HOLLYWOOD—Martin Scorsese finally felt the love last night from the film industry, as his mob drama, The Departed, was named best picture and he was named best director.
"Could you double-check the envelope?" Scorsese joked after being presented the directing Oscar by a heavyweight trio of his directing peers, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. Scorsese, who had come up short on five previous directing nominations, received a standing ovation from the crowd at the 79th annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre.
The Boston-based film also won for William Monahan's adapted screenplay and Thelma Schoonmaker's editing. While The Departed led the evening with four Oscars, Pan's Labyrinth took home three, and a trio of films - Little Miss Sunshine, Dreamgirls and An Inconvenient Truth - won two each.
Several major winners were heavily favored coming into the evening: best actress Helen Mirren for her portrayal of Elizabeth II in The Queen; best actor Forest Whitaker for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland; and best supporting actress Jennifer Hudson as singer Effie White in Dreamgirls. Three-time nominee Alan Arkin upset Dreamgirls' Eddie Murphy to take home the best supporting actor Oscar for his role in Little Miss Sunshine; the film also won for Michael Arndt's original screenplay.
Hudson, famously cast off from American Idol, triumphed as the cast-off singer in Dreamgirls. On stage, she thanked her late grandmother, a singer herself. "She was my biggest inspiration for everything," a tearful Hudson said. "She had the passion for it, but she never had the chance."
Arkin's previous nominations came four decades ago, in 1967 for his first major film, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians are Coming, and in 1969 for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Last night, he won for playing the foul-mouthed, heroin-sniffing but supportive grandfather in the offbeat comedy Little Miss Sunshine. Murphy had been nominated for playing the James Brown-inspired James "Thunder" Early in the musical Dreamgirls; he had won a Golden Globe for the role.
One of the night's most popular choices, at least with those in the audience at the Kodak Theatre, was the documentary feature win for Davis Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth, which made an unlikely movie star of Al Gore in his role as a lecturer on global warming.
"We did this," Guggenheim said upon accepting the Oscar, with Gore at his side, "because we were inspired to act by this man."
In an upset, the Oscar for best animated film went to the singing penguins of George Miller's Happy Feet. Pixar Studio's Cars had been the favorite, especially given the studio's past dominance of the category, having won for both Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.
"I honestly didn't think I'd win," Miller said backstage, "sitting next to John Lasseter [Pixar head and Cars director], who had won before. ... I feel pretty good."
Dreamgirls, which began the evening with the most nominations at eight, took the prize for sound mixing, in addition to Hudson's win. Although three songs from the movie were nominated for best original song, the Oscar - in yet another upset - went to Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up," from An Inconvenient Truth.
Letters From Iwo Jima won for sound editing.
Composer Ennio Morricone was given an honorary Oscar, for a career that included the scores for such films as The Battle of Algiers; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; and The Untouchables. Producer and former studio head Sherry Lansing was given the academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
The early evening took on a distinctly Mexican flavor. The first Oscar went to Eugenio Caballero and Pilar Revuelta, for their art direction of Pan's Labyrinth - one of a trio of Mexican films, including Babel and Children of Men, that were up for a total of 16 Oscars. Labyrinth also won for makeup artists David Marti and Montse Ribe, and for cinematographer Guillermo Navarro. In one of the evening's biggest shockers, however, Labyrinth lost the foreign language film nod to Germany's The Lives of Others.
The parade of stars walking the red carpet into the Kodak Theatre spanned a multitude of cinematic generations, from 86-year-old Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney to 10-year-old Abigail Breslin, a best supporting actress nominee for Little Miss Sunshine.
The bleacher crowd reserved one of its biggest ovations for Peter O'Toole, an eight-time nominee who has yet to win. The 74-year-old acting legend, first nominated for 1962's Lawrence of Arabia, was also on the receiving end of one of host Ellen DeGeneres' best opening-monologue quips. Noting how pleased a young girl like Abigail must be to be nominated for the first time, DeGeneres turned to O'Toole and pointed out that just getting nominated must get old after a while.
DeGeneres praised the international flavor of this year's roster of nominees. Taking note of Mexico's showing, as well as the presence of Spanish and Japanese nominees, she deadpanned, "I think I see a few Americans as well. Of course, I'm talking about the seat fillers."
Academy officials hoped to halt a continuing decline in the show's U.S. television audience. In 2004, an estimated 43.5 million people tuned in to watch The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King win a record-tying 11 Oscars. Last year, an audience of 38.9 million saw Crash's surprise best picture win.
The 2007 Oscars also saw the debut of a new weapon in the academy's continuing battle to prevent long, drawn-out acceptance speeches that devolve into a litany of not-exactly-scintillating thank-yous. Oscar winners were asked to keep their on-stage acceptance speeches to 45 seconds, with the promise that, once safely backstage, they could tape longer, more inclusive speeches to be made available on the academy's Web site, oscars.org. But the broadcast still ended up being almost four hours long.