THANK GOD FOR THE RAIN TO WASH THE TRASH FROM THE SIDEWALK. When it came out, I assumed that The Departed was too good and too alive to be competitive for Best Picture; I'm happy to be wrong, and it's good that the greatest living American director got his award. I still can't quite believe that this happened with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but it's gratifying that he won for his best film in nearly two decades rather than for something like The Aviator. It's partly a testament to Scorsese and partly a testament to the kind of middlebrow doorstops (and, sometimes, utter crap) that the Academy generally likes that, while it obviously doesn't rank with his very greatest work, I think it's by far the best film to be so honored in the last decade (well, OK, that's also partly a testament to the fact that I don't get Tolkien.) Indeed, although this is idiosyncratic almost to the point of perversity, the last Best Picture I unequivocally prefer is Annie Hall, granting that 1)Schindler's List is (at least before its last 20 minutes or so, and John Williams in that context, ugh) a tough case, underrated by some cineastes, 2)The Silence of the Lambs is a good thriller, and 3)I know my belief that Unforgiven is merely very good will get catcalls.

My other question: I know there were a lot of other strong candidates -- Children of Men in particular was visually magnificent -- but how on earth did Scorsese's great cinematographer Michael Ballhaus not even secure a nomination?

--Scott Lemieux

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