TWO years ago, Martin Scorsese saw his shot at the best director Oscar for the ambitious Howard Hughes biopic "The Aviator" slip through his fingers when Clint Eastwood snatched the trophy for "Million Dollar Baby."
Sunday evening the two iconoclastic filmmakers were again competing -- only this time, the decision went to the 64-year-old Scorsese, winning his first Academy Award for his work on the gangster film "The Departed."
Scorsese received his Oscar from directors Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. When his name was read, the audience gave him a standing ovation. Scorsese had to quiet the cheering crowd to begin his speech, and noted how overwhelmed he felt to be presented the award by "my old friends." Before beginning his remarks, he asked, "Could you double-check the envelope?"
Scorsese had been nominated for the director prize five times previously. A New Yorker through and through, raised in the Little Italy neighborhood that provided the backdrop for his 1973 breakthrough film "Mean Streets," Scorsese has frequently been tagged the "greatest living American filmmaker," an accolade that seemed at odds with his Oscar tally.
The director himself seemed to have reached a point of wanting the award as much as his supporters felt he deserved it, though he kept relatively mum about it.
After strenuous campaigning behind his nominations for "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," Scorsese was notably absent from the interviews and meet-and-greets that led up to this year's ceremony. The work, as well as the career, was allowed to simply speak for itself.
-- Mark Olsen