12 Years a Slave, the epic drama by British director Steve McQueen has gained further momentum ahead of tonight’s Academy Awards after sweeping up at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday.
The movie, adapted from a 1853 memoir, won five of its seven nominations, including best feature and best director at the ceremony for independent movies made on small budgets.
Oscar frontrunners Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o also took home Spirit Award trophies on the eve of the industry's biggest honors.
Usually a sunny and crisp affair, this year the Spirit Awards, held in a giant tent on California's Santa Monica beach, was filled with umbrellas as bursts of heavy rain pattered down.
Nearby, the unusual stormy weather has also hampered preparations for the Oscars, with the soaked red carpet looking more like it belongs in rainy London than sunny Hollywood - perhaps a good omen for the 20 plus British nominations.
Oscar predictions 2014: The main contenders
Oscar predictions 2014: The main contenders
1/16 American Hustle
Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper star in David O Russell's dark comedy - but will Hustle win over Best Picture favourite 12 Years a Slave?
2/16 12 Years a Slave
It won Best Drama at the Golden Globes but whether 12 Years a Slave can take the Oscar for Best Picture ahead of Hustle, Gravity and The Wolf of Wall Street remains to be seen
Space adventure Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is another likely Oscar winner. Bullock is a favourite for Best Actress, Alfonso Cuaron may repeat his Golden Globes win for Best Director and the film as a whole could well take Best Picture
4/16 Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks' role in Captain Phillips - about a ship being hijacked by Somali pirates - is a strong contender for both Best Picture and Best Actor, despite no Golden Globe wins
5/16 Saving Mr Banks
It may have an outside chance for Best Picture at the Oscars, but Emma Thompson's role as PL Travers was nominated for Best Actress at the Golden Globes
Philomena is a British underdog for Best Picture, but it did earn a Best Drama nod at the Golden Globes
7/16 Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor is the bookies' favourite to win Best Actor for his role as Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave
8/16 Matthew McConaughey
McConaughey is tipped as Ejiofor's biggest rival for the Best Actor Oscar, for his role as an AIDs sufferer and campaigner in Dallas Buyers Club. He won the Golden Globe for his performance
9/16 Leonardo Di Caprio
Could DiCaprio finally win an Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street, or will Chiwetel Ejiofor, Robert Redford or Matthew McConaughey pip him to the post?
10/16 Robert Redford
Redford's performance as a resourceful sailor in All Is Lost earned him praise, making him a possible Best Actor contender at the Oscars
11/16 Bruce Dern
Another underdog, but Bruce Dern's role in Nebraska was widely-acclaimed and may see him earn at least an Oscar nod if not a win
12/16 Cate Blanchett
Blanchett's performance as a rich but troubled Manhattan socialite in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress. She is currently the outright favourite to win the Oscar too at 1/8
13/16 Lupita Nyong'o
The Kenyan actress plays gutsy cotton picker Patsey in 12 Years a Slave but can she rival likely competition from more-established stars such as Jennifer Lawrence?
14/16 Amy Adams
Her leading role in American Hustle earned her a Best Actress Golden Globe, making Adams, pictured here with co-star Bradley Cooper, a top contender for Best Actress at the Oscars
15/16 Jennifer Lawrence
She famously tripped up the stairs en route to accept her Best Actress award at last year's Oscars, but can Jennifer Lawrence take an accolade again for her supporting role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle?
16/16 Steve McQueen
12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiofor talk on set - the British director is a strong contender for Best Director this year
12 Years a Slave faces stiff competition from another British affair - Gravity - in the fight for best film. But despite the two being front-runners, there are a number of other strong contenders to come out of 2013, a year widely regarded as one of the most high quality for film and performances in recent memory.
The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, called it the best line-up “in the last decade or so.”
There is an undeniable sense of history behind 12 Years a Slave however - a film about the brutal treatment of black slaves in America, it would become the first film directed by a black person to take the top prize in the award’s 86 year history.Reuse content