THE DEPARTED is not at all a bad film, and is a better movie than other recent Best Picture winners than CRASH, TITANIC and GLADIATOR. It's also not a very special movie, and may not even be one of the ten best of Scorsese's career. It's a well-crafted if overlong genre film with a ludicrous finale that looks as though Scorsese started killing off characters because the story was over, but he still had a contractual body count to hit. Mark Wahlberg's Oscar nomination is a joke. He was fine, I suppose, in a nothing role, but he's at best the fifth best performance in the movie. Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen aren't getting much props, but they were both outstanding and probably the most credible performers in the movie. How does Wahlberg get a Supporting nod, but not Sheen or Baldwin?
I'm glad Marty won, 'cause he's earned one many times over, but it's like giving Paul Newman an Oscar for THE COLOR OF MONEY. Perhaps I'd have admired it more if I hadn't last week seen 1973's THE OUTFIT, which is a great and brutal crime picture with Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker as bank robbers hitting back against the Mob. THE OUTFIT is just as good, and I was imagining during THE DEPARTED how much cooler it would have been if it had been made in the '70s when it could have starred actual tough guys in the Damon and DiCaprio roles. Imagine a young Robert Forster as Costigan, for instance, and maybe James Caan as Sullivan.
Other notes on this year's Oscar show:
- I thought it was one of the worst telecasts I've seen. Deathly dull. Host Ellen Degeneres was uninteresting, and I didn't find any of the production numbers or film tributes to be worth the effort. It was great that the Academy recognized the great Ennio Morricone, but the scores used in his tribute are among his most conventional. Yes, they were Oscar-nominated and very good, but how could, for instance, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST be overlooked?
- Interesting to learn that Oscar-winning costumer Milena Canonero is married to character actor Marshall Bell, whom you've probably seen in movies, TV shows and commercials, including TOTAL RECALL and the cool cult series G VS. E.
- What the hell happened to Nicole Kidman? Is she in the Witness Protection Program? She's changed her face and become British.
- Surrrrreee, nobody knows the identities of the winners except for the accountants. That's why the Big Three of Francis Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were selected to give away Best Director, and nooooooobody had any idea Scorsese was going to win.
- Is it time yet to dump the Best Song category? Has there been a decent Best Song nominee in the last 25 years? Besides "Blame Canada," that is.
- Why couldn't the Academy have gotten Morricone's speech ahead of time and prepared subtitles? Obviously presenter Clint Eastwood knew the contents of the speech, unless he knows more Italian than I thought he does.
- It was cool to see Catherine Deneuve present an award, but would it kill the Academy to bring in more Hollywood royalty? I understand the advantages of having Jessica Biel present an award, but let's have an occasional Elizabeth Taylor or Jane Fonda appearance too. Who the hell is James McEvoy?
- Why do actors who earn their livings memorizing lines have to read their speeches? Why don't they memorize them?
- Why is it that the orchestra always plays winners off the stage when they speak too long, but there's plenty of time for dull comedy bits like Ellen vacuuming?
- Will Ferrell's hair rules. I assume it's for his upcoming comedy about the ABA. Is he the white Darnell Hillman?