The 87th Academy Awards will be buzzing with something the Oscars haven't always had in recent years: genuine intrigue at who the night's biggest winners will be.
With a co-leading nine nominations, Alejandro Inarritu's backstage comedy Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) flies in with the strongest wind at its back.
It topped the acting, directing and producing guild awards, which are often strong predictors of what the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will vote for.
Shimmering beads and jewels broke through an unusually dreary rainy afternoon in Hollywood on Sunday as the film industry's beautiful and powerful hit the glamorous Oscars red carpet.
Julianne Moore, Felicity Jones, Rosamund Pike and more donned dresses with sparkle and shine as they arrived for the biggest night for the movie business. Silver and red were early popular colors on the carpet.
Jones, nominated for best actress for The Theory of Everything, wore a fairy tale-inspired Alexander McQueen gray gown with a beaded halter bodice and full skirt. She said she chose the design for "the strength and femininity."
Rosamund Pike, nominated for best actress for Gone Girl, wore a red strapless Givenchy gown with beading that gave it the appearance of layered rose petals.
Moore, who is favored to win the best actress prize for Still Alice, wore a strapless white beaded Chanel gown with black accents.
Naomi Watts, one of the stars of Birdman, shimmered in an Armani Prive gown with head-to-toe silver and black beads.
Best supporting actress nominee Patricia Arquette bucked the shine trend with an understated black and white off-the-shoulder gown designed by her childhood friend, Rosanna Getty.
Clear plastic tents shielded fans and the carpet itself from alternating moments of stormy weather and bright sun.
Birdman won best feature at Saturday's Independent Film Spirit Awards, further boosting its momentum. At the pre-Oscars beachside bash, star Michael Keaton, who won best actor, proclaimed the film "bold cinema" and "a game changer," a judgment shared by many in Hollywood who no doubt recognise something in Keaton's character's out-of-control ego.
But the coronation of Birdman is far from assured. Many believe the landmark of Richard Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood will ultimately prove irresistible to academy members. Best director also appears to be a toss-up between Inarritu and Linklater.
Three of the acting winners - Julianne Moore (Still Alice), JK Simmons (Whiplash) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) - are virtual locks going into Sunday's show, but best actor will be a nail biter.
It could be the young British star Eddie Redmayne for his technically nuanced performance as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, or it could be Keaton's career-topper in Birdman, as an actor trying to flee his superhero past.
But whether suspense will be enough to pull viewers to the telecast on ABC remains to be seen. Host Neil Patrick Harris will hope to continue the recent ratings upswing for the Oscars, which last year drew 43 million viewers, making it the most-watched entertainment telecast in a decade.
This year's crop of nominees, however, is notably light on box-office smashes. Clint Eastwood's American Sniper (six nominations including best picture) is the only best-picture candidate to gross more than $100 million domestically. (A runaway hit, it recently surpassed $300 million.)
Possibly worse for the Oscars is that the lack of diversity in the nominees this year (all 20 nominated actors are white) turned off many potential viewers and led some to call for a boycott of the broadcast. Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are likely to aim for a telecast more inclusive than the nominees.
Planned performers include Lady Gaga, Jack Black, Jennifer Hudson and Anna Kendrick, as well as Oscar-nominated original songs: Common and John Legend (Glory from Selma), Maroon 5 (Lost Stars from Begin Again), Tim McGraw (I'm Not Gonna Miss You from Glen Campbell), Rita Ora (Grateful from Beyond the Lights) and Tegan and Sara with the Lonely Island (Everything Is Awesome from The Lego Movie).
Oprah Winfrey (a co-star in Selma) will be among the presenters, as will Eddie Murphy, Chris Pratt, Kevin Hart, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Cate Blanchett, Channing Tatum and John Travolta.
Increasingly, ratings are driven by moments that spark social media frenzy, like when Travolta famously mispronounced the name of singer Idina Menzel as Adele Dazeem at last year's show. Sunday night, he gets a chance for redemption.