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Oscars 2015: Who are the players and pretenders for best picture?

Oscars 2015: Who are the players and pretenders for best picture?
Oscar best picture nominees include, clockwise from top left, "The Imitation Game," "Boyhood," "Birdman" and "Grand Budapest Hotel." (Clockwise from top left: Weinstein Co. / IFC Films / Focus Features / Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Nominees for this year's Academy Awards are set to be unveiled during a two-part news conference starting at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time Thursday and featuring directors Alfonso Cuaron and J.J. Abrams, actor Chris Pine, and academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

With the chosen movies, actors, filmmakers and technical artists about to be announced, here's a last-minute look at some of the potential players and pretenders in the race for best picture.

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To help evaluate awards-season momentum, we've rounded up the nominations each film has earned from the major guilds: directors, producers, writers and screen actors. (In the case of SAG, we only counted the ensemble award.)

The nominations, then, will tell you whether a contender has fallen short of expectations, or made good on -- or even exceeded -- them.

RIDING HIGH

These four films are clear front-runners, having dominated the various guild nominations and also received nods from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (which presents the Golden Globes) and various critics' groups.

"Boyhood"
Guild nominations: DGA, PGA, WGA, SAG.
Other honors: Golden Globes win (drama), BAFTA nomination, NYFCC win, LAFCA win, Critics' Choice nomination.

"Birdman"
Guild nominations: DGA, PGA, SAG.
Other honors: Golden Globes nomination (musical/comedy), BAFTA nomination, Critics' Choice nomination.

"Grand Budapest Hotel"
Guild nominations: DGA, PGA, WGA, SAG.
Other honors: Golden Globes win (musical/comedy), BAFTA nomination, LAFCA runner-up, Critics' Choice nomination.

"The Imitation Game"
Guild nominations: DGA, PGA, WGA, SAG.
Other honors: Golden Globes nomination (drama), BAFTA nomination, Critics' Choice nomination.

IN THE MIDDLE

Though they aren't shoo-ins, these films have each garnered multiple guild nominations and stand a solid chance of scoring an Oscar nod for best picture.

"American Sniper"
Guild nominations: DGA, PGA, WGA.

"Whiplash"
Guild nominations: PGA, WGA.
Other honors: Critics' Choice nomination.

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"Foxcatcher"
Guild nominations: PGA, WGA.
Other honors: Golden Globes nomination (drama).

"Gone Girl"
Guild nominations: PGA, WGA.
Other honors: Critics' Choice nomination.

ON THE BUBBLE?

These movies are wildcards, for different reasons. "The Theory of Everything," for example, is widely admired but primarily as a showcase for breakout stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

As for "Selma," the historical drama has been shut out by the major guild awards, but studio Paramount (which was not able to get screeners out in time for the steady series of deadlines) can look to the widespread critical acclaim that has kept the film in the awards conversation.

"The Theory of Everything"
Guild nominations: PGA.
Other honors: Golden Globes nomination (drama), BAFTA nomination, Critics' Choice nomination.

"Selma"
Guild nominations: None.
Other honors: Golden Globes nomination (drama), Critics' Choice nomination.

"Nightcrawler"
Guild nominations: PGA, WGA.
Other honors: Critics' Choice nomination.

"Wild"
Guild nominations: WGA.

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