'Departed' Arrives; Whitaker, Mirren Are King and Queen

By William Booth and Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 26, 2007

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 25 Perhaps better to look at than listen to, this year's Academy Awards ran past the Style section's bedtime, with its shadow dancers, song performances, Italian composers and half of America dozed off. "Hey, you need to wake up!" Best Original Songstress Melissa Etheridge just said so.

Perhaps that "Dreamgirls" song, "Patience," could be our new deadline anthem. Kudos to Jennifer Hudson, that delicious dish, for winning Best Supporting Actress and singing her heart out before 11 p.m. EST. And it was almost midnight when they gave out Best Actor to Forest Whitaker for his role as Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland" and Best Actress to Helen Mirren, for her title role in "The Queen." ("You know my sister told me all kids love to get gold stars and this is the biggest best gold star I have ever had in my life," she said.)

But it was almost another quarter of an hour before Martin Scorsese, the revered 64-year-old auteur, won Best Director (finally!) for "The Departed" after being nominated six times -- an honor almost anyone who has bought a serious-moviegoer ticket in the last three decades felt was long overdue. And then, boom, "The Departed," his point-blank, quick-cut Irish gangster saga, also won Best Picture.

Was it bad timing that the annual "death reel" of departed Hollywood luminaries began at 11:46 pm EST? We're sad that Jack Wild and Carlo Ponti and Peter Boyle and Sidney Sheldon are no longer with us, but psssst. What's the Best Picture this year?

The show ran so long that it seemed okay that late in the evening DeGeneres pulled some janitorial schtick, vacuuming the aisles. Because who was still watching?

Instead of giving out an acting award right away, as per tradition, the show seem to dawdle from the start. Traditionally the Academy Awards kick off with a nice big meaty award near the very top of show, but viewers had to slog through the prizes for art direction, makeup, shorts, and sound editing and s ound mixing before they got to Best Supporting Actor.

America! Microwave some popcorn. Hit the powder room. Come back to the couch. Wait. Wait. And wait.

And then finally, an award award, for Best Supporting Actor, to Alan Arkin, for his role as the randy, cranky, heroin-snorting grandpa in the dysfunctional-family comedy "Little Miss Sunshine." (Best Original Screenplay also went to "Little Miss Sunshine" writer, Michael Arndt.)

"I know you're not supposed to read, but I'd be totally incoherent if I didn't," said a obviously moved Arkin. "It's handwritten. It's short. More than anything, I am deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received. Which in these fragmented times speak so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth and connection."

About an hour into the show, former vice president Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio came out together. "So Mr. Gore we've got a big crowd out here, a bigger one at home. Anything you want to announce?" DiCaprio prodded the politician now known as The Goracle for his film and work about global warming. Some hemming and hawing from Gore. DiCaprio announced that for the first time the Academy Awards show had "officially gone green," meaning, said Gore in Gorespeak, all the latest "environmentally intelligent practices have been integrated" to produce the show.

"You are a true champion for the cause, Mr. Gore. Now, are you positive all this hard work hasn't inspired you to make any big announcement?" Then Gore, big tease, began, "My fellow Americans, I'm going to take this opportunity to formally announce my intention to . . ." CRASH! The orchestra cues up the music and drowns out the former veep.

George Miller won Best Animated Feature for "Happy Feet." His daughter told him, Miller said, to remember "to thank all the men for wearing penguin suits." Cute kid, cute movie, cute George. Backstage, Miller said that his cartoon film began in development way before last year's Oscar-winning documentary "March of the Penguins," but he wasn't complaining. Penguins are still hot.

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