The Oscars

Scorsese finally scores with The Departed.

'œIt was about time,' said Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune. After four decades of superior filmmaking—and five Oscar snubs—Martin Scorsese finally won an Academy Award for directing. The Departed, a gritty cops-and-mobsters picture, also won Best Picture. The violent street drama, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, and Matt Damon, 'œwas a showcase for Scorsese's strengths, brilliantly directed.' It's no Raging Bull or GoodFellas, but as a characteristic Scorsese film, The Departed makes a fitting first win.

In recent years, Scorsese had earned nominations, but not awards, for such grandiose Oscar bait as The Aviator and Gangs of New York, said Jim Emerson in the Chicago Sun-Times. The Departed, by contrast, is a traditional genre picture, a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong crime movie. 'œSometimes you can come out ahead when you don't look like you're trying so hard.' As for the less exciting categories, 'œthe academy decided to spread the statuettes around.' Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine, Pan's Labyrinth, and An Inconvenient Truth—Al Gore's global-warming documentary—received a share of the honors.

If Martin Scorsese was the night's venerable hero, Jennifer Hudson was this year's up-and-comer, said William Booth and Hank Steuver in The Washington Post. 'œOscar loves a comeback, and Oscar loves a newcomer, and in 25-year-old Jennifer Hudson, you got both.' Booted from American Idol in its third season, Hudson auditioned alongside 800 other actresses for the role of Effie White in Dreamgirls. Not only did she win the Best Supporting Actress trophy, she outsang Beyoncé during the Oscar-night performance of Dreamgirls' three nominated songs.

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There weren't many surprises in the acting categories, said Carrie Rickey in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Helen Mirren earned her first statuette, for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, and Forest Whitaker took home the Best Actor trophy for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. 'œMirren's and Whitaker's prizes validated the idea that playing a real-life character gets you the gold, as Nicole Kidman's Virginia Woolf, Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles, and Reese Witherspoon's June Carter have shown.'

The only upset among the four acting prizes was Alan Arkin's Best Supporting Actor win for Little Miss Sunshine, said Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel. Experts predicted that Eddie Murphy would take home the statuette for Dreamgirls, but he left Sunday's ceremony empty-handed. 'œMurphy probably showed too little 'growth' when he released his umpteenth fat-suit comedy, Norbit, in the middle of Oscar voting, just a little too close to the Academy Awards to take home a trophy.'

Winners in key categories:

Best Picture: The Departed

Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

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