TODAY   |  February 28, 2014

Anticipation builds for Oscar night

Preparations are underway in Hollywood for the 86th Academy Awards, now just two days away, and The race for the top prize is wide open. NBC’s Joe Fryer reports.

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>> weather will not be keeping the stars from shining in hollywood this weekend. the 86th academy awards are sunday night. and joe fryer in l.a. with a preview. good morning.

>> good morning, carson. from the red carpet , which on sunday will be covered with stars answering that iconic question, who are you wearing? but really this year the biggest question left to be answered centered around oscar 's top prize.

>> i will not fall into despair!

>> reporter: it's a rarity this late in the oscar race. a three-way battle, the heart wrenching "12 years of slave" against the heart-pounding "gravity," with " american hustle " in the running. a race so unpredictable, the experts who make predictions --

>> it really does feel like a political campaign.

>> guys like dave carger are doing a lot of running, too. jumped from a web cast to a twitter chat to an oscar panel for " vanity fair ."

>> we're not going to know the winner until right when they open that envelope.

>> in the acting categories, there are some clear favorites.

>> forced to take a job selling shoes on madison avenue .

>> cate blanchett for lead actress and jared leto for supporting actor . but supporting actress remains anyone's guess with momentum shifting back and forth with newcomer lupita and jennifer lawrence . and let's not forget, the leading man.

>> some people are saying this is the number one best actor lineup in years or ever.

>> welcome to the dallas buyers club.

>> matthew mcconaughey is the front runner but being chased by four strong guys including leonardo dicaprio , a five-time nominee who has never won the oscar race.

>> one more thing that's hard to predict this year and that's the weather. you can see right now it's raining just outside here. everything is covered in plastic, we have a tarp over us keeping us dry. fingers are crossed that the rain won't be sticking around until sunday. back to you guys in new york.

>> joe fryer, thank you very much. coming up on "trending," we'll reveal our oscar picks. and "today" is the place to be on monday for highlights.

>> all right.

>> might be a bad hair day with the weather.

>> yeah.

>> lots of debate here about