A violent streak impressed Oscar on Sunday night as “The Departed” snatched the best pic trophy and won Martin Scorsese his first Oscar.
“The Departed” won four awards, including adapted screenplay, at the 79th annual Academy Awards ceremonies held at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
The big winner was, of course, “Departed’s” director Scorsese, whose nomination this year was his sixth for directing and eighth overall. Scorsese has been directing films for more than 40 years although he didn’t receive a nom until 1980’s “Raging Bull.”
“Could you double check the envelope,” he asked, after taking the podium to receive his statuette and saying “thank you” a dozen times.
“I just want to say, too, that so many people over the years have been wishing this for me,” he said. “Strangers. You know, I went walking in the street, people say something to me. ‘You should win one.’ … Friends of mine over the years and friends who are here tonight wishing this for me and my family, I thank you. This is for you.”
A violent saga that pitted corrupt cops against Boston mobsters, “The Departed” won four of its five noms, making it the best pic winner with the lowest number of noms since 1977’s “Annie Hall.”
Based on the Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs,” it is the first remake to win the top prize since 1959 when “Ben-Hur” won. Pic’s other win came in the editing category — Thelma Schoonmaker’s third career win — as “Departed” became the 12th best pic winner in the last 15 years to also win the editing award.
Pic led a rather short list of multiple winners, which could have been predicted considering how there was no front-runner in this year’s Oscar race. “Pan’s Labyrinth” had three wins while “Dreamgirls,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “An Inconvenient Truth” won two each.
And while “Pan’s Labyrinth” won three, it lost to “Lives of Others” in the foreign-language category. “Lives,” the second German film to win in the last five years, became the 18th film from Europe to the foreign-language award in the last 21 years.
In the four acting categories, Oscars were all handed to first-time recipients.
Following a recent pattern, Forest Whitaker, who played Idi Amin, and Helen Mirren, who starred as Elizabeth II, became the fourth actors in the last five years to win the top acting awards for playing non-fiction roles. Alan Arkin, 72, who had not been nominated for an Oscar since 1968, took home the supporting actor trophy for “Little Miss Sunshine.”
And supporting actress winner Jennifer Hudson became the 15th thesp to win for her film debut. Anna Paquin was the last, for 1993’s “The Piano.”
Mirren’s win came on her third nom, but in her 40th year in the business. Her win was the only one registered for “The Queen,” which had received six noms.
Whitaker had the distinction of being the first actor to win the trophy in 20 years for a film that received no other nominations. He gave one of the evening’s few emotional speeches.
“When I first started acting, it was because of my desire to connect to everyone — to that thing inside each of us, that light that I believe exists in all of us, ” he said. “Because acting for me is about believing in that connection and it’s a connection so strong, it’s a connection so deep, that we feel it. And through our combined belief, we can create a new reality.”
Similarly, newcomers did well in the writing categories. Original screenplay winner “Little Miss Sunshine” was Michael Arndt’s first produced film; “The Departed,” which won the adapted nod, was author William Monahan’s second.
The artists who claimed “Pan’s Labyrinth’s” three wins — cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, makeup artists David Marti and Montse Ribe and the team of art director Eugenio Caballero and set decorator Pilar Revuelta — were all first time winners.
“I Need to Wake Up,” the “Inconvenient Truth” tune, won for first-time nominee Melissa Etheridge and became the first song from a docu to ever win the song Oscar.
With that win, combined with “An Inconvenient Truth” securing the docu nod, former Vice President Al Gore received considerable air time on the ABC telecast. Besides appearing as a presenter, Gore was thanked extensively for his environmentalist work in the acceptance speeches for “An Inconvenient Truth” and lauded by Leonardo DiCaprio when the Oscarcast was declared an environmentally conscious event.
Nods lined up rather well with the DGA and WGA awards, although the Producers Guild trophied “Little Miss Sunshine” and the cinematographers gave their pic prize to “Children of Men.”
The lone win for “Babel,” which received seven noms, was for composer Gustavo Santaolalla. It’s two in a row for the Argentinean musician, who won the scoring prize last year for “Brokeback Mountain”; he joins the short list of Alan Menken, Andre Previn, Alfred Newman and Franz Waxman in posting back-to-back scoring wins over the last 60 years of Oscar.
The “Dreamgirls” sound mixing team of Michael Minkler, Willie Burton and Bob Beemer added to their collection of music-related films. Minkler had worn previously for “Chicago”; Burton for “Ray”; and Beemer for “Bird.”
“Blood Diamond” went 0 for 5; “Notes on a Scandal” was the only other pic with four or more noms to be shut out.
With the wins being so spread out, no one studio — beyond Warner Bros.’ triumphs with “The Departed” — can claim a sweeping victory. Paramount Vantage, Miramax, Picturehouse and Fox Searchlight all have reasons to toot their horns.
Order of the awards was juggled a bit, with the traditional opener — supporting actor — moved to the seventh slot. The first half of the show featured technical and craft categories, starting with art direction; the three wins for “Pan’s Labyrinth” were within the first 10 trophies handed out.
Program opened with a tribute to the nominees and several clips played up the international makeup of the nominations list.
Honorary Oscar recipient Ennio Morricone was feted with a clip reel and performance by Celine Dion of “I Knew I Loved You,” the tune she recorded for Sony Classical’s album “We All Love Ennio Morricone,” which was released last week. Morricone delivered his speech in Italian, the only non-English language spoken on the podium.
Former Paramount chair Sherry Lansing received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from Tom Cruise.
“So many of you have causes that you are equally passionate about,” she said in her acceptance speech. “That is really what is so wonderful about the movie industry — not only do we get to make films that matter, but we also work in a culture where we are encouraged to speak out. We may not always agree, but we do always care.”