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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Saved at the 11th hour when writers ended their strike, Sunday's Oscars promise plenty of glamour, but dark films, possible rain and a lack of splashy parties threaten to dampen the mood on Hollywood's big night.
Oscar producer Gil Cates has promised a traditional award ceremony filled with stars like George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, and this week host Jon Stewart and his writers have been dreaming up jokes to entertain the tens of millions of viewers worldwide who are expected to watch on television.
The red carpet is ironed, giant Oscar statuettes have been resprayed gold, designer gowns are ready and final Botox injections surely have been booked for 3,000 A-listers, movie moguls, up-and-coming starlets and others invited to the show.
"Phew!" said Sid Ganis, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, when asked how he felt now the show was going ahead. "Very relieved, of course."
There are victims of the labor dispute, however, notably the star-studded parties that follow the world's top film awards. Vanity Fair and pop star Elton John have canceled all or part of their fabled festivities.
Rain also threatens, but in Hollywood where a happy ending is always welcome, there is hope the mood will brighten.
"I'm confident the weather is going to be OK Sunday," said Cates, as rain fell on the plastic covering the red carpet.
Despite the last-minute preparations, the script for the 80th Academy Awards had just been completed, he said, without divulging details of the ceremony's telecast.
Dark and difficult films dominate the best picture category, with Paul Thomas Anderson's epic "There Will Be Blood" and the Coen Brothers' grisly Western "No Country For Old Men" the runaway favorites for the top prize.
Legal thriller "Michael Clayton," war drama "Atonement" and sole comic contender "Juno" round off the nominees.
Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood") is tipped for best actor as a ruthless oil man in early 20th century America. George Clooney ("Michael Clayton") and Johnny Depp ("Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street") are outside bets.
Best actress could go to Briton Julie Christie in Alzheimer drama "Away From Her," although France's Marion Cotillard, who plays troubled singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose," and "Juno"'s 21-year-old star Ellen Page, could spring a surprise.
In supporting categories, the actress race was too close to call between nominees including Cate Blanchett ("I'm Not There"), Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton") and veteran Ruby Dee ("American Gangster"). Among supporting actors, Spain's Javier Bardem is favored in "No Country for Old Men."
And if brothers Joel and Ethan Coen with "No Country," were beaten in the best director race, that would be an upset.
Style-setters expect to see actresses in elegantly designed gowns of bold colors of yellow or purple on the red carpet leading into Hollywood's Kodak Theatre where the show is held.
But absent from Hollywood's big night are the many post-Oscar bashes that run into the wee hours of the morning.
Uncertain whether the Oscars would be held because of the strike, Vanity Fair did not bother sending out the coveted invitations for its Oscar night party, while Elton John's annual AIDS charity bash has been reduced to a viewing party.
That plays into the hands of the academy, which hosts a Governors Ball every year after the Oscars are awarded.
The huge ballroom near the Kodak is fitted out in red, gold and mirrors for the occasion, and 1,500 movers and shakers from the showbiz world are expected to attend.
"I would love for it to be an unforgettable night of abandon, especially with the Vanity Fair party not happening," said ballroom DJ Jason Bentley.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Walsh