It was the year of Martin Scorsese at the Academy Awards, and it was long overdue. After seven previous nominations and no wins, the great...

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It was the year of Martin Scorsese at the Academy Awards, and it was long overdue. After seven previous nominations and no wins, the great American filmmaker took home his first Oscar last night for his crime drama “The Departed.” The film won Scorsese the best director award; it also took best picture, best adapted screenplay and best editing.

“Could you double-check the envelope?” joked Scorsese, accepting his award. The fast-talking filmmaker received the evening’s biggest ovation. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” he shouted over the tumultuous applause; when things quieted down, he spoke warmly of how so many people have wished him this award for so long: strangers, at the doctor’s office, on elevators. “I go for an X-ray, [they say] ‘You should win one!’ ” He graciously thanked everyone associated with “The Departed” and acknowledged its source: the Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs.”

Apart from Scorsese, it was the kind of year when no single film or story dominated the Oscars. “The Departed” won the most, with four, but every best picture nominee won at least one award. But Al Gore starred in the awards’ most surprising subplot. He was everywhere: on the red carpet; accepting the documentary award for “An Inconvenient Truth”; announcing with Leonardo DiCaprio that the Oscars were now green. (Really?) His name even turned up in the best song category, as Melissa Etheridge thanked him while accepting for the “Inconvenient Truth” theme song, “I Need to Wake Up.”

And it was the year of Helen Mirren, who surprised nobody by collecting the best actress award for “The Queen.” Looking smashing in a beaded Christian Lacroix gown, Mirren channeled her screen alter ego Queen Elizabeth II by bringing her handbag with her to the podium, and by graciously acknowledging that the real-life queen has for 50 years “maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle.”

Forest Whitaker won best actor for his powerful work as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.” (Peter O’Toole, alas, is now 0-for-8.) In his speech, Whitaker thanked the people of Uganda, who “helped this film have a spirit.”

Jennifer Hudson completed her sweep of virtually every award imaginable this year by winning best supporting actress for her passionate work as singer Effie White in “Dreamgirls.” In a tearful acceptance speech, the former “American Idol” contestant spoke of her grandmother, a singer who “had the passion for it, but she never had the chance.” She managed to squeeze in a shout-out to Jennifer Holliday, the original Effie on Broadway, before the orchestra unceremoniously played her off.

Many predicted a “Dreamgirls” sweep in the supporting categories, but Eddie Murphy watched Alan Arkin win the award, for “Little Miss Sunshine.” Arkin, a two-time nominee in the ’60s, thanked the film’s cast and crew in an understated acceptance speech.

Michael Arndt, original screenplay winner for “Little Miss Sunshine” (who was, we learned in perhaps the evening’s best random fact, once Matthew Broderick’s assistant) spoke of the film’s inspiration: a trip taken as a child with his family in “a VW bus with a broken clutch.” The winner for adapted screenplay, William Monahan for “The Departed,” was more subdued in his thanks. “Valium does work,” he noted.

“Pan’s Labyrinth,” Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale set in post-Civil War Spain, won three awards, for art direction, makeup and cinematography. It lost the foreign-language film Oscar, though, to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s mesmerizing tale of government eavesdropping in 1980s East Germany.

The show was its usual overlong muddle of snappy humor, tired shtick and way too many tribute montages, though Ellen DeGeneres made a likable, funny host. She was, perhaps, a tad too respectful; you wondered, as she noted herself, what she might say “at home in my pajamas, with half a box of chardonnay in me.” DeGeneres cheerfully wandered the audience between awards, snapping pictures with Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg “for MySpace,” and even doing a little vacuuming as the show ran late.

Will Ferrell, Jack Black and John C. Reilly contributed the evening’s funniest moment, with a song about the sad lot of comedians at the Oscars. The lyrics expressed hope that after playing the role of “the guy with no hands or legs who teaches gangbangers Hamlet,” they might one day go home with Oscar … and Helen Mirren (who was, it seemed, the evening’s appointed hot babe).

Bizarre Oscar fashion trends included A Curtain of Hair Cascading Over the Left Breast (most notable practitioners: Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow), A Pile of Weirdly Random Necklaces (Meryl Streep) and Dresses That Appeared to be Molting (Kirsten Dunst, Penélope Cruz). And the evening’s most random touch was the presence of the dance company Pilobolus, who created festive shapes in silhouette — like Oscar statuettes, VW buses or Prada shoes. Impressive, but a little scary, kind of like the words “Ladies and gentlemen, Céline Dion.” (Dion sang as part of a long-overdue honorary Oscar to composer Ennio Morricone.)

And, in the category of both scary and random, Jack Nicholson is now completely bald. But perhaps that’s another story, for another year.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com