Well on his way to his first Academy Award, last night Martin Scorsese received the Directors Guild of America's feature-film top honors for The Departed, Scorsese's way overrated I-can-smell-a-rat gangster flick that the director himself has referred to as his “B-movie.” (And despite the presence of stellar names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, that's really what The Departed is – though without the flair of some of the better crime B's of the '40s and '50s.)
Needless to say, Scorsese's DGA win – much like his by now inevitable Oscar win – should be seen as a career award instead of recognition for a single achievement. It was Scorsese's seventh DGA nomination, his first win for an individual film (he had previously won a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003); at the Oscars, it's Scorsese's sixth nod, and it will be his first win.
“I was just trying to make a good picture,” the director told the crowd at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. “I didn't think I'd be standing here tonight. … But it is the first movie I have ever done with a plot.” (A strange remark, considering that most of Scorsese's films do have some kind of – however meandering – storyline.)
Scorsese also thanked 1950s crime directors Samuel Fuller, Robert Aldrich, and Don Siegel. (As an aside, Fuller's 1953 Pickup on South Street is a B-movie that works beautifully. Why can't Scorsese remake it with Leonardo DiCaprio in the old Richard Widmark role, Matt Damon all made up to look like Jean Peters, and Jack Nicholson in drag as bag lady Thelma Ritter? That would be one for the ages.)
Among the evening's other winners were: best documentary director Arunas Matelis, for the little-talked about Before Flying Back to the Earth (above), which depicts the plight of leukemia patients at a children's hospital in Vilnius, Lithuania, and best TV-movie director Walter Hill, for the miniseries Broken Trail, starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church as two cowboys who unexpectedly find themselves in charge of five abandoned Chinese girls.
Matelis' victory was quite a surprise, as his documentary beat two much-touted Oscar nominees, Amy Berg's Deliver Us from Evil, about a pedophilic priest, and James Longley's Iraq in Fragments, a portrait of the Iraq War hell as seen through the eyes of ordinary Iraqis.