Academy Award voters have a reputation for making up for egregious oversights by honoring lesser achievements of unquestionably talented filmmakers. Anybody who honestly believes that Martin Scorsese won his Best Director Oscar for "The Departed" is in severe need of learning this bit of Hollywood history. At times, the belated honor arrives in the form of an exhibition of talent where the chasm between the most artistically satisfying work of the past and the lesser work for which the honor arrives is less massive. To place "The Departed in the same category as the best of Scorsese's masterpieces is not merely foolish but evidence of an utter lack of any understanding of what makes a film great. On the other hand, John Wayne's Best Actor "career achievement in disguise" award for playing Rooster Cogburn was almost as worthy as if he'd won for what is really his finest work searching for years for Natalie Wood
The Oscar ceremony that takes place in 2013 may present a similar case. Paul Thomas Anderson got ripped royally when "There Will be Blood" did not take home Best Picture. I'm a big Coen Brothers fan, but…seriously? "There Will be Blood" was Hollywood filmmaking at its titanic best. It still remains atop my list of the best movies of the 21st century. The Coen Brothers winning for "No Country for Old Men" is not quite analogous to the Scorsese situation since it was a fine film where "The Departed" is a very pale imitation of not just the original, but of Scorsese's superior achievements in the past.
Haven 't seen "The Master" yet so I can't say that Paul Thomas Anderson winning the big Oscar prize would necessarily be closer in spirit to Scorsese finally winning Best Director for a film that is quite clearly in the bottom half of his canon, artistically speaking. The Oscar buzz is building substantially for "The Master" and I cannot help but wonder if that part of that crackle of electricity is related to Oscar voters realizing they made a historically bad decision in choosing to overlook "There Will be Blood" for Best Picture and Director.
Time will tell if "The Master" builds upon its buzz. Just keep in mind that around September 2007 the buzz had conferred a sense of inevitability on movie just being released. . "Atonement" is another of my top films of the decade and another that failed to score with Oscar voters looking for an opportunity to make up for previous oversights of Coen Brothers films.. So don't be surprised if the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony doesn't turn into Hollywood's delicate art of the public apologia.