January 29, 2007 12:00 PM

Hoping to win your Oscar pool next month? Then you’d better see the movies likely to be up for Best Picture and acting honors when nominations are announced Jan. 23. Although all these films opened in New York City and L.A. in late 2006, many are only going into wide release now. Here’s a quick refresher on the contenders:

THE QUEEN Helen Mirren (above) is a shoo-in for a Best Actress nod for her magisterial turn as Queen Elizabeth II in the days right after Princess Diana’s death. A Best Picture nomination is also likely. (PG-13)

DREAMGIRLS This musical is disappointingly uneven, but Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson are dynamite. They’ll be nominated and a Best Picture nod is possible. (PG-13)

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND Sure-bet nominee Forest Whitaker (above) offers a bravura turn—he’s a charming joker one minute and a raging paranoid the next—as Ugandan despot Idi Amin in a vivid thriller. (R)

VENUS Likely to be competing against Whitaker will be Peter O’Toole for his moving and wonderfully sly portrayal of an aged actor lusting after a cranky young woman. (R)

BABEL It’s looking promising that this ensemble drama, which cross-cuts among stories around the globe, will land a Best Picture nomination. And it’s possible that Brad Pitt (above, with Cate Blanchett) and a costar or two could wind up with supporting acting nods as well. (R)

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA Best Director candidate Clint Eastwood (Flags of Our Fathers) returns to Iwo Jima, this time viewing the WWII battle through the eyes of Japanese soldiers (including Kazunari Ninomiya, above). (R)

THE DEPARTED Martin Scorsese could finally win an Oscar (after five earlier directing nominations) for a rip-roaring crime flick. And Leonardo DiCaprio may land a Best Actor nod. (R)

CHILDREN OF MEN Smoldering Clive Owen (below, with Julianne Moore) has a shot at a Best Actor slot for this superb futuristic thriller. (R)

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