Here's my take on the Oscar nominations: NAH BRA!! Best Picture nominees:
Babel--- I'm convinced that the critics love this movie because none of them ever saw Amores Perros or 21 Grams, Alejandro Iñárritu's previous two films that are both vastly superior to Babel. Amores is one of the best films of all time. Babel features 3 storylines which "connect" in ridiculous ways, and the drawn out melodramatic scenes feel very forced, rather than developing organically as in Amores and 21 Grams. The subplot about the Japanese girl is the most compelling, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the others. This is my vote for most overrated movie of the year. It doesn't belong in a top 10 list.
The Queen--- There's no doubt about it; The Queen is a good movie. However, it's a stretch to call it great. There's really nothing remarkable about it other than the tremendous performance by Helen Mirren.
Little Miss Sunshine--- I loved this movie. It was quirky, hilarious, and very refreshing in that I believe there should be more movies like it. Steve Carrell may have gotten many people to the theaters for this one, but Alan Arkin and 10-year old Abigail Breslin steal the show. Still, this is not Best Picture material.
The Departed--- Almost everything about this movie is awesome. Ignoring a couple plot flaws, the story is great, the acting is perfection, and Scorcese is brilliant as usual. I made the mistake of watching the original (yes, it's a remake), the Chinese Infernal Affairs- watching it, my reaction was "this could be a great movie if done properly" and Scorcese was the right man for the job. I would be satisfied if The Departed won the Oscar.
Letters From Iwo Jima--- This, ladies and gentlemen, is the best film of the year. Will it win? I'm not sure. But it should. I've already given you my piece about Clint Eastwood, but this is no fan-boy decision. Seeing war through the enemy's eyes is a unique and moving experience. Letters makes its mark more with its ideas about humanity than with the usual flare and special effects (though there is some of that). The acting performance by Ken Watanabe is pretty impressive as well. Go see it.
I'm not going to go through each category, but I will make some other notes...
*I haven't seen Last King of Scotland yet, but judging by the trailer and everything I've heard and read about it, this might be Forest Whitaker's year for the Best Actor award. DiCaprio was great in Blood Diamond though.
EDIT: I just saw Last King. Whitaker's performance was among the best of all time. What an incredible human being.
*Penelope Cruz was fabulous (and gorgeous) in Volver, but something tells me the only person who might prevent Helen Mirren from winning Best Actress is Judi Dench (who coincidentally turns 200 years old on the night of the awards presentation). She just scares me.
*Mark Wahlberg was hilariously awesome in The Departed, and I've already given praise to Alan Arkin, but I think the winner for Best Supporting Actor should be either Djimon Hounsou for Blood Diamond or Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children (both are great movies, by the way).
*My vote for Best Supporting Actress goes to Rinko Kikuchi for Babel.
Best Director - What we've all been waiting for...will Martin Scorcese finally win? Does he deserve to? Here's my take: Scorcese should have won long ago, and for that reason alone he should win this year even though The Departed is nowhere near as good (or as impressive from a directing standpoint) as his greatest works (see: Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas to name a few). That said, I'm not convinced that he deserves to win if we were to ignore his past. Clint Eastwood did a masterful job with Letters. Wait a second...wtf! How was Alfonso Cuarón not nominated for Children of Men?!?!?! Now there's one movie that showcases wonderful directing more than any other this year. The Academy has no idea what they're doing. Shameful.
Pan's Labyrinth was amazing and worthy of Best Picture more than most of the nominees, although it qualifies instead as Best Foreign Film. A must see.
Borat-- Some might interpret this as an abandoning of all credibility established above, but I have to say it...this was my "favorite" film of the year (favorite does not = best) and one of the funniest comedies of all time.
Inland Empire-- David Lynch is a complete madman. Inland Empire makes Mulholland Drive seem like The Straight Story. I suggest reading the theories on messageboards before seeing this one, not afterwards. Trust me. If you're a big time Lynch fan, I recommend it. It's a trip.
Other-- Inside Man and Apocalypto were both very good. I recommend both (but don't pay for Apocalypto). I'm forgetting others, but if I remember something, I'll post again. I'll leave you with this fun fact: in 1998, Shakespeare In Love won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Goodnight.