Slumdog Millionaire has proved a hit in the US
The nominees for the 81st Academy Awards will be announced in Beverly Hills later.
British film Slumdog Millionaire is expected to be a frontrunner after its recent triumph at the Golden Globes.
Double Globes winner Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are widely tipped to be nominated for honours in the acting categories.
Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker will unveil the nominations at 0530 Los Angeles time (1330 GMT).
Slumdog Millionaire, set in Mumbai, was named best film, while Danny Boyle won best director at the Golden Globes earlier this month.
It has also featured highly in the Bafta nominations, collecting 11 nods including best actor for newcomer Dev Patel.
See the main Academy Award nominations being announced on Thursday 22 January at 1330 GMT on the BBC News channel and the BBC News website
Prior to Slumdog, Patel's only acting experience was in the teen drama series Skins.
In the coveted best picture category, it is expected to face competition from releases including Frost/Nixon, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk and The Wrestler, starring a rejuvenated Mickey Rourke.
The role is a career high for the 52-year-old, who won a Golden Globe and is also in the running for a coveted Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award on 25 January.
In the best actor shortlist, Rourke could be nominated alongside Brad Pitt, who plays a man ageing backwards in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Sean Penn for Milk, for his portrayal of gay political activist Harvey Milk.
Rourke is chasing his first Oscar nomination for The Wrestler
Kate Winslet is a strong tip to gain recognition for her roles in Revolutionary Road and The Reader.
She has yet to win an Academy Award despite being nominated five times.
Winslet may be joined by actresses Meryl Streep, who plays a nun in Doubt, Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler and Angelina Jolie for Changeling.
Streep, Tomei and Jolie have all won Academy Awards at previous ceremonies.
Elsewhere the late Heath Ledger is expected to receive a posthumous supporting actor nomination for his role as the Joker in Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight.
The Australian star, who died on this day a year ago, was previously nominated for his work in 2005 film Brokeback Mountain.
The winners will be announced in Los Angeles on 22 February.