2006 stands apart as one of my favorite Oscar years because it was like this past year in a way. It’s rare that the film I personally WANT to win actually wins. It was made all the sweeter by my own instincts about it winning being right on the money, as opposed to what many of my colleagues thought – that it was too dark to win, that a movie where Leonardo DiCaprio died at the end couldn’t win, etc. But I had a feeling that if Scorsese got even remotely close to a crossover crowd pleaser he would slam dunk the thing without breaking a sweat. And that’s exactly what happened. It still makes me happy looking back on it.
I also had a great moment in the elevator at Warner Bros talking to their publicist about The Departed. He/She said “We’re not expecting it to do much.” They took out one singular FYC ad for that campaign, or maybe a few but they never went out too far on a limb with it. Perhaps because Warners had the Eastwood double Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. Both films deserved to be recognized for Best Picture, in my opinion, but the critics only went nuts for the latter, which did end up getting/winning Best Picture. A few pundits even predicted it to win, but it was always the longest shot of the five nominees.
Despite what some modern (bored) critics say about The Departed it is easily one of Scorsese’s best, certainly among those where Scorsese and DiCaprio collaborated. With a brilliant, tight-as-a-drum screenplay by William Monahan, full of layers of symbolism about fathers, the church, child molestation, corruption – with a twin storyline that mirrors Matt Damon’s character with DiCaprio’s, The Departed was based on Infernal Affairs. That it was an American remake is another reason many underestimated its Oscar chances. It’s absolutely one of my favorite films of all time, one that I will watch at least twice every year for the rest of my life, I figure. Great great stuff.
In the end, Best Picture would come down to two films. The Departed (WGA/DGA) and Little Miss Sunshine (PGA/SAG). But Little Miss Sunshine did not get a directing nomination at the Oscars. And being that neither of them were Ben Affleck that made it (at that time) virtually impossible to win Best Picture. There were also only five Best Picture nominees, another reason why it would been unheard for Little Miss Sunshine to beat The Departed.
In order to alter perception, however, it was necessary to make people think Little Miss Sunshine was a genuine threat. In so doing, voters could then rally behind Scorsese and his long awaited win. Whether that reverse psychology tactic was used and effective or not is up for you Oscar watchers who were there at the time to decide. Those of us who think we know will carry it to our graves.
We’ll be talking either tonight or tomorrow so whatever you’d like to ask us be sure to mention it here.