Scorsese cuffs Oscar; 'Departed' named best pic
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As the 79th Annual Academy Awards headed into the stretch, the suspense finally ended: Buoyed by a best directing win for Martin Scorsese, "The Departed," a tale of Boston lowlifes, surged to the fore as the best picture winner.
Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren, who have been king and queen of this awards season, consolidated their reigns by claiming the trophies for best actor and best actress. Emotions ran high as the victors in the major categories all celebrated first-time Oscar wins.
Hollywood also took a stand against global warming by giving two awards -- best song and best documentary -- to "An Inconvenient Truth," a filmed lecture by former Vice President Al Gore, who made two visits to the stage of the Kodak Theatre on Sunday during the ABC broadcast.
Ellen DeGeneres, in her first gig as Oscar host, set a kinder, gentler tone for the show, produced by Laura Ziskin -- instead of needling celebrities, DeGeneres treated the A-list crowd as conspirators in a glittering house party. The 4,830 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences responded in kind by doling out the 21 feature film awards to 13 films as if to leave out as few contenders as possible. Of the movies that entered the evening with four nominations or more, only "Blood Diamond" and "Notes on a Scandal" went home without a prize.
Scorsese was welcomed to the stage by presenters Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas -- the men have been friends for 37 years -- for his long-overdue win.
"Could you double-check the envelope, please?" Scorsese said jokingly of the honor, which eluded him in his five previous nominations. "I mean, I'm overwhelmed with this honor from the Academy and also the honor of being presented by my old, old friends." He admitted that over the years both friends and strangers had told him he deserved to win, so he added, "Friends of mine over the years and friends who are here tonight are wishing this for me and my family, I thank you. This is for you."
Moments later, Graham King took the stage as producer of the Warner Bros. Pictures release and proclaimed the win for the hard-boiled crime film "such a joy, such a joy." In addition to execs at Warners, he made special mention of the film's star, Leonardo DiCaprio, with whom he has worked on four projects, saying: "I just want to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that to me, Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio, what amazing performances he does every single time. Every time. I love you, man."
While Scorsese thanked Brad Grey, chairman of Paramount Pictures, who unsuccessfully appealed to the Academy to be included among the producers allowed to come onstage on behalf of the film, King did not mention Grey among his thank-yous.
With six wins, Warners stood apart from the other studios, while three specialty film distributors -- Fox Searchlight, Paramount Vantage and Picturehouse -- took three Oscars apiece. DreamWorks, to its credit, had a share in three wins because it produced "Dreamgirls," which took home two trophies, with Paramount, and "Letters From Iwo Jima," which claimed one, with Warners.
"Departed" also earned editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who won editing Oscars for Scorsese's "Raging Bull" and "The Aviator," her third Academy Award. "Believe me," she testified of her longtime collaboration with the director, "I know I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for him."
As he accepted his prize for best adapted screenplay, "Departed's" William Monahan also paid tribute to Scorsese. "Everyone who worked on 'The Departed' was, you know, it's easy to say, at the top of their game before they started," he said. "And under Marty's direction, it only got higher after that."
Mirren completed her royal tour of the awards circuit by earning her first Oscar, after two previous nominations, for her performance as Elizabeth II in Miramax Films' "The Queen." Even though the win appeared preordained, Mirren appeared to take a deep breath and collect herself as Philip Seymour Hoffman opened the envelope.
"You know, my sister told me all kids love to get gold stars, and this is the biggest and the best gold star I have ever had in my life," Mirren said as she contemplated the trophy. Thanking the filmmakers involved, she went on to speak of the woman she played onscreen. "For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle," the actress said. "She's weathered many, many storms, and I salute her courage and her consistency. And I thank her because if it weren't for her, I most certainly wouldn't be here." Then, holding her Oscar high, Mirren concluded, "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the queen!"
Whitaker also had to compose himself as he accepted best acting honors for playing dictator Idi Amin in Fox Searchlight's "The Last King of Scotland." He used his first Oscar win to look back at his childhood. "It wasn't my reality to think I would be acting in movies, so receiving this honor tonight tells me that it's possible," he said. "It is possible for a kid from East Texas, raised in South Central L.A. in Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them, and to have them happen."
As she took the prize for best supporting actress for "Dreamgirls," Jennifer Hudson, the one-time "American Idol" contestant, also experienced a rush of emotion as her dreams were realized. "I cannot believe this. Look what God can do," she marveled. "If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration for everything because she was a singer and she had the passion for it, but she never had the chance. And that was the thing that pushed me forward to continue."
Alan Arkin, 38 years after receiving his last Oscar nomination -- as best actor in "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" -- found that as DeGeneres predicted in her opening monologue, the third time was the charm as he was named best supporting actor for his X-rated grandfather in "Little Miss Sunshine."
"More than anything, I am deeply moved by the openhearted appreciation our small film has received," Arkin said. He offered a shout-out to the movie's cast, crew and production team, noting that "acting for me has always been and always will be a team sport."
"Sunshine" also earned original screenplay honors for Michael Arndt, who gave full credit to the comedy's directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, whom he called "the true authors of this movie, who took words on a page and turned them into a work of art." He, too, cited family, remembering, "When I was a kid, my family drove 600 miles in a VW bus with a broken clutch. So, it ended up being the funnest things we did together, so to my brothers Chan, Dave and Chris, to my mom who's here tonight and to my dad who's with us in the spirit, this is for you. Thank you."
DiCaprio and Gore proved the evening's most unexpected comedy team. They appeared together onstage to announce that the Oscars had gone green -- "which means," Gore said, "environmentally intelligent practices have been integrated fully into every aspect of the planning and production of this Academy Awards." But DiCaprio kept goading Gore to make an even bigger announcement; finally, Gore seemed to be on the verge of announcing his intentions to again run for ... when suddenly the orchestra welled up and played him offstage.
Shortly thereafter, Gore returned to the stage with director Davis Guggenheim when "Truth" was named best documentary. Gore used the moment to speak to the broadcast's global audience, saying, "My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue, it's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act; that's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."
Melissa Etheridge seconded that emotion when she earned the Oscar for best song for the film's ballad, "I Need to Wake Up." "I have to thank Al Gore for inspiring us, inspiring me, showing that caring about the Earth is not Republican or Democrat. It's not red or blue; we are all green," she said.
Although it entered the evening with seven nominations -- second only to "Dreamgirls' " eight -- "Babel" had to settle for just one prize, the award for best score, which went to Gustavo Santaolalla, who also was victorious in the same category last year with his score for "Brokeback Mountain." "I'm so proud to work in 'Babel,' a film that helped us understand better who we are and why and what are we here for," he said.
Triple winner "Pan's Labyrinth" began making its way through the Oscar-night maze when it took home the first prize of the evening, the trophy for art direction, which went to art director Eugenio Caballero and set decorator Pilar Revuelta.
"Labyrinth" immediately followed that with a win for its makeup team of David Marti and Montse Ribe. And then Guillermo Navarro, who also picked up a Spirit Award on Saturday, took the trophy for best cinematography. "This award is a recognition for the collective effort to support the vision of the genius of Guillermo del Toro," he said.
For the second consecutive year, the Academy found itself cozying up to penguins, which figured in last year's winning documentary, "March of the Penguins," and this year's animated feature victor, "Happy Feet." Australian director George Miller accepted the win for his first animated film by saying, "I asked my kids, 'What should I say?' They said, 'Thank all the men for wearing penguin suits.' They gave me a lucky coin, a lucky penguin, but my real good luck was to work with hundreds and hundreds of amazing people."
German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others" was named best foreign-language film, and its director thanked Sony Pictures Classics co-heads Michael Barker and Tom Bernard for "bringing it to you."
The aristocratic excesses of "Marie Antoinette" proved a winning style for costume designer Milena Canonero, who won her third Oscar.
The visual fantasies of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" resulted in a visual effects win for John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen Hall.
The sound awards split between "Iwo Jima" and "Dreamgirls." "Iwo Jima" earned best sound editing for the team of Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman. "Dreamgirls" prevailed in the sound mixing category, resulting in trophies for Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer and Willie Burton.
Murray, whose father served as a Marine, offered a salute to the troops, saying, "Thank you to my father and all the brave, honorable men and women in uniform, who in a time of crisis have all made that decision to defend their personal freedom and liberty no matter what the sacrifice."
In the short-film categories, Torill Kove's "The Danish Poet," a fable about the strange turns fate takes in bringing a couple together, earned the animation prize, and "West Bank Story," a parody of "West Side Story" full of dancing Israelis and Palestinians, brought its director, Ari Sandel, to the stage as the winner in the best live-action category.
Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon were awarded the documentary short Oscar for "The Blood of Yingzhou District."
Complete list of winners:
PICTURE "The Departed"
DIRECTOR Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
ACTOR Forest Whitaker, "Last King of Scotland"
ACTRESS Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
SUPPORTING ACTOR Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
SUPPORTING ACTRESS Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY "Little Miss Sunshine," Michael Arndt
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY "The Departed," William Monahan
ORIGINAL SCORE "Babel," Gustavo Santaolalla
ORIGINAL SONG "I Need to Wake Up," Melissa Etheridge (from "An Inconvenient Truth")
FILM EDITING "The Departed," Thelma Schoonmaker
VISUAL EFFECTS "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson, Allen Hall
CINEMATOGRAPHY "Pan's Labyrinth," Guillermo Navarro
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM "An Inconvenient Truth," Davis Guggenheim, director; Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, producers
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM "The Lives of Others," Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
ANIMATED FEATURE "Happy Feet," George Miller, director
COSTUME DESIGN "Marie Antoinette," Milena Canonero
DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM "The Blood of Yingzhou District," Ruby Yang, Thomas Lennon
ANIMATED SHORT FILM "The Danish Poet," Torill Kove, director
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM "West Bank Story," Ari Sandel, director
SOUND EDITING "Letters From Iwo Jima," Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman
SOUND MIXING "Dreamgirls," Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer, Willie Burton
ART DIRECTION "Pan's Labyrinth," Eugenio Caballero, art direction; Pilar Revuelta, set decoration
MAKEUP "Pan's Labyrinth," David Marti, Montse Ribe