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Oscars 2015: Preview and predictions

Will it be a coming-of-age tale, a war movie, a civil rights drama or a story about a washed-up actor trying to make a comeback? Or perhaps something else?

Eight films will vie for best picture at the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday, set to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. They are: "Boyhood," "American Sniper," "Selma," "Birdman," "Whiplash," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Imitation Game" and "The Theory of Everything."

Right now signs are pointing to "Birdman" for the big win. The movie picked up a lot of honors already during awards season (including Producers Guild Award, Directors Guild Award and Screen Actors Guild Award), so it could be poised to scoop up the evening's top prize.

"In the 21 years that all three have been presenting awards only once have their top prizes gone to the same movie -- and that movie did not go on to win best picture. That was 'Apollo 13' -- 19 years ago. So, there's a lot of statistical indication that 'Birdman' should win," Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter's awards analyst, told CBS News.

Feinberg points out one facet that's not on the side of "Birdman": No movie in 24 years has scored best picture without a film editing nomination.

Still, though, Feinberg doesn't think that will work against the movie come Oscars night. If there were to be a "shocker," he thinks it could come from box-office hit "American Sniper," which has picked up momentum this year.

Best picture isn't the only category to watch out for come Oscars night. Buzz is building around best actor with nominees Bradley Cooper ("American Sniper"), Michael Keaton ("Birdman), Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything"), Benedict Cumberbatch ("The Imitation Game") and Steve Carell ("Foxcatcher").

Oscars 2015: Best Actor

Which nominee do you think should win the Academy Award?

Insiders are eyeing Cooper, Keaton and Redmayne for this category. Keaton has his veteran acting status and name recognition going for him.

Feinberg's pick, though, is Redmayne, who had a transformative performance as scientist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything."

"The last 10 winners of the Screen Actors Guild Award for best actor went on to win the Oscar. And he won that," said Feinberg.

Though don't count out Cooper, though, who plays Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood's sniper film. This marks his third consecutive nomination (following "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle") and there could be some momentum building for him.

"He's with the movie that's hot at the right moment," said Feinberg.

The best actress category seems to be a lock for Julianne Moore. Her performance as a woman with Alzheimer's disease in "Still Alice" has received award after award this season, topping fellow nominees Felicty Jones ("The Theory of Everything"), Reese Witherspoon ("Wild"), Rosamund Pike ("Gone Girl") and Marion Cotillard ("Two Days, One Night").

Oscars get a tech upgrade behind the scenes

The supporting acting categories also seem to be a lock. Insiders are going with Patricia Arquette for "Boyhood," who's competing against Emma Stone ("Birdman"), Meryl Streep ("Into the Woods"), Laura Dern ("Wild") and Keira Knightley ("The Imitation Game").

"She's run away with every award so far. She's so great in that movie. The mom of the year. She's got it in the bag," Dave Karger, host of Fandango's "Frontrunners," told CBS News.

The same goes for best the best supporting actor category with nominees Mark Ruffalo ("Foxcatcher"), Edward Norton ("Birdman"), J.K. Simmons ("Whiplash"), Robert Duvall ("The Judge") and Ethan Hawke ("Boyhood").

"J.K. Simmons has this wrapped up for 'Whiplash.' This, to me, is the performance of the year in any category," Karger said.

Feinberg echoed those sentiments, adding, "He's just won everything."

The best director category race is a close one with nominees Morten Tyldum ("The Imitation Game"), Bennett Miller ("Foxcatcher"), Alejandro González Iñárritu ("Birdman"), Richard Linklater ("Boyhood") and Wes Anderson ("The Grand Budapest Hotel").

What's in this year's Oscar swag bags?

"I think in a very, very tight race Richard Linklater is going to win for 'Boyhood' because people look at it and say, 'Even if I didn't love 'Boyhood,' the fact that he spent 12 years making the movie and it just took vision and commitment that no other project ever did," said Feinberg.

In between the award announcements, Neil Patrick Harris will take the stage as emcee of the ceremony.

When asked how nervous he is for the big show, Harris told The Associated Press, "Well, my job as host is to not be nervous when the show is happening. But I think, in life, being nervous about something that's forthcoming is very helpful, whether it's an awards show or a family gathering or a job interview. If you're too calm and confident, then I think you aren't executing to the best of your ability. So I try not to let nerves get the best of me, but I welcome them because it tends to fuel me to try harder."

He also says he's hoping to top Ellen DeGeneres' selfie from last year's Oscars. Just how, though, is unclear.

What we do know is that the previous Tony and Emmys host will perform "an original multimedia, musical sequence" called "Moving Pictures," written by Oscar-winning "Frozen" songwriting duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

And the nominees for best original song will take the stage, too.

Adam Levine will sing "Lost Stars" from the film "Begin Again"; Common and John Legend will perform "Glory" from "Selma"; Rita Ora will take on "Grateful" from "Beyond the Lights"; Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island will do a version of "Everything Is Awesome" from "The Lego Movie"; and Tim McGraw, will perform "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" from the documentary "Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me."

By the way, the best original song category is really up for grabs. Though "Glory" won a few awards already this season, Feinberg says don't be surprised to see Glen Campbell's song win. The academy voters often go with an artist they know, he says. Plus, Campbell's battle with Alzheimer's disease could sway voters.

There will be a couple of bonus performances as well. "Pitch Perfect" star Anna Kendrick will perform -- though we don't know what to expect, except "something special that is sure to be an 'Only on the Oscars' moment," according to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

Same goes for Jack Black, Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga, who are all expected to perform on the Oscars stage.

A star-studded list of presenters, including several previous Oscar winners, will be on hand at the ceremony: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Ansel Elgort, Chris Evans, Kevin Hart, Terrence Howard, Josh Hutcherson, Scarlett Johansson, Dakota Johnson, Felicity Jones, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Sienna Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Eddie Murphy, Liam Neeson, David Oyelowo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Margot Robbie, Zoe Saldana, Octavia Spencer, Channing Tatum, Miles Teller, John Travolta, Kerry Washington, Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong'o, Marion Cotillard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon.

The Oscars air live from the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center starting at 7 p.m. ET on ABC this Sunday.

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