Monday, November 28, 2011

Academy Awards Best Picture Revisited: The Departed (2006)

When I got back home from Thanksgiving in Albany I did two things, I went to the gym, and then ate Thanksgiving left overs while watching The Departed.  The Departed is the first Best Picture winner I am re-visiting.  The other nominees in the Best Picture category this year were Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen.

gangster movies the departedThe Departed was directed by the brilliant director Martin Scorsese.  Scorsese is known as one of the best film makers living today, and he is one of my favorite directors ever.  I love his style of direction, there is always this dark gritty feel, but he also puts unique touches to each film he directs making them all different.  Scorsese's first major film was Mean Streets in 1973 which started his long standing working relationship with Robert DeNiro.  Scorsese continued on this brilliant streak of film making with Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990); he lost me after this and then in 2002 had a resurgence with Gangs of New York (2002), and The Aviator (2005).  While the the films in the 2000s were not his best this man has made some of the best films ever!  Ironically prior to this Oscar ceremony Scorsese had never won an Oscar.  In fact in 2005 Oscar host Jon Stewart joked Three Six Mafia has one Oscar while Scorsese has zero.  This was a funny joke, but I think the Academy finally got that they had left one of the best directors of all time empty handed and did not want to do the same thing to him that they did to Alfred Hitchcock.

Now I am not saying Scorsese and his film should not have won (although I would have not picked him for director or this for film), but I am glad the Academy got over their bias for his films, and awarded this movie as the Best Film of the year.  The Departed was a solid film, with solid direction.

The DepartedThe best part about the 2006 Best Picture race this year was that the Best Picture race at the time was a big question mark.  Going into the night there were a couple the field was pretty divided.   Letters from Iwo Jima was a surprise nominee and had Clint Eastwood a person who had directed two Best Picture winners.  Iwo Jima was the least likely to win though because the film is in a foreign language, and did not have as much support going in. The Queen was had a shot, as an important bio-pic about Elizabeth II, but the Best Actress prize was the trophy the Academy wanted to bestow to this film, as they saw the film was about Mirren's performance.  And then there were three. Babel was seen as the big sweeping drama that spanned countries and interconnected people in different stories.  Babel won the Gold Globe for Best Drama, but just was too weak of a film.  The critics were not that supportive of it, but it did have a lot of nominations. If there any year where a comedy was going to win this award it would have been  Little Miss Sunshine.  Little Miss Sunshine won Best Picture at the American Film Institute Awards, the Producer's Guild Award (the equivalent to Best Picture), and the Screen Actor's Guild's Best Ensemble Award.  These are three hefty trophies.  When the nominations were announced Little Miss Sunshine only had four nominations and no editing nomination, the film was sunk.  Films rarely win Best Picture without an editing nomination.

Mark Wahlberg The DepartedThe Departed's win seemed destined in the stars. Thinking back to that year, although my memory is cloudy, most people's predictions ranged from Babel to Little Miss Sunshine to The Departed.  Babel had the most nominations.  Little Miss Sunshine had heart.  The Departed had the trump card, Scorsese.  The Departed only had five nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Wahlberg) and Best Film Editing.  The surprising thing about the nominations was that Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for Blood Diamond and not this film and Academy Award favorite Jack Nicholson was also not nominated.  With a small total number of nominations, and two big stars snubbed, this made the film look weak, but it took home the big prize at the end of the night.

I am glad this was an exciting year in this category (for once), but there were several films that should have been nominated in this category and were not.  My personal pick for the Best Picture of the year was Pan's Labyrinth. The film had 6 nominations and won three trophies, and it shockingly lost in Best Foreign Language Feature.  The other two films that should have been nominated were Children of Men (3 nominations 0 wins) and United 93 (2 nominations 0 wins).  I can understand why these three films were not nominated as they are more divisive, and not see as larger crowd favorites.  If the the Best Picture race looked like this: Children of Men, The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, Pan's Labyrinth, and United 93-I would would have been a happy person.

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