Hollywood's glitziest night is under way as Academy Awards nominees in their finest gowns and tuxes hit the red carpet for Sunday's show, with nominees Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams and Charlize Theron among the more statuesque arrivals.
Chastain, a best-actress contender for "Zero Dark Thirty," blew a kiss to cheering fans while wearing a glistening copper-tone strapless gown, who chanted "Jessica!" while hunky best-actor nominee Bradley Cooper of "Silver Linings Playbook" drew some of the loudest screams from fans. Amanda Seyfried revealed she was wearing a corset: "I feel super tucked in," she said.
Composer Mychael Danna, a dual nominee for the score and theme song to "Life of Pi," joked with red-carpet host Chris Connelly that he was keeping his acceptance speeches in separate pockets of his tuxedo.
Keeping them straight, Danna said, "is one of the reasons I won't be having any cocktails before I go in."
Nine-year-old best-actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" sang a few bars of "Tomorrow" from "Annie," the upcoming movie musical whose title role she snagged in an announcement from Sony Pictures earlier Sunday. She wore a navy-blue dress with black, navy and silver jewels scattered on the skirt and a big bow on the back.
Chef Wolfgang Puck showed off some of the eats he'll be serving at the Governors Ball after the show, including baked potatoes with caviar, smoked salmon oscars, chicken pot pie with truffle and kobe steak.
"It's going to be the greatest party ever," Puck said.
A giant black-and-white photo of Oscar host Seth MacFarlane towered over the carpet, and some of his family also were among early arrivals, including his sister and father, who wore a green plaid kilt.
"It's not going to be too over the top," said MacFarlane's sister Rachel of her sibling's gig.
Fans have pondered how far MacFarlane the impudent creator of "Family Guy," might push the normally prim and proper Oscars.
MacFarlane may be a wild card, but as for the show itself, predictability could be the Academy Awards' middle name. This time looks the same, with clear favorites in the main categories.
So Oscar organizers hope they've assembled a show that will be good time on its own performance merits, with wily, bawdy writer, director, animator, singer and all-around vocal talent MacFarlane as host and a ceremony packed with song and dance.
The awards themselves do hold some potential firsts and other rarities.
Ben Affleck's "Argo" looks like it will be an uncommon film to claim best picture without a directing nomination, while "Lincoln" filmmaker Steven Spielberg and star Daniel Day-Lewis are favored to join exclusive lists of three-time Oscar winners.
If some longshots came in, the night could produce two more three-time acting winners — Sally Field from "Lincoln" and Robert De Niro for "Silver Linings Playbook."
There's also a chance of the oldest or youngest acting winner ever — 86-year-old "Amour" star Emmanuelle Riva and 9-year-old Wallis for "Beasts."
The ABC broadcast itself could set some fresh highs or lows. Oscar overseers keep talking about pacing and trimming fat from a ceremony that's dragged on interminably, approaching four and a half hours one year. Can they keep it tight and lively enough that viewers don't think about gouging out their eyes around the three-hour mark?
And what about host MacFarlane? He's a classy, low-key guy in person, with an old-fashioned Sinatra-style singing voice that he'll no doubt put to use in a show that's shaping up as a music-heavy, Broadway-style celebration of cinema.
Yet MacFarlane's career is built on pushing the envelope — or crumpling it and tossing it in the trash — as he's tested the boundaries of good taste with such brazen shows as his animated series "Family Guy" and last summer's F-bomb-laden blockbuster "Ted," which earned him a songwriting Oscar nomination.
The result could be a fun night for younger, hipper TV audiences that Oscar organizers are courting but a crude awakening for traditionalists who like their Academy Awards to lean more toward the sacred than the profane. Or it could be that MacFarlane makes the most of the thankless task of shepherding the Oscars, striking a nice balance between respecting Hollywood and poking it in the eye.
"I think a little bit of that injected into the mix will go a long way, but I do also have to be mindful, in this instance, of not losing the audience that's there every year," MacFarlane said amid a hectic rehearsal schedule. "It's a different audience from my own, but I do have to be respectful that they will be watching."
So maybe it's an Oscar show that's shaken, but not stirred up too much. That might suit one of the evening's special honorees, British super-spy James Bond, whose adventures will be the subject of a tribute to mark the 50th anniversary of his first big-screen outing in "Dr. No." Adele will perform her Oscar-nominated title tune to last year's Bond tale "Skyfall," while the show features Shirley Bassey, who sang the Bond theme songs for "Goldfinger," ''Diamonds Are Forever" and "Moonraker."
The show presents a salute to movie musicals of the last decade, with "Chicago" Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones and "Dreamgirls" winner Jennifer Hudson joining "Les Miserables" cast members that include best-actor nominee Hugh Jackman, supporting-actress front-runner Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter and Amanda Seyfried.
Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have lined up a bubbly mix of young and old Hollywood as presenters, performers and special guests — from Barbra Streisand, Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda to "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe, "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart, and Robert Downey Jr. and his superhero colleagues from "The Avengers."
Along with front-runners Day-Lewis as best actor for "Lincoln" and Hathaway as supporting actress for "Les Miserables," the other favorites are "Hunger Games" star Lawrence as best actress for "Silver Linings Playbook" and Tommy Lee Jones as supporting actor for "Lincoln."
Affleck's thriller "Argo" is in line for best picture after winning practically every top prize at earlier honors. Hollywood was shocked that Affleck was snubbed for a directing nomination, possibly earning the film some sympathy votes, particularly from actors, who love it when one of their own succeeds behind the camera.
The story of how Hollywood, Canada and the CIA teamed up to rescue six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis, "Argo" would become just the fourth film in 85 years to claim the top prize without a best-directing nomination and the first since 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy."
The best-picture prize typically ends the Oscar show, but this time, MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth will perform a closing number on the Dolby Theatre stage that producers Zadan and Meron called a "'can't miss' moment."
Keeping the wraps on whatever surprises they have in store has been a chore for them and MacFarlane.
"It's been difficult. The press, as you know, is very nosy and sneaky. They're always sniffing around trying to get any advance notice," MacFarlane said. "It's like (expletive) Christmas. Wait till Christmas morning. Don't spoil the surprise."