It’s just been two days since Oscar Night, and again, I found myself researching on past “winners” of the coveted Oscar, to try to find a pattern regarding films which we consider “Oscar Bait”. But upon discovering a whole bunch of filmmakers who’ve been “robbed” of the Oscar, I decided to simply focus on one guy. A filmmaker who, next to John William’s who is one the biggest losers in Oscar history (I don’t care if he was nominated for 45 Oscars, he only won 5 of those).
Director Martin Scorsese’s first film to be nominated for Best Picture was Taxi Driver. He lost to Sylvester Stallone‘s Rocky. This was in 1976.
His next film to be nominated for Best Picture was Raging Bull, where he also received his first nomination for Best Director. He lost the Oscar to Robert Redford, who made the film Ordinary People (and which also happens to be Redford’s directorial debut).
His next nomination was for The Last Temptation of Christ. And, well, let’s not go there…
Then one film came where the people thought that Scorsese was sure to bag that elusive Oscar. It was Goodfellas, a gangster film which some considered to be best ganster film since The Godfather, and which many also considered to be Scorsese’s best film in his career. Come Oscar night, he lost, again to another first-time director named Kevin Costner, for his film Dances with Wolves (which would later be imitated by The Last Samurai, to an extent Brother Bear, and James’ Cameron’s Avatar).
Just when will Scorsese ever bag that Oscar? Well, for a while there, he was again nominated for Gangs of New York in 2002, but then lost to Roman Polanski for his work in The Pianist. Then came 2004 where Scorsese was again nominated for The Aviator, which many again considered to be one of his best films. It was also considered the Oscar favorite of the year. Then Clint Eastwood pulled the rug under Scorsese’s feet when he won the Oscar for his work on Million Dollar Baby. My goodness, Scorsese will never win the Oscar now.
Then in 2006, Scorsese directed a remake of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, titled The Departed. It was practically Infernal Affairs transplanted to a Boston setting. Now, on the surface, it was a decent film and, at times, quite intense. People die left and right, and the tension was delivered properly. But it was still a remake of a Hong Kong film at it’s core, and Scorsese did nothing new with the story.
He wins that elusive “Best Directing” Oscar that year. His fellow nominees that year were the following: Clint Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima), Paul Greengrass (United 93), Stephen Frears (The Queen), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel). The Departed is a weak film as compared to the films that year (Eastwood’s offering was certainly the best, next to the powerful United 93). Yet, Scorsese bagged that Oscar.
Fifteen years, losing to less than stellar films, only to win that coveted Oscar for a less than stellar film.