By Arthur Spiegelman
Saturday, January 13, 2007; 4:03 AM
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Martin Scorsese, regarded by many as a master of world cinema, was named best director by the Broadcast Film Critics Association while his new movie, gangster thriller "The Departed," won for best film.
Friday night's prizes, coming at the start of Hollywood's annual awards seasons, signaled that Scorsese might be headed for a career goal that has eluded him for decades: an Oscar either for best picture or best director..
Although he has been given career achievement awards, he has never received an Academy Award for a single film, including for such revered works as "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver."
"I am pleased by this award and surprised. Maybe it's because this is the first picture I made with a plot," he joked after receiving the best director's award at the 12th annual Critics Choice Awards, which are handed out by the 200-member Broadcast Film Critics group that prides itself as being an accurate predictor of Oscar nominees and winners.
Veteran actor Forest Whitaker beat out some better-known box office draws, including Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio, to win the best actor award for his portrayal of mercurial dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."
Helen Mirren was named best actress for her portrayal of the Queen in "The Queen," a tale of how the Royal family almost lost the goodwill of the country after the death of Princess Diana.
Both Mirren and Whitaker are favourites going into the Oscars race and their next test comes Monday when the Golden Globe awards are handed out.
Martin Arndt was named best writer for his script for "Little Miss Sunshine," one of four awards the quirky family comedy picked up during the evening. The film's cast also won for best acting ensemble and its juvenile stars walked off with prizes. Abigail Breslin was named best young actress and Paul Dano best young actor.
"Dreamgirls," the film version of the hit Broadway musical, also won four awards. Newcomer Jennifer Hudson was named best supporting actress and Eddie Murphy was named best supporting actor. The film also picked up awards for best score and best song.
Former Vice President Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" won for best documentary and Sasha Baron Cohen's tale of a boorish Kazakh journalist "Borat" was named best comedy.
Cohen thanked all those Americans who haven't yet sued him -- a reference to the lawsuits filed against him by people who say they were duped into playing parts in the film.
The Broadcast Critics Association has an excellent track record in predicting Oscar nominees. Last year, it nominated 19 of the 20 actors who later won Oscar nominations.