Scorsese Scores an Upset at Critics' Awards

Martin Scorsese got a big surprise Friday night and scored an upset victory at the Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, Calif.

His movie, “The Departed,” won Best Film and he took home honors as Best Director. It was Scorsese’s best showing ever at an awards show and a legitimate one at that. He joked to the crowd: “It’s the first I tried to make that has a plot.”

This big win for “The Departed” puts a slight dent in what looked like a sure Oscar win for “Dreamgirls,” which received four awards last night including Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy in the supporting actors categories and two music awards.

The other big winner of the night was “Little Miss Sunshine,” which now looks like it will have the fifth slot for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker, who’ve won everything else imaginable for their respective roles in “The Queen” and “The Last King of Scotland,” won here as well in the dramatic category.

But the really wild win last night went to "Borat" — the sensationally hilarious film I told you about last May from the Cannes Film Festival. It won the Critics Choice Award last night for Best Comedy, beating two probable Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, “Dreamgirls” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Yes, "Borat" may be the funniest rollercoaster of a movie ever made. Its star and creator, Sacha Baron Cohen, took the stage at the Santa Monica Civic Center and spoke in a plummy, educated British accent that took most of the people in the room by surprise. On the red carpet, it was not uncommon to hear someone ask upon seeing Cohen out of his Borat disguise, “Who’s that?”

At the podium, Cohen accepted the prize and said, “I’d like to thank everyone who decided not to sue us.” He also made special mention of actor Ken Davitian, who played Borat’s assistant Azamat and made a funny but slightly unprintable reference to their nude wrestling scene.

Afterwards, Cohen, director Larry Charles and producer Jay Roach — all of whom fretted through that Cannes screening last year — told me the “Borat” DVD will have between 40 and 50 minutes of extras. “There’s a lot more too," Cohen said. “We could do multiple discs.”

Cohen, et al, are also a little shocked at the likelihood that he will win Best Actor in a comedy on Monday from the Golden Globes.

“It’s not often a broad comedy is treated this way,” Roach observed. “One year 'Pride and Prejudice' was in that category.” Of course, that is the caprice of the Golden Globes.

The Critics' Choice Awards are not new, by the way. They’ve just undergone a name change. They are still given by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, a group of 200 TV, radio and Internet journalists who cover Hollywood on a regular basis and have actual credentials.

The indefatigable Joey Berlin is the man behind the scenes, and in just a couple of years he’s turned this thing into an important event. The E! Channel will air last night’s show on Jan. 22, but if CBS were smart they’d run the ceremony live next year.

So many stars turned out last night it’s clear the Critics’ Choice Awards could supplant the less respected Golden Globes in a very short time. The only nominees of note who were missing were Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Will Smith and Judi Dench — the latter because she’s still starring in a play in the U.K.

Otherwise, everyone from Clint Eastwood — whose “Letters From Iwo Jima” won Best Foreign Language Film — to Steven Spielberg, Penelope Cruz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sienna Miller, Greg Kinnear, Ryan Gosling, Maria Bello, Marcia Gay Harden, Cuba Gooding Jr., Melissa Etheridge, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Djimon Hounsou, Christian Slater, Alan Arkin, plus Mirren with husband Taylor Hackford, Fox’s Jim Gianopoulos and Peter Rice, Harvey Weinstein as well as the aforementioned trio of African-American actors who won and made a little history — Murphy, Whitaker and Hudson.

Indeed, the show was smoothly executed, lively and had a good buzz.

It was also witty. Instead of doing the usual roll call of show-bizzers who passed away in the last year, the Critics offered a cleverly funny “In Memoriam” segment to films that died at the box office including "Snakes on a Plane," "Poseidon" and "The Lady in the Water" (redubbed “Dead in the Water”).

It should become an annual tradition!