host just didnt know when to quit with his lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-BJTE56I14quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;quot;Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah,quot; gag.lt;/agt;Chris Rock learned a valuable lesson from hosting the 2005 Academy Awards: Dont diss Jude Law. While Rock was praised by some critics for being himself, he was also chastised by those who simply couldnt take thelt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvbFwj__frgquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt; joke(s).lt;/agt;People had high hopes for Chevy Chase in 1988 after Chase co-hosted the ceremony lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJaOo5jw6cIquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;the year beforelt;/agt; with Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan. However, the comedian sealed his fate the moment he delivered his opening line, quot;Good evening, Hollywood phonies.quot;Three-time host Jerry Lewis had to resort to improvisation when he hosted the 1959 Academy Awards alongside Bob Hope, David Niven, Sir Laurence Olivier, Tony Randall and Mort Sahl. lt;a href=quot;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE9XmZDIjXgquot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;The show ended earlylt;/agt;, leaving Lewis to fill 20 minutes of airtime by bringing stars on stage and making them dance.Anne Hathaway and James Franco are two of the most lt;a href=quot;http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/28/oscars-the-bomb-heard-round-the-internet/quot;gt;awkward lt;/agt;hosts in the history of the Academy Awards. Hathaway got flak for trying too hard, while Franco was criticized for having his head in the clouds. quot;The worst Oscarcast Ive seen, and I go back awhile,quot; Roger Ebert tweeted. quot;Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water.quot;The reviews were mixed for Seth MacFarlane when he hosted the show in 2013. While the ratings were high, there was controversy with some of the jokes and tone. The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, lt;a href=quot;http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/movies/awardsseason/higher-ratings-and-controversy-for-seth-macfarlane-at-oscars.html?_r=0quot; target=quot;_blankquot;gt;speaking about one skit to the New York Timeslt;/agt;, said: quot;It wasnt funny. It was ugly.quot; 15 neil patrick harris ellen celebrity selfie oscarsoscar host restricted01 oscar host02 oscar hostoscar hosts Billy Crystaloscar hosts Johnny Carson 53rd oscarsoscar hosts Steve Martinoscar hosts Bob Hope 25th oscarsoscar hosts Whoopi Goldbergoscar hosts Jon Stewartoscar hosts David Letterman oscar hosts Chris Rockoscar hosts Chevy Chaseoscar hosts Jerry Lewis oscar hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco03 oscar host

    He’ll have his game face on, but he told the Los Angeles Times that it’s a « lose-lose » proposition.

    « (There’s) so much anticipation, and so many (Oscar-viewing) parties where people are hoping that things go wrong. It’s not really an audience wanting you to win, » he told the Los Angeles Times.

    Well, maybe his night will be interrupted by some politics.

    There was a lot of surprise when « Selma, » the film about the 1965 civil rights march, received just two nominations (including one for best picture) and none of its performers received acting nominations. In fact, the lack of diversity among performers in general prompted the hashtag « #OscarsSoWhite. »

    Moreover, one of the nominees for best documentary is « CitizenFour, » about Edward Snowden and the NSA. If it wins — and it’s considered the frontrunner — there may be chatter about the role of surveillance in modern society.

    Shoo-ins and surprises

    Both topics may be played for laughs, of course. The Oscars’ opening number is an excuse for Hollywood to poke fun at itself, and there’s any number of people and activities waiting to be exploited — whether it’s lack of diversity or the Sony hacking scandal.

    The Golden Raspberry Awards, or the Razzies, go to the films and performances judged the worst of the year. Kirk Camerons quot;Saving Christmas,quot; a quot;family filmquot; about putting Christ back in Christmas, won for worst picture and worst screenplay. The former quot;Growing Painsquot; actor and evangelical minister won for worst actor and worst screen combo, a distinction he shared with quot;his ego.quot;  Click through the gallery for more quot;winners.quot;The Golden Raspberry Awards, or the Razzies, go to the films and performances judged the worst of the year. Kirk Camerons quot;Saving Christmas,quot; a quot;family filmquot; about putting Christ back in Christmas, won for worst picture and worst screenplay. The former quot;Growing Painsquot; actor and evangelical minister won for worst actor and worst screen combo, a distinction he shared with quot;his ego.quot;  Click through the gallery for more quot;winners.quot;The Golden Raspberry Awards, or the Razzies, go to the films and performances judged the worst of the year. Kirk Camerons quot;Saving Christmas,quot; a quot;family filmquot; about putting Christ back in Christmas, won for worst picture and worst screenplay. The former quot;Growing Painsquot; actor and evangelical minister won for worst actor and worst screen combo, a distinction he shared with quot;his ego.quot;  Click through the gallery for more quot;winners.quot;Cameron Diazs performances in quot;Sex Tape,quot; pictured, and quot;The Other Womanquot; secured her Razzie for worst actress.Megan Fox was recognized for her supporting role in quot;Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.quot;Kelsey Grammer was a quadruple threat, winning the worst supporting actor award for his roles in quot;Expendables 3,quot; quot;Legends of Oz,quot; quot;Think Like a Man Tooquot; and quot;Transformers: Age of Extinction.quot;Michael Bay received the Razzie for worst director for quot;Transformers: Age of Extinction.quot;quot;Anniequot; received the award for worst remake, rip-off or sequel.Ben Affleck was awarded the Razzie Redeemer for his transformation from Razzie winner, for quot;Gigli,quot; to Oscar darling for his roles in quot;Gone Girlquot; and quot;Argo.quot;saving christmas - razziessex tape moviemegan fox tmntexpendables 3 grammertransformers4annie movie remake affleck gone girl

    After that, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. Some categories have long been considered shoo-ins for certain performers — if J.K. Simmons doesn’t win best supporting actor, jaws will fall all over Hollywood — while others, including best picture, may go down to the wire.

    It could make for an electric night — rain notwithstanding.

    The 87th Academy Awards begin at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The show airs from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.

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