The 3D film is likely to dominate the technical categories, with Alfonso Cuaron tipped for best director.
But Oscar watchers have predicted British director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave to win best picture.
The 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, take place at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
Outside the venue, a section of Hollywood Boulevard has been sealed off and the red carpet is covered over to protect it from an unusual spell of wet weather.
The final round of voting by the Academy’s 6,028 members ended on Tuesday.
Many of the nominees have been attending a flurry of pre-Oscar events and screenings in and around Los Angeles.
In what is considered to be the strongest field for many years there are nine contenders for best picture.
Predicting the best picture winner, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg said: “In a very close contest, 12 Years a Slave, though difficult to watch, gets the edge because, like many winners before it, it’s an adaptation of revered material, based on a true story about historical events that remain socially relevant.”
He said that, while the preferential ballot system could boost the prospects of American Hustle and Gravity, 12 Years a Slave felt more “important” than 3D science-fiction.
12 Years a Slave’s nine nominations include best director for McQueen.
The historical drama, about a free black man in New York kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana, is in a strong position, having already won a Golden Globe and a Bafta.
Its stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o have been nominated in the best actor, supporting actor and supporting actress categories.
American Hustle has nods in all four acting categories for its stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
Russell pulled off the same feat with with Silver Linings Playbook last year. Lawrence went on to win best actress.
British film Philomena, based on the true story of an Irish woman trying to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption, is up for four awards, including best picture and best actress for Dame Judi Dench.
Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and Her are also among the nine best picture nominees.