By CHRISTY LEMIRE
LOS ANGELES — Martin Scorsese’s long-overdue glory at the Directors Guild of America Awards clearly paves the way for his long-overdue glory at the Academy Awards. That leaves just one category at the Oscars — the biggest of all — still up for grabs as this busy awards season nears its end. ...
Despite Scorsese’s win for his epic, bloody mob drama ‘‘The Departed’’ on Saturday, it still looks as if any of the five films in the best-picture category could take the top prize at the Academy Awards on Feb. 25. The prognosticators thus far have pointed in various directions.
This might be the most exciting, wide-open year we’ve seen in a very long time.
Besides the DGA victory, ‘‘The Departed’’ has also won the Critics’ Choice Awards for best picture and best director.
The Directors Guild winner has gone on to receive the directing Oscar four out of the past six years. That bodes well for Scorsese, who finally won at the Guild awards after going 0-for-6 and who’s never won the Academy Award despite five previous nominations for such classics as ‘‘Raging Bull’’ and ‘‘Goodfellas.’’
‘‘Babel,’’ Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s heavy global ensemble, won the prize for best drama at the Golden Globes, an awards show that in recent years has proven to be less of an unpredictable bacchanal and more of a reliable Oscar forecaster.
Clint Eastwood’s ‘‘Letters From Iwo Jima,’’ which depicts World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective, received top honors from the National Board of Review and won the Golden Globe for best foreign film (it’s almost entirely in Japanese).
‘‘The Queen’’ has earned star Helen Mirren every award from every critics group on the planet — along with a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award — for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II during the week after Princess Diana’s death.
But ‘‘Little Miss Sunshine’’ has great momentum, having won the Producers Guild Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble cast, which is equivalent to best picture. The low-budget dark comedy follows the misadventures of a family on their way to a freakishly oversexualized child beauty pageant.
And it is, at its core, an actors’ picture — just like ‘‘Crash,’’ last year’s surprise best-picture winner at the Academy Awards, which upset the heavily favored ‘‘Brokeback Mountain.’’ Actors comprise the largest block of Oscar voters, and once again could be drawn to a smaller, character-driven film like ‘‘Little Miss Sunshine’’ or perhaps ‘‘The Queen’’ over larger spectacles like ‘‘Babel,’’ ‘‘Letters’’ or ‘‘The Departed.’’
Whatever happens at the Academy Awards, the Directors Guild awards were a love fest for Scorsese, and a well-deserved one.
Although all the nominees Saturday night — Inarritu, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of ‘‘Sunshine,’’ Bill Condon of ‘‘Dreamgirls’’ and Stephen Frears of ‘‘The Queen’’ — had contingencies rooting for them, the whole ballroom at the Century Plaza Hotel seemed unified in support and appreciation of the veteran ‘‘Departed’’ director.
Scorsese received one standing ovation just when he was introduced as one of the honorees, and another when he took the stage at the end of the night to receive the award.
‘‘This is the first time I’ve been given this recognition,’’ the 65-year-old filmmaker said in typically rapid-fire, self-deprecating fashion, as if the entire room weren’t aware of that fact.
Scorsese said he’s pleased to have built a career on genre films like the Westerns and crime dramas that inspired him from his youth in New York’s Little Italy. ‘‘The Departed,’’ an Americanized version of the Hong Kong action hit ‘‘Infernal Affairs,’’ is about a Boston gang mole who rises through the ranks of the state police department and a detective who’s deep undercover with the mob.
‘‘This picture for me started as a genre film, but it was the first picture I’ve ever done with a plot,’’ Scorsese said, drawing huge laughs.