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'Departed': Marty's late, great arrival

Jack Mathews
New York Daily News (MCT)

Best Director winner Martin Scorcese backstage at the
79th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in
Los Angeles, California, Sunday, February 25, 2007.
(Daniel A. Anderson/Orange County Register/MCT)

Finally, it was Marty's party.

Twenty-five years after he should have won his first statuette for "Raging Bull" and 15 years after he should have won his second for "GoodFellas," Martin Scorsese got into the winner's circle Sunday night with "The Departed." Few people will argue that "The Departed" is in a league with those earlier movies, but fewer still will begrudge him this win.

"The Departed" was not the best movie nominated, nor did Scorsese do the best directing job. I would have voted for Clint Eastwood and "Letters From Iwo Jima," which was the movie of substance in the game.

Since they don't release voting numbers, who knows if "Letters" and Eastwood were even runner-ups? The 11th-hour conventional wisdom was that "Little Miss Sunshine" would win Best Picture.

But those people who may have agreed with me about "Letters" had good reason to go with Scorsese and "The Departed." Two years ago, Scorsese and "The Aviator" seemed to have locks on the top Oscars, only to have Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" show up late in the race and knock them both out.

If sentiment affected the voters' judgment about "The Departed," they didn't let it get in the way of honoring the incredible performance of Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."

They could have avoided the night's most bittersweet moment, when Whitaker's name was read by Reese Witherspoon and the camera trained on the face of the 74-year-old Peter O'Toole. O'Toole is a giant of his generation who had gone 0 for 7 in Best Actor races. Great as he is, he couldn't hide the disappointment of making it 0 for 8.

Still, the voters did the right thing. Whitaker's performance is one for the ages, and to have denied him the Oscar for it would have been a blot on the record.

But the voters do have some explaining to do in the case of Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth."

Perhaps the one legitimate masterpiece to be found anywhere on the ballot, it won three craft awards - for makeup, art direction and cinematography - and did not win for Best Foreign Language Film.

Given that it had received six total nominations - more than any film except for "Dreamgirls" and "Babel" - this makes no sense.

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