Sometimes, unfortunately when someone wins an Oscar they don’t win for what is their best performance or respective job on that film. 2006 (awards handed out in 2007) was one of these years. We knew it had to happen at some point and this proved to be the year that would see a man who had already solidified himself as a true film making legend, win his first award for directing and his movie would finally be named best picture of the year. Martin Scorsese would finally be named best director and his movie, The Departed would be awarded best picture. While it’s a great movie with an all-star cast that truly were outstanding in there respective roles. The problem is that it isn’t Marty’s best movie. We could list about 4-5 of his movies that will be apart of American film history before we get to The Departed. In 1969 John Wayne won best actor for True Grit. The overall consensus was that it was a way of giving an honorary Oscar with out singling him out. That same thinking, I believe, lead to Scorsese taking home the best director award that night.
It wasn’t the strongest year of competition but there were some other great movies and performances to look at and discuss. We begin, as always by looking at the other nominees. First on our radar was the surprise independent film and maybe the most loved movie of the year, Little Miss Sunshine. Little Miss Sunshine did not go home empty handed as it won best original screenplay and the comic acting legend Alan Arkin finally caught Oscar for best supporting actor. It was a movie of a family with problems not akin to most people but common problems non-the-less such as drug addiction, financial woes and even severe depression. The family comes together and comes to accept each other and their individual situation on a disastrous journey to California for a beauty pageant. It was a warm and feel good movie without being sappy or cheesy.
Next was the mind twisting movie of several stories across the globe all tying in to one singular theme as paths cross in the film Babel starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. It shows that no matter where we exist our lives our not that different and we must come together for the simple sake of humanity. Beautifully directed and a fine performance by Pitt and Blanchett it would be shutout on awards night.
Clint Eastwood returned with a host of nominations for his WWII epic Letters From Iwo Jima. It told a story not often talked about as seen through the eyes of were the enemies. Almost completely in Japanese it made many take note that not only Americans were lost in the great war. Based on letters written home by Japanese soldiers it was an emotional journey and will forever be one of Eastwood’s finest films.
Finally on the list is once again the token British movie with it’s exceptional acting with Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II after the death of the iconic Princess Diana and how she dealt with those events. Mirren would be awarded best actress that night and rightfully so as she was head and shoulders above her fellow nominees.
So what about the movies not nominated for best picture or anything for that matter?
The one movie that truly stood out was Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond. With what was his best role and performance of his his career up to that point he would again go home empty handed, losing to Forrest Whitaker for Last King Of Scotland. The 2 1/2 hour long journey for a pink diamond set it war torn Sierra Leon, was by far a nomination worthy film and would have no controversy surrounding it had it won! I mean we were already used to Scorsese losing out!
One movie that never got the love it deserved, maybe because it’s a remake of a movie that had already taken home best picture close to 60 years earlier, that was Sean Penn’s All The King’s Men. A well told story of a small town man who rises from nothing and with the most honest and best intentions to become governor of Louisiana and becomes drunk with power.
Honorable mention should go to Christopher Nolan’s follow up to his blockbuster Batman Begins, with The Prestige. a well told turn of the century story about Houdini like magicians and the underground competition amongst magicians and the lengths they would go to, to be the very best.
One movie that flew way under the radar was former child star and second generation actor’s writing and directing debut and that is Emilio Estevez’s Bobby about the day that Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. With an all star cast it wasn’t the best movie but it was a well told story of the people working and using the Ambassador hotel that fateful day.
So was The Departed the years best picture? Well it deserves to be in the conversation but I just couldn’t and still can’t shake Blood Diamond and Little Miss Sunshine which I believe as time goes on will be the more fondly remembered movies. As always, just like a sports career, time is what determines what makes a film great and the great ones always last. After all Wizard of Oz didn’t even win best picture in it’s nominated year but we still remember it.