This year’s Academy Awards seem to be absolutely loaded. I can’t recall a year this good since 1994, which featured “Forrest Gump,” “Shawshank Redemption” and “Pulp Fiction.”

This year’s trio of “Babel,” “The Departed” and “Little Miss Sunshine” should run as close a race as the class of 1994. The best actor nominees are also stacked, unlike years past.

Best Picture nominees:

“Babel”

“The Departed”

“Letters from Iwo Jima”

“Little Miss Sunshine”

“The Queen”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “The Departed” is the best movie I have seen since “Crash.” The cast, Nicholson, DiCaprio, Wahlberg and Sheen, combined with one of the greatest directors of this generation in Martin Scorsese should equal an Oscar. It’s Easily one of the most dynamic movies of the last decade.

Best Actor nominees:

Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond”

Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson” Peter O’Toole in “Venus”

Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness”

Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland”

Whitaker will probably take this and deservedly so. However, Smith put forth a moving performance in “Pursuit” opposite his son. The movie is a tear-jerker, and Big Willy’s charisma helps turn the film into a feel-good story.

Best Actress nominees:

Penelope Cruz in “Volver”

Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal” Helen Mirren in “The Queen”

Paul Greengrass for “United 93”

Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”

Kate Winslet in “Little Children”

I’ve got to go with Kate Winslet; she has been nominated five times and she’s only 31. Winslet is riveting in “Little Children,” which is probably the best movie that nobody has seen. Winslet doesn’t exactly carry the film, but is the primary reason why you can’t take your eyes off the screen.

Best Director nominees:

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for “Babel”

Martin Scorsese for “The Departed” Clint Eastwood for “Letters from Iwo Jima”

Stephen Frears for “The Queen.”

If Scorsese doesn’t win, he should send Travis Bickle to the homes of every Academy voter. The movie is explosive and Scorsese helped light the fuse. He helped push an amazing cast to deliver the year’s best film.

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