Hollywood Analysis: An Oscar for Scorsese?

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Feb. 3, 2003 at 10:44 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- One of the more compelling storylines of this year's Hollywood awards season is the question of whether Martin Scorsese will finally win an Oscar.

Scorsese has been nominated for the directing Oscar three times -- for "Raging Bull" (1980), "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988) and "GoodFellas" (1990) -- but has never won. Come to think of it, for a guy who is widely regarded as one of the great movie directors of his generation, if not of all time, Scorsese's trophy cabinet is curiously devoid of major prizes.

Until he won the Golden Globe Award last month for directing "Gangs of New York," he had never won the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's top directing honor. He has been nominated six times for the Directors Guild of America's top feature directing honor -- including his nomination this year for "Gangs of New York" -- but has yet to take home the DGA award.

Regardless how the Oscars and DGA Awards turn out, Scorsese can count on adding an especially coveted trophy to his collection. The DGA is presenting him with its highest honor, a lifetime achievement award, at its upcoming awards on March 1 in Los Angeles.

By receiving the award, Scorsese lands on a list of previous winners that includes Woody Allen, Frank Capra, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and Billy Wilder.

Interestingly, an Oscar would remove Scorsese from an equally elite roster of Hollywood legends -- Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hawks, Hitchcock, Kubrick and Orson Welles. All of them are regarded as all-time greats, and none of them ever won an Oscar for best direction.

"Gangs" seems to represent Scorsese's best chance ever to take the Oscar. In addition to the Golden Globe, he has already won directing awards for the epic historical drama from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Las Vegas Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Online Film Critics Society.

Scorsese -- who avoids sentimentality in his often brutally violent depiction of human behavior -- has shaped up as something of a sentimental favorite for the Oscar this year, but not for Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman.

Writing in Daily Variety, the writer of "Misery," "The Princess Bride" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" allowed as to how Scorsese probably should have won the Oscar for "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" -- but Goldman said he is "sick unto death of feeling guilty" about Scorsese's failure to win an Oscar.

For the record, Scorsese was not even nominated for "Taxi Driver" the year that John G. Avildsen won the directing Oscar for "Rocky." And "Raging Bull" ran up against the "Ordinary People" juggernaut in 1980, when Robert Redford took the top directing prize.

Goldman said the Oscar campaign being waged on Scorsese's behalf looks like a "Byzantine plot ... As if the phonier critics all dropped to their knees and looked up at the Hollywood Gods, going in unison, 'Oh pwease, we twied so hard wif "Kundun," we even twied wif "Bwing Out the Dead," so pwease pwease wet Marty win this year, he wants it sooooo bad.'"

Goldman sees the hand of Miramax behind the campaign, a studio that he holds a grudge against for engineering an Oscar for Roberto Benigni ("Life Is Beautiful") in 1998 -- "the scummiest award in the Academy's history," as Goldman put it.

Goldman called himself a big Scorsese fan, but called "Gangs of New York" a mess -- and called Scorsese a lousy storyteller. On top of that, he vehemently objects to what he calls "a disgraceful shot" of the World Trade Center as the movie ends.

"I guess if you can't move people legitimately," wrote Goldman, "you do what you have to do."

Strong stuff from an old Hollywood pro. It remains to be seen whether it's enough to convince others in Hollywood to agree with him that the emperor has no clothes.

Academy Award nomination polls closed on Jan. 28, so it's too late for Goldman to dissuade academy voters from nominating Scorsese. Nominations will be announced on Feb. 11.

However, any anti-Scorsese campaign that comes up will have close to six weeks to determine whether it is more influential with academy voters than Harvey Weinstein -- the Miramax honcho with the reputation for bare-knuckle aggressiveness in the pursuit of Oscar gold.

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