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Scorsese’s Statuette Snubbery

Tae Andrews | Thursday, February 15, 2007

He might just have to steal one.

For director Martin Scorsese, getting his hands on Oscar gold has proven to be an impossible feat. The elusive golden man on the trophy has remained just out of reach of Scorsese’s talented hands throughout his prolific and heralded career, rendering him the recipient of more Academy snubbery than any other individual with his talent and credentials.

Ironically enough for a director known for his mastery over the gangster genre – with such titles to his name as “Casino” and “Goodfellas” – Mr. Scorsese has been robbed more often at Oscar time than the hapless victims of his criminal characters.

Perhaps the Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart put it the best when he hosted the 2005 Oscars. After hip-hop trio Three 6 Mafia took home an Oscar for Best Original Song for their contribution “Hard Out Here for a Pimp” to the “Hustle & Flow” soundtrack, Stewart took the microphone and proclaimed, “For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Three 6 Mafia: 1, Scorsese: 0.”

In addition to his trips to the underworld, Scorsese also directed “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” two films featuring Robert DeNiro and widely acclaimed as fine pieces of cinema by critics and fans alike. In fact, Scorsese’s skill behind the camera has led some to call “Raging Bull,” with its tale of boxer Jake LaMotta, as the finest American film of all time.

Despite all of Mr. Scorsese’s cinematographic pleas, injustice remained served every year come January as he was passed over time and time again, most notably in 1976, 1980 and 1990 for his films “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas,” respectively. More recently, Scorsese was nominated for Best Director in 2002 for his work on “Gangs of New York,” but that award went to Roman Polanski for his film, “The Pianist.” Similarly, during the 77th Academy Awards Mr. Scorsese (“The Aviator”) lost the Best Director Oscar to Clint Eastwood for his film “Million Dollar Baby.”

“The Departed,” Mr. Scorsese’s latest stab at Oscar glory, sees him returning to what he does best: mafioso pictures. Taking a brief break from his typical focus on heavily Italian-ethnic films, Scorsese takes the audience up to Boston to weave a tale about the Irish mob. Again pairing with Leonardo DiCaprio, his golden boy from “The Aviator” and “Gangs of New York,” Scorsese has assembled an all-star cast that sparkles at every turn.

Based on a remake of a Chinese film entitled “Infernal Affairs,” “The Departed” features Matt Damon as a criminal mole planted inside the Boston police department opposite DiCaprio, who is an undercover cop. Rounding out the cast are Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg as two department higher-ups forever cracking wise, and the always-spicy Jack Nicholson plays Frank Costello, a criminally insane mastermind who’s clever as a fox and runs the Boston underworld.

However, despite having turned a blind eye to Scorsese’s situation in years past, the Academy is not entirely unmerciful. Although it has been known to “get it wrong” in the past with its decisions concerning the doling out of Oscars, the Academy has also been known to pass out “make-up” Oscars to recognize some of the most talented players in the industry. The prime example of this is Denzel Washington’s winning of an Oscar for his turn in “Training Day,” which, while good, was clearly not the best work of his long and storied career.

Having returned to what he does best with “The Departed,” should Martin Scorsese be snubbed again from receiving an Oscar, it would be – dare we say it – criminal.