HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 25
Martin Scorsese waited a lifetime, and so did we, at an Oscars that might have been better to look at than listen to. But fiiiiinally, the 64-year-old auteur won Best Director 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? Who got Best Actor? (Forest Whitaker.) Who got Best Actress? (Helen Mirren.) We have parties to be at.
To a standing ovation, Scorsese asked, "Could you double-check the envelope?" "I'm so moved," he said. "I just want to say, too, so many people over the years have been wishing this for me" -- at places like the doctor's office, in elevators -- "I thank you, this is for you."
Accepting the Oscar for Best Actress for her title role in "The Queen," Helen Mirren said, "For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her sense of dignity . . . and her hairstyle. She's weathered many, many storms and I salute her courage and consistency." Mirren then held the statue aloft and said "Ladies and gentlemen . . . I give you the queen!" Which was to say, I'm Queen Of The World!
Perhaps that "Dreamgirls" song "Patience," could be the new Oscar 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 Mirren.
The show ran so long that it seemed okay that late in the evening Ellen 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 seemed 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 sound 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 an 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.
New host DeGeneres appeared in a velvet suit with pants and shoes that looked suspiciously like sneakers. She called the evening "the most international Oscars ever." Spain is in the house. Japan is representing, she said. "A lot of British nominees. Would I say too many? Not here."
"If there weren't blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars," she said, then paused a beat, "or anyone named Oscar, if you think about it."
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.
Sad to say the audience didn't get a chance to see Sasha Baron Cohen go to the stage as Borat for his screenplay. Not that we play favorites. Instead, Best Adapted Screenplay was awarded to William Monahan for "The Departed," the Martin Scorsese gangster film.
"Wow. Valium does work," said the longish-haired and bearded winner, who read (nice touch) from his acceptance speech notes. Without slurring a word. Backstage to the press, Monahan said he wanted to make his adaptation of a Hong Kong crime thriller seethe with the ambiance of Boston, where he is from. "We're a northern country," he said of Beantown. "Very dark and very self denying."
A nice audience moment: Meryl Streep's look of steely pique (in full Anna Wintour of Vogue mode) when presenters Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway say they forgot her cappuccino. (Didn't get it? An allusion to her film "The Devil Wears Prada.") Speaking of fashion, Milena Canonero bagged one for Costume Design for Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette." "There were many ways we could have gone with the costuming," Canonero said. "But Sofia didn't want it to be too . . . academic."
Then finally, a surprise. The handicappers had long predicted that "Pan's Labyrinth" would snag Best Foreign Film. But it went instead to "The Lives of Others," from writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, for his film about the creepy culture of spying on ordinary citizens by the East Germany Stasi during the Cold War.
Back behind the curtains, the first question to von Donnersmarck was in German. And we were patient. Then the second question was in German. Okay. Waiting. Then the third. (Hey,"Pan's Labyrinth" was robbed! Just kidding.)
Von Donnersmarck himself said, "Any questions in English?" One of the reporters asked something along the lines of: Wasn't the Bush administration engaged in the same creepy culture of spying? "I can see where you're heading," the director said. "What could the Stasi have done with today's technology? But as long as we have freedom of speech and you guys do your job, we'll be fine."
When he accepted his award, Von Donnersmarck thanked California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for "teaching me that the words I can't say should be stricken from my vocabulary." Backstage, he explained that Conan the Barbarian was his hero when he was a lad.
Thelma Schoonmaker won for Film Editing for "The Departed." Working with Scorsese, she said, is "tumultuous, passionate, funny and like being in the best film school in the world."
Asked about kissing her signif- -- correction, wife -- after winning Best Original Song for "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth," Melissa Etheridge said backstage that "I was kissing her because that's what you do when you win an Oscar."
Oscar loves a comeback and Oscar loves a newcomer, and in 25-year-old Jennifer Hudson, you got both. Bounced off "American Idol" by the dastardly Simon Cowell and crew, Hudson was one of 800 actresses who auditioned for the role of Miss Effie White in "Dreamgirls."
Tonight, she did it again. "Oh my God," said Hudson, open mouthed with shock. "I just have to take this moment in. Look what God can do. I didn't think I was going to win." She spoke of her grandmother. "She was my greatest inspiration," Hudson said, a singer, too, with the talent and passion, but not the opportunity. She thanked the Academy, then said, "I have to thank God again."
Andre Leon Talley, the editor-at-large at Vogue (where, by the way, Hudson appeared on the recent cover), wasn't kidding when on the red carpet he called Hudson "America's Princess." She looked gorgeously normal sized. Presenter Jerry Seinfeld got into the spirit. For Best Documentary Feature, "the five incredibly depressing films are . . ." Seinfeld said. It went to "An Inconvenient Truth," the little indie film about Gore giving his slide show warning of the dangers of global warming.
"We were moved to act by this man," said "Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim, who then turned the microphone over to Gore. The former vice president said, "We need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political crisis. It's a moral crisis. We have everything we need to get started with the possible exception of the will to act, and that's a renewable resource -- let's renew it."
Afterward, the first question from the press to Gore began "Mr. President?" That got a laugh. Then he mostly talked about how he is not planning on running for president, how he hoped that presidential candidates would "compete" to see who could talk about global warming the most, and how much he admired the filmmakers.
In the final (yawn) tally: The show ran 3 hours and 47 minutes -- nearly a half-hour longer than last year's ceremony.