Is Scorsese Oscar Poison?

If Oscar voters are looking for wholesome subjects to promote the film industry -- and cynics will say that's the primary reason for the Academy Awards -- they're not likely to find them in Scorsese's work.

That's not to say that the Academy Awards haven't embraced some controversial films. They have. And Scorsese's films haven't been totally snubbed. Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull"), Paul Newman ("The Color of Money") and Ellen Burstyn ("Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore") have won Oscars for their work in Scorsese films.

Still, Scorsese's overall Oscar record is dreadful. His movies have gleaned 59 nominations, but have won just six times. In addition to "Gangs of New York," "Taxi Driver," "Cape Fear," "Casino" and "Kundun" were completely shut out.

Just how did Hollywood fail to honor five of its best directors? Here's a look at just how Hitchcock, Welles, Lumet, Kubrick and Scorsese lost -- and who topped them. Surprisingly, in many cases, these masters lost because directors they competed against had films that were, arguably, just as worthy as theirs.

But in some cases, you can make a pretty good case that a great director had been robbed by a film industry that, at times, might be a bit too skittish. Does anyone still believe that Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves" stands up better than Scorsese's "Goodfellas"? Come on.

Oscarless Directors

Alfred Hitchcock: Five Directorial Nominations
For "Psycho" in 1961. Winning director: Billy Wilder ("The Apartment")
For "Rear Window" in 1955. Winning director: Elia Kazan ("On the Waterfront")
For "Spellbound" in 1946. Winning director: Harry Stradling Sr. ("The Picture of Dorian Gray")
For "Lifeboat" in 1945. Winning director: Leo McCarey ("Going My Way")
For "Rebecca" in 1941. Winning director: John Ford ("The Grapes of Wrath")

Hitchcock lost to some of the most successful movies in Hollywood history. "Going My Way," which seems a bit dated to today's audiences, was an Oscar juggernaut, with seven wins and 10 nominations.

"Rear Window" and "Psycho" are great films, just as powerful today as when they were released. But "On the Waterfront" stands out, even among Oscar winners, and "The Apartment" remains a classic.

Only one Hitchcock film was nominated for best picture -- "Suspicion" in 1942. That year, it was competing against Welles' masterpiece, "Citizen Kane," and both films lost to "How Green Was My Valley."

Hitchcock's only Oscar gold came with the Thalberg award.

Martin Scorsese: Five Directorial Nominations
For "The Aviator" in 2005. Winning director: To Be Announced
For "Gangs of New York" in 2003. Winning director: Roman Polanski ("The Pianist")
For "Goodfellas" in 1991. Winning director: Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves")
For "The Last Temptation of Christ" in 1989. Winning director: Barry Levinson ("Rain Man")
For "Raging Bull" in 1981. Winning director: Robert Redford ("Ordinary People")

You can criticize Oscar voters for thinking more about what's good for Hollywood's image, rather than what's the best movie. But if so, it's hard to explain Scorsese's loss to Polanski, who has been a fugitive of justice since fleeing the United States in 1978, after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski, obviously, couldn't be on hand to accept the award, because law enforcement officers would have been there to greet him, and not because they're movie buffs.

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