And the award goes to...

Best Picture

Babel: A series of interlocking tragedies involving six families is sparked off by a bullet that strikes a married couple (played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, right) on vacation in the Moroccan desert. Also starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Yoji Yashuko and Rinko Kikuchi. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu directs this ensemble drama.

The Departed: Martin Scorsese directs this remake of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, starring Matt Damon as a gangster who infiltrates the police. Leonardo DiCaprio is the undercover cop working to topple the mob boss (Jack Nicholson). Director Andrew Lau Wai-keung said the film failed to capture the essence of his original, but western critics loved it.

Little Miss Sunshine: A quirky comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family travelling from New Mexico to California in a yellow mini-van after their seven-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) qualifies for the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris direct. Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear star.

The Queen: The kind of movie that you will leave you arguing with your friends for hours afterwards. Directed by Stephen Frears, it is a behind-the-scenes account of the struggle between Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren, left) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Letters from Iwo Jima: Clint Eastwood's complementary film to his Flags of Our Fathers, which is also about the battle of Iwo Jima but from the perspective of Japanese soldiers. Starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya.

Best Directing

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu: The Mexican director began his showbiz career first as a DJ and then as a composer for films before he turned to directing in the 1990s. His first English language feature film was 21 Grams. He earned the Best Director Prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival with his work on Babel.

Martin Scorsese: Please give this man the Oscar he has coveted for almost three decades. The Departed may not be Scorsese's (right) best work, but at least it is a tight and entertaining thriller. Nobody does it better than Martin Scorsese when it comes to the portrayal of gangsters.

Clint Eastwood: Eastwood (far right) is one of two living filmmakers (the other is Czech filmmaker Milos Forman, who directed Amadeus) who has ever directed two Best Picture winners. Most of his films he has directed are grim, realistic dramas, such as Million Dollar Baby or Mystic River.

Paul Greengrass: Greengrass' gripping account of the events on United Airlines Flight 93 during the September 11 terrorist hijacking puts us in the shoes of the victims, whose brave deeds showed humanity at its finest. United 93 is the best film about September 11 last year.

Stephen Frears: An English film director who made his name in Hollywood with films such as High Fidelity and Mrs. Henderson Presents, Frears was previously nominated for the same prize for The Grifters (produced by Scorsese) in 1990.

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio: DiCaprio's (right) boyish features that charmed girls the world over in Titanic have disappeared. In place of his good looks is a reckless, fearless and cynical gaze that knows how hard life can be, especially in Sierra Leone in 1999 - the setting of Blood Diamond, an action thriller in which he plays a smuggler.

Ryan Gosling: This man is best known for winning the Best Kiss award at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards for his passionate kissing with Rachel McAdams (who eventually became his girlfriend in real life) in the tear jerker The Notebook. His Oscar-nominated role is a teacher struggling with a drug problem as he mentors a talented young girl in the film Half Nelson.

Peter O'Toole: The veteran Irish actor (left) has been nominated for the best actor Oscar award seven times in the past but has failed to win - a record in movie history. In his eighth attempt at winning Best Actor, he plays an ageing actor who finds himself attracted to his best friend's great-niece in the movie Venus.

Will Smith: Smith plays a homeless father who is struggling financially but is determined to take care of his son, played by his real-life son Jaden Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness. The film is based on the true story of Christopher Gardner, a self-made millionaire and motivational speaker.

Forest Whitaker: In The Last King of Scotland, the film, TV and stage actor plays the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, whose tenure witnessed much sectarian violence, including the persecution of various ethnic groups in Uganda. To play his role, Whitaker learned Swahili while immersing himself in books and documentaries about the dictator.

Best Actress

Penelope Cruz: Cruz (right) plays a woman who believes her mother has risen from the dead in Volver, a comedy-drama directed by Spanish cinema's enfant terrible, Pedro Almodovar. The ensemble cast won the best actress award at last year's Cannes International Film Festival.

Judi Dench: One of the most respected British actresses renowned for her work on stage, in films and on TV with roles ranging from M in James Bond movies to Shakespearean characters, Dench plays a lonely and manipulative teacher who has a crush on her younger female colleague in Notes on a Scandal.

Helen Mirren: The actress has played the Queen of England in three films - The Madness of King George (as the wife of George III), Elizabeth I, and The Queen. In her Oscar-nominated role in The Queen, she plays Elizabeth II who faces public outrage in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana.

Meryl Streep: The two-time Academy Award-winning actress, who is best known for her performances in The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs Kramer, plays a demanding and calculating editor of a fashion magazine, who manipulates her college graduate assistant in The Devil Wears Prada.

Kate Winslet: The star of Titanic (left) plays a former campus feminist who becomes an unhappy wife and mother. She sees family life and her daughter as nuisances and gradually gets involved in an affair with her neighbour in the film Little Children.

Best Animated Feature Film

Monster House: An animation about an evil house possessed by a human spirit that will eat everything - from a tricycle and a basketball, to a dog - Monster House is part horror and part comedy. It will make you laugh one moment and send chills down your spine the next.

Happy Feet: A lively animated comedy about a penguin who, unlike his fellow Antarctic emperor penguins, takes up tap-dancing rather than singing and therefore struggles to find a date or be accepted by his peers. The film features the voices of Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy and Robin Williams.

Cars: An animated adventure comedy by Pixar about a rookie race car and his offbeat buddies, the film features the voices of Owen Wilson and Paul Newman. John Lasseter directs.