Friday, March 19, 1999 Published at 08:44 GMT
Predicting the winners
The presenters have their seats - but who will they be giving Oscars to?
BBC News Online's Entertainment Correspondent Tom Brook gives the inside track on what we can expect from the Oscars.
I predict that when the Academy Awards finish on Sunday night, Shakespeare in Love will emerge as the Oscar winner in terms of overall statuettes, collecting six trophies.
I expect that Roberto Benigni's Italian tragicomedy will end up with three trophies, including Best Foreign Language film.
I've been covering Oscars ceremonies since the mid-1980's and it's hard to remember a contest as close as this.
But it's not just the horse race that makes this year's Academy Awards exciting, it's also the quality of the films up for the top awards.
The five Best Picture nominees, Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, and The Thin Red Line are all intelligent thought-provoking works, which often isn't the case.
Front-runner for Best Picture
It has all the hallmarks of an Academy Award best picture winner. It is an epic, it deals with an important moment in world history, and it comes from a director who's now regarded as part of the Hollywood establishment.
Many of the Academy members may feel more passionately about Shakespeare in Love, but I think in the last Oscars ceremony before the year 2000 they will want to give the Best Picture trophy to a film that graphically depicts one of the defining moments of the century, the D-Day landings.
I think it is also safe to assume that Steven Spielberg will walk away with the Best Director prize for all the reasons stated above, and also because he won the Directors Guild Award earlier this month, which traditionally serves as a reliable indicator as to who will win the Oscar.
Acting categories tough
Paltrow's victory at the Golden Globes, and more recently at the Screen Actors Guild Awards make her the favourite to pick up Best Actress Oscar.
Best Actor had been a race between Sir Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters) and Nick Nolte (Affliction), but the dynamics have been changed by the presence in Hollywood of Italian comic entertainer and actor Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful).
Benigni has been in overdrive mounting a charm offensive which has won over fans, the American media, and more importantly, many Academy members. So I think Benigni is the front-runner in this category with Sir Ian a very, very close runner-up and Nick Nolte moving down to third place. There could easily be an upset here.
Oscar for Dame Judi?
There is always the possibility that the trophy will go to Kathy Bates, who played a fiery political operative in Primary Colors.
Bates may be helped by the fact that the Academy may go for the hometown girl - she's the only American in a category of three Britons (Judi Dench, Brenda Blethyn, Lynn Redgrave) and an Australian (Rachel Griffiths).
The best supporting actor category is by far and away the most difficult to predict. I think it will go to James Coburn (Affliction), because he gave a good performance as an abusive father in Paul Schrader's dark snowbound drama. Because he's a Hollywood veteran, the Academy may see rewarding him as a lifetime achievement award of sorts.
The foreign language film category should go without any trouble to Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful. This picture, which has seven nominations, the most ever for a foreign language film and is extremely well liked.
Benigni could win in this category, for acting and for the score - so he could be travelling back to Italy with three Oscars.
Looks like Miramax's night
Miramax is distributing Shakespeare in Love and Life is Beautiful in America, plus three other films in the running, so the company has some 23 nominations at stake.
Miramax is hoping for an upset on Oscar night - the biggest of all would be if Shakespeare in Love ousted Saving Private Ryan and won best picture.
It could happen - and if it does I am sure it will lead to a swirl of charges and counter-charges that this was a victory brought about by the Miramax Oscar winning campaign machine. It could be a bloodbath!
For true Oscar aficionados here are my predictions in full for all twenty-four
Oscar categories :