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Oscars 2014: Five things to watch for at tonight's show

We've done the "Hustle." (Wait. Wrong link. Try this.) We've been to outer space. Hell, we've even been blindfolded and taken on a spaceship all the way to Neptune.

And now, tonight, at 5:30 p.m. PST, it all comes to a (we hope) glorious end with the 86th Academy Awards live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

What can we expect from tonight's show? Here are five moments to watch:

OSCARS 2014: Full coverage | Complete list | Top nominees and winners

What movie will win best picture?

"Argo," "The Artist," "The King's Speech" ... by the time the final envelope has been opened the last few years, you could cut the suspense in the room with a spork. Not this year.

The three leading contenders have engaged in a game of awards-season musical chairs since December. "American Hustle" won the top prize from the New York Film Critics Circle. "Gravity" found favor with the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. "12 Years a Slave" and "Hustle" each won best picture awards at the Golden Globes in January. Then, a week later, "Hustle" took the Screen Actors Guild's ensemble award, while the Producers Guild's top prize ended in an unprecedented tie between "Gravity" and "12 Years." 

Most pundits are going with "12 Years," but the academy's preferential voting system, which favors movies liked by a broad consensus of voters, could tilt the contest toward "Gravity" or "Hustle."

Will Jennifer Lawrence win back-to-back Oscars?

Nominated for her supporting turn as the loose-cannon housewife in "Hustle," Lawrence could find her way back to the podium (remember: "Kick, walk, kick, walk" and not "cakewalk" this time) after winning the lead actress Oscar last year for "Silver Linings Playbook." Just 23, she'd be the youngest double Oscar winner, surpassing Luise Rainer, who won her second Oscar in 1938 when she was 28.

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Is Bono more powerful than an ice princess?

Having already established what song will not win, it would seem natural to assume that "Let It Go," the popular power ballad from Disney's "Frozen," will take the Oscar. But the academy is primarily composed of older male voters, steak eaters who may well be immune to the charms of pixie princesses and adorable snowmen. And these old dudes, these classic rock listeners, have an obvious alternative right there on the ballot, U2's "Ordinary Love," the anthem featured in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

Bono made the rounds this awards season, being greeted like ... get this ... a rock star. He was mobbed at the Oscar luncheon and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. And he had Harvey Weinstein backing him. "Ordinary Love" already beat "Let It Go" at the Golden Globes. It probably won't happen again, but if it does, those Disney singalongs might have a tinge of rage in the near future.

Could "American Hustle" get completely shut out?

David O. Russell's con artist comedy won 10 nominations, leading the field with "Gravity." But many pundits aren't picking it to take any category. Its strongest prospects come for original screenplay, where it's competing against Spike Jonze's acclaimed and adored "Her," costume design and, as mentioned, Lawrence for supporting actress.

FULL COVERAGE: 'American Hustle'

"How can you complain?" Russell said recently at a benefit event he did for the Santa Monica video store Vidiots. "And you know, if I have to sit on my behind for five hours at an event and watch other people win, so what? I'm just grateful to be included."

Why, again, is Pink going to be at the Oscars?

Is the singer taking the show's Cirque du Soleil slot this year? Will she sing a duet with Bette Midler? Or maybe do something acrobatic with Pharrell Williams' hat? Probably she's just there to give television critics something to complain about when reviewing the show.

We'll know for sure in a few hours, won't we?

ALSO:

Chaffeurs: A driving force for stars on Oscar night

Oscars 2014: Which acting favorites have reason to worry?

Academy Awards 2014: Best picture race is an Oscar tale of suspense

Follow @GlennWhipp

glenn.whipp@latimes.com

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