Gravity, 12 Years a Slave battle for Baftas

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 fer 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 said.

"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.