Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have paraded down the red carpet ahead of the 84th Academy Awards.
Stars including George Clooney, Jessica Chastain and the star of 'The Artist', Berenice Bejo, greeted fans, signed autographs and posed for photographers outside the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles ahead of the event.
Bejo, nominated for supporting actress for her role in the film, was accompanied on the red carpet by her husband – the film’s director Michel Hazanavicius.
The silent black and white film has 10 nominations, including best film, director, and actor for French star Jean Dujardin.
It is the first silent film to be nominated for best picture at the Oscars since the 1928 movie The Patriot.
Double Oscar winner Meryl Streep’s turn as Margaret Thatcher has secured the actress her 17th Oscar nomination, while Gary Oldman has clinched his first for his performance as a spymaster.
Streep, 62, is favourite to win best actress for her role as the former British prime minister in 'The Iron Lady' – and has already carried off a Bafta award and a Golden Globe for her role.
British actor Oldman, 53, who has never been nominated before despite some acclaimed performances, is in the running for best actor for his role as George Smiley in 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'.
Only one film – 'Hugo', Martin Scorsese’s 3D ode to early cinema – has more nominations than The Artist, but many of its nods are in technical categories.
Streep, who last won an Oscar for 1982 movie 'Sophie’s Choice', said she was “honoured” to be nominated.
She is up against Michelle Williams for her role as screen siren Marilyn Monroe in 'My Week With Marilyn', Glenn Close for her turn as a woman disguised as a man in 'Albert Nobbs', Viola Davis ('The Help'), and Rooney Mara ('The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo').
Oldman – whose best actor rivals are Dujardin, George Clooney ('The Descendants'), Brad Pitt ('Moneyball') and Mexican Demian Bichir ('A Better Life') - described his nomination as “extremely humbling, gratifying and delightful”.
Britons Kenneth Branagh, 51, and 'Albert Nobbs' star Janet McTeer, 50, are also in the running for the supporting actor categories.
Branagh, nominated for his performance in 'My Week With Marilyn', said: “It was a rare honour to play Laurence Olivier. To be recognised by the Academy for doing so is overwhelming. I’m absolutely thrilled.”
One Briton guaranteed to get his hands on an Oscar this year is Colin Firth.
Firth, who carried away the best actor award last year for his performance as King George VI in 'The King’s Speech', will present one of the trophies at this year’s event.
Steven Spielberg’s 'War Horse', based on the National Theatre play inspired by Michael Morpurgo’s novel, is among nine films up for best picture.
The film, up for six awards, is pitted against 'The Artist', 'The Descendants', 'Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close', 'The Help', 'Hugo', 'Midnight In Paris', 'Moneyball' and 'The Tree Of Life'.
'The Artist’s supporting actress contender Bejo said she was “overjoyed and filled with happiness”.
“I can’t believe that a year ago I was learning how to tap dance and today I am nominated for an Academy Award,” she said.
'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Peter Straughan is nominated for adapted screenplay with his late wife, Bridget O’Connor, who died of cancer at the age of 49.
He picked up the Bafta equivalent earlier this month and paid tribute to O’Connor who died before the film came out, saying: “Bridget, I love you, I miss you, this is for you.”
Oscar nods had been predicted for British actress Tilda Swinton for 'We Need to Talk About Kevin', and Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, stars of Steve McQueen’s tale of sex addiction, 'Shame', but they were ignored.
In the short subject documentary, London-born film-maker Lucy Walker is nominated with Kira Carstensen for 'The Tsunami' And The Cherry Blossom, which was made in Japan following the devastating tsunami.
'Saving Face', which follows London-based surgeon Mohammad Ali Jawad as he treats the victims of acid attacks in Pakistan, is also up for the award.
London animators Sue Goffe and Grant Orchard are nominated for short film (animated) for 'A Morning Stroll', while the short film (live action) category includes Irish film-maker Peter McDonald’s Pentecost and Terry and Oorlagh George’s Northern Ireland-set short 'The Shore'.
Other stars on the red carpet included Williams who paid tribute to Kate Winslet, saying: "I feel she sort of made a path and the rest of us get to follow it."
Dujardin told reporters on the red carpet he was “so proud and nervous” about the possibility of becoming the first Frenchman to win the best actor gong, adding: “But I’m very happy to be here.”
There was a moment of comedy when Sacha Baron Cohen arrived – promoting his film The Dictator – dressed in character as Admiral General Aladeen and flanked by two women in military uniform carrying bunches of flowers.
Slightly more controversial was his dumping the urn of "ashes" all over TV presenter Ryan Seacrest.
Streep, a hot favourite for the best actress award, acknowledged Lady Thatcher's influence even on the red carpet when she arrived in a long gold dress and wearing Ferragamo shoes ``because Margaret Thatcher always wore them''.
Supporting actor nominee Kenneth Branagh said he felt “no nerves, only excitement at this point” on the red carpet.
He said he slept well the night before the ceremony and “got to bed at a reasonable time”.
And the star prepared for the event in a very British way, saying: “I decided to do lots of very nice thing in the morning. I had some very nice cups of tea - English breakfast tea.”