'Gravity', '12 Years a Slave', 'American Hustle' battle for Baftas

British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award masks are buffed by an employee during a media viewing at the Savoy Hotel in London February 8, 2012. The BAFTA awards ceremony will take place on Sunday. (REUTERS)

"Gravity" leads the nominations for the Baftas on Sunday, but the harrowing "12 Years a Slave" is tipped to win the top honours at the last major awards ceremony before the Oscars.

Hollywood stars are due to pack out the Royal Opera House in London for the glitzy red carpet event, attended by Prince William and hosted for a ninth time by actor Stephen Fry.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards are a useful guide to which way the Academy Awards might go on March 2.

Last year "Argo" won for best film, Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor, and Christoph Waltz and Anne Hathaway in the best supporting categories -- awards replicated at the Oscars.

With British-made films such as space drama "Gravity" proving box office hits, and UK actors earning critical acclaim, the Baftas seem likely to reward home-grown talent.

"Gravity" has 11 nominations; Golden Globe winners "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle" were each nominated in 10 categories, while "Captain Phillips" was nominated nine times.

"Behind the Candelabra" and "Saving Mr. Banks" have five nominations each.

"12 Years a Slave", starring British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free black man who is kidnapped and enslaved in the United States, is nominated in five of the big six categories.

Bookmakers have "12 Years a Slave" as the 1/8 runaway favourite for best film, with Ejiofor even more heavily odds-on for best actor at 1/10.

Cate Blanchett is also 1/10 for best actress for her title role portrayal in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine".

"Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron is a 1/2 favourite in his category.

"These really are the precursor to the Oscars," said Joe Crilly, spokesman for betting chain William Hill.

"Usually you have a little battle on your hands -- at least for best film -- where normally two are relatively close, but this year it's strange that there are so many odds-on favourites," he told AFP.

"There's also the British bias that you generally tend to see at the Baftas.

"If you've got an incredible performance by a non-British actor you will always see them do quite well. But Ejiofor puts in a very good performance and being British we think he shades it over Leonardo DiCaprio."

The Best Film Award is being disputed between "12 Years a Slave", "American Hustle", "Captain Phillips", "Gravity" and "Philomena".

Here is a list of the nominees in the major categories in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.

BEST FILM
"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"
"Captain Phillips"
"Gravity"
"Philomena"

BEST LEADING ACTOR
Bruce Dern ("Nebraska")
Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave")
Christian Bale ("American Hustle")
Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Wolf of Wall Street")
Tom Hanks ("Captain Phillips")

BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Amy Adams ("American Hustle")
Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine")
Emma Thompson ("Saving Mr. Banks")
Judi Dench ("Philomena")
Sandra Bullock ("Gravity")

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi ("Captain Phillips")
Bradley Cooper ("American Hustle")
Daniel Bruhl ("Rush")
Matt Damon ("Behind the Candelabra")
Michael Fassbender ("12 Years a Slave")

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence ("American Hustle")
Julia Roberts ("August: Osage County")
Lupita Nyong'o ("12 Years a Slave")
Oprah Winfrey ("The Butler")
Sally Hawkins ("Blue Jasmine")

BEST DIRECTOR
Steve McQueen ("12 Years a Slave")
David O. Russell ("American Hustle")
Paul Greengrass ("Captain Phillips")
Alfonso Cuaron ("Gravity")
Martin Scorsese ("The Wolf of Wall Street")

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