Nope, I'm not complaining.
For the last few years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and yours truly have never quite seen eye to eye -- yeah, as if they care. The big annual prizegiving party turns into ranting season, with the best awards going drastically wrong.
This year, however, it's been just about right. It's been the year of Martin Scorsese, and The Departed.
And I'm grinning thinking of the four-director cluster on stage. The Best Director Oscar might not mean all that much -- Scorsese was iconic decades ago, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick never won -- but as we saw from the expression those mammoth eyebrows struggled to control, it still feels pretty good. Congrats, Marty, you deserve it.
Is The Departed really the year's finest film? Yes, among those nominated -- though Babel was in with more than a shout. But the Oscars have never really been about the groundbreaking brilliance in cinema -- they've been about the accessible groundbreaking in largely mainstream cinema, brilliance that can be accompanied by a sexy theme tune.
Otherwise, Best Picture would have gone to Pan's Labyrinth. Guillermo Del Toro's masterpiece of magic realism. (Ironically, the only nominee with a theme tune that'll make you shiver.) Labyrinth got much deserved glory (Cinematography, Art Direction, Makeup) but really ought to have made more headway towards the mainstream categories. But again, three Oscars will encourage the Mexican Hellboy director, and the promise of more looms encouragingly ahead. Watch this film.
So again, no complaints. Michael Arndt won Best Original Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine, and while I was rooting for Borat to pick up Best Adapted Screenplay -- who didn't want to see Sasha Baron Cohen let fly on an Oscar stage? (the Academy, most likely) -- William Monahan did an absolutely amazing job recrafting Infernal Affairs into The Departed.
Both Best Acting prizes went to actors who starred in films they dwarfed, but the acting-vehicle has become Oscar tradition. Penelope Cruz was outstanding in Volver and Rinko Kikuchi (right) was the best thing in Babel, but hey, what can you do? Like yet another unlucky first-time nominee Mark Wahlberg, shrug. Then again, it is admittedly easier to grin and bear it when the night belongs to your film. It is however a little heartbreaking to see Peter O'Toole miss out again -- he's astounding in the delightful Venus.
But the evening isn't blemish free. The Oscars must-must-must have at least one major screw up, and this time they did it with the toons. Happy Feet is all very well, but Cars is a technical marvel, with heart. The Pixar film is the best specimen of feature-length animation ever, and with its detailing nuances -- a raving colleague recently pointed out how every part of the Route 66 landscape is made up of a car part -- and memorable host of characters truly, truly deserved Best Animated Film.
Maybe, as illustrated with March Of The Penguins last year, the Academy just likes those birds. They dress alike, you see.
Photographs: Getty Images