TODAY   |  March 02, 2014

Hollywood showdowns in the race for Oscar gold

DiCaprio or McConaughey, Blanchett or Adams? There’s stiff competition on Oscars night as top actors and films go head to head, battling it out to take home that famous gold statue. TODAY’s Erica Hill reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> much talk over the last few weeks about oscar , and not only who should take it home tonight , but who actually will. oscar is turning 86. tonight hollywood will line up to celebrate. the academy awards , the most prestigious of the award shows and a life changer for nominees and winners. this year tin sisel town has more to brag about, $10 point billion brought in, a record to date. among the top ten grossing films, "gravity" a big hit with the academy and tied with " american hustle " with ten nominations.

>> you got no choice. you work for me.

>> reporter: when it comes to the ladies, front-runners amy adams and cate blanchett , both winners at the golden globes , face off in the same category. in the supporting actress category hollywood darling jennifer lawrence and newcomer lupita nyongo are the ones to beat. looking toward that road to goal, matthew mcconaughey and leonardo dicaprio have both won other awards for their respective roles in "dollars buyers club" and "wolf of wall street ." for them and the other nominees, a lot more than just a trophy at stake. a trail of prestige, bigger paychecks and coveted roles follow a win in oscar legacy that the nominees hope to capture tonight.

>>> we know there's going to be stiff combination tonight. that's the nature of this beast. dave carter is the host of front-runners on fandango and he's with us.

>> great to see you. welcome to the west coast .

>> you walk in and you're walking on the real red carpet for the oscars . we thought we would have a little fun and think of this as a boxing match . we'll have our two main contenders as we go through the categories. let's start with best actor , the two names we're hearing the most, matthew mcconaughey and leonardo dicaprio .

>> there is a sense that dicaprio is due for a win. he was great. i think it's going to be matthew mcconaughey for "dallas buyers club." a great run he's had.

>> it's about the performance, not about whether or not it's your time.

>> some voters have many reasons for the votes.

>> when it comes to best actress , cate blanchett and amy adams .

>> amy is gaining ground. she's the only best actress nominee who has never won. the other four have all won. if this were happening a month from now, " american hustle 's" momentum would be stronger and she would have a better shot. kate blanket, what an amazing performance.

>> speaking of supporting categories, when it comes to actor, jared letto, talk about his transformation.

>> everyone is impress thad bradley cooper was able to get back-to-back nominations. jared leto has this one. his performance in "dallas buyers club" is so moving. this is a character you take into your heart. he's changed a lot of hearts and minds .

>> we talk about best supporting actress . lupita nyongo. jennifer lawrence , a great couple years for her.

>> i will tell you this is the tightest of the four acting races. if jennifer lawrence wins, she becomes only the sixth person to win back-to-back acting oscars which would be impressive. i think the edge has to go with lupita nyongo. what a moving performance, a powerful role. she's become the real breakout star of the oscars .

>> you have two seconds for this. it seems it's coming down to "gravity" and "12 years a slave."

>> gravity will win the most oscars , i think "12 years