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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 16:49 GMT
At a glance: Best film nominees
Five movies are in the running to be named best film at this year's Academy Awards.

What are they about, who stars in them and what are their chances of winning? Find out all you need to know.

BABEL

Babel
Blanchett and Pitt are the best known members of Babel's cast

What is it about?
Tragedy strikes a married couple while they are on holiday in the north African desert, kicking off three interlocking stories set in Morocco, Mexico and Japan.

Who is in it?
Brad Pitt has received rave reviews for his performance in the film, which also stars Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Bernal. However, it is their co-stars Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi who have been Oscar-nominated.

What are its chances?
Babel received seven Golden Globe nominations but only received one award, for best film drama. With the surprise omission of musical Dreamgirls in the best film category, however, it must be considered a frontrunner.

What do the critics think?
"In the towering dramatic achievement that is Babel, fate and bad decisions bring disparate people together with heartbreaking consequences. Babel wrings tears on no fewer than three continents with uniformly superb performances by a huge cast headed by Brad Pitt." Lou Lumenick, New York Post

"There is no way for a review to encompass the beautifully integrated, soul-searching portrait of a world in crisis. Pitt, raw and emotionally bruised, gives his most mature and moving performance to date. All of Babel is like this - it's impossible to shake." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

THE DEPARTED

The Departed
Jack Nicholson (r) plays a mob boss in Martin Scorsese's film

What is it about?
A young undercover cop infiltrates the mob, while a criminal infiltrates the police department. Both become consumed by their double lives - but those lives are put in danger when the mob and police realise there are moles in their midst.

Who is in it?
Hollywood veteran Jack Nicholson leads a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and surprise Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg.

What are its chances?
Nominated for five Oscars in total, the film is a strong candidate for the best picture award. With Martin Scorsese expected to win the best director prize, however, it may fall at the final hurdle.

What do the critics think?
"Martin Scorsese returns to contemporary crime fiction with a hugely satisfying bang. The Departed is a robust piece of storytelling and his best film since Casino in 1995. Everything is rock solid." Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter

"The Departed is splattered with moments of pure, dead-eyed, blood-soaked Scorsesean violence - the pop-pop of bullets and oof-oof of beatings that explode skulls and smash faces." Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA

Ken Watanabe in Letters from Iwo Jima
Watanabe plays a Japanese general facing impossible odds

What is it about?
A companion piece to Clint Eastwood's World War II epic Flags of Our Fathers, this Japanese-language film views the bloody battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese forces charged with defending the rocky outpost from a full-scale Allied attack.

Who is in it?
Ken Watanabe is the best-known member of the cast, having previously appeared alongside Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.

What are its chances?
Omitted from the best film drama line-up at the Golden Globes, Eastwood's film has clearly found enough favour amongst the Academy membership to edge out hotly-tipped musical Dreamgirls. Eastwood won best picture two years ago with Million Dollar Baby and could well do so again.

What do the critics think?
"Letters From Iwo Jima represents something rare in the history of war movies - a case of a film-maker from one country sympathetically telling a combat story from the perspective of a former enemy." Todd McCarthy, Variety

"Quality from first frame to last - a war film that is almost a tone poem in how it reveals the minds and secret hearts of the Japanese soldiers defending the volcanic island of Iwo Jima against American forces over forty days of battle in 1945." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Little Miss Sunshine
The film involves a dysfunctional family's eventful road trip

What is it about?
Little Miss Sunshine tells the tale of a dysfunctional family determined to get their daughter, seven-year-old Olive, into the finals of a beauty pageant.

Who is in it?
Oscar nominees Alan Arkin and 10-year-old Abigail Breslin star alongside Toni Collette, Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear.

What are its chances?
Despite being named best picture by the Producers Guild of America - an honour that has been repeated at the Oscars in 11 of the last 17 years - it will be a surprise if this low-budget film scoops the Academy's top award.

What do the critics think?
"This ensemble comedy-drama is a tonic, but one laced with dysfunction, depression and the reliably ghastly spectacle of dolled-up seven-year-olds, hairdos piled up like wigs on hamsters... It lays on the quirks then the group hugs in a tried-and-tested indie manner you may find faintly coercive." Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph

"Even though at first glance Little Miss Sunshine has a pretty slim and over-familiar plot - family goes on a road-trip where they're all stuck with one another, and can't escape - the characters are so well crafted and performed, that you find yourself watching a minor comic classic." Richard Bacon, The People

THE QUEEN

Dame Helen Mirren in The Queen
Dame Helen Mirren is expected to be named best actress

What is it about?
The film dramatises the fallout following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The result is an intimate yet witty portrait of royalty and government torn between protocol and emotion against the backdrop of a grieving nation.

Who is in it?
Dame Helen Mirren shines as the monarch and is expected to be named this year's best actress. Michael Sheen, Sylvia Sims and Helen McCrory also star.

What are its chances?
Nominated for six Oscars in all, The Queen has clearly touched a nerve in Hollywood but is unlikely to win a best picture award to go with the best actress gong.

What do the critics think?
"Blessed with a cracking, witty script... cleverly judging its tonal blend of Spitting Image-style satire with moving, humanising moments, all crowned by several remarkable performances, particularly from Helen Mirren." Jason Solomons, The Observer

"Mirren gives an extraordinary performance, parched and prickly and tinged with pathos in this sly, quasi-forensic reconstruction of the backstage wheeling and dealing that went on between Downing Street and Buck House." Sukhdev Sandhu, The Daily Telegraph




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