- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Martin Scorsese last night ended one of the longest losing streaks in the history of the Academy Awards, as he picked up the best directing Oscar for the crime thriller “The Departed,” which also earned top honors as best film.

Mr. Scorsese, 64, who previously had been nominated five times as best director and twice for screenplays, finally won with a film in the blood-soaked crime genre that he proved himself a master of with “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas.”

“So many people over the years have been wishing this for me ? strangers,” Mr. Scorsese said before rattling off encounters in elevators and dentist offices. “And I’m saying thank you.”

“The Departed,” which also won Oscars for best adapted screenplay and best editing, is the story of rival mob and police moles, remade from the Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs.”

The win for “The Departed” was something of an upset, as the quirky comedy “Little Miss Sunshine” and the ensemble drama “Babel” had been considered favorites for best film going into last night’s ceremony.

Forest Whitaker was named best actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.” Helen Mirren won best actress for her portrayal in “The Queen” of British monarch Elizabeth II facing ebbing loyalty after the death of Princess Diana.

Jennifer Hudson won the supporting actress Oscar for “Dreamgirls,” though her co-star, and fellow front-runner Eddie Murphy lost the supporting actor prize to Alan Arkin of “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Miss Hudson, a former “American Idol” finalist, won an Oscar for her first movie, playing a powerhouse vocalist who falls on hard times after she is booted from a 1960s girl group.

“Oh my God, I have to just take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. I didn’t think I was going to win,” Miss Hudson said. “If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration.”

“More than anything, I’m deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth and connection,” said Mr. Arkin, who plays a foul-mouthed grandpa.

“Little Miss Sunshine,” which came out of the low-budget independent world to become a commercial hit, also won the original screenplay Oscar for first-time screenwriter Michael Arndt.

The film follows a ghastly but hilarious road trip by an emotionally messed-up family rushing to get their darling girl (played by 10-year-old Abigail Breslin, who was nominated for best supporting actress) to her beauty pageant.

“When I was a kid, my family drove 600 miles in a VW bus with a broken clutch,” Mr. Arndt said, describing a road trip that mirrored the one in the film. “It ended up being one of the funnest things we did together.”

Last night’s Oscars featured their most ethnically varied lineup ever, with stars and stories that reflect the growing multiculturalism taking root around the globe.

“What a wonderful night, such diversity in the room,” said Ellen DeGeneres, serving as Oscar host for the first time.

“And I want to put this out there: If there weren’t blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars,” she said, adding, “Or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that.”

Of the 20 acting nominees, five were black, two were Hispanic and one was Asian, while only two Americans — Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Scorsese — were among the five best-director contenders.

The Spanish-language “Pan’s Labyrinth,” writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s story of a girl who concocts an elaborate fantasy world to escape her harsh reality in 1940s fascist Spain — won awards for art direction and makeup.

The complete list of winners is available online at www.washingtontimes.com.

Italian composer Ennio Morricone received a lifetime achievement Oscar for his 45 years of scoring films, while former Paramount Pictures chairwoman Sherry Lansing, the first woman to run a major studio, received the academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

TV ratings for the Oscars tend to be lower when fewer people have seen the top nominees. Collectively, the five best-picture nominees had drawn a total domestic theatrical audience of about 38.5 million people, about a third the number of fans who have gone to see the contenders in recent peak years when such blockbusters as “Gladiator” or “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” have won.

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