It took three decades and eight nominations, not to mention close to four hours of awards show banter, but Martin Scorsese's Oscar moment finally arrived, courtesy of The Departed.
The legendary filmmaker's long-running, well-chronicled losing streak officially came to an end at the 79th Annual Academy Awards when he was named Best Director, while his South Boston thriller earned the title of Motion Picture of the Year.
"Could you double-check the envelope?" Scorsese asked presenters and longtime pals Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola as he took the stage to accept the award. He went on to thank his many supporters, adding, "So many people over the years have been wishing this for me."
Scorsese had previously been nominated five times for directing and twice for screenplays.
The Departed won four awards in all, more than any other film. In addition to Best Picture and Director, the mob epic picked up Best Adapted Screenplay for William Monahan's script and Best Film Editing for Scorsese crony Thelma Schoonmaker.
As expected, Helen Mirren was named the year's Best Actress and Forest Whitaker the year's Best Actor, a fitting end to an awards show season in which both actors took home hardware at just about every event where trophies were presented.
Mirren was honored for her turn as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, while Whitaker scored for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
If referring to Jennifer Hudson as a "former American Idol contestant" wasn't already passé, it certainly became so immediately upon the Dreamgirls star's win for Best Supporting Actress.
"Oh my God, I have to just take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. I didn't think I was going to win," a tearful Hudson said, as she accepted the award. "If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration."
During a preshow interview on the red carpet, E!'s Ryan Seacrest played Hudson a taped message from Simon Cowell telling her "how proud we at American Idol all are of you." (E! Online is a division of E! Networks.)
In a bit of an upset, Hudson's costar, Eddie Murphy, was beaten in the Best Supporting Actor category by Little Miss Sunshine star Alan Arkin, in a win that came 40 years after Arkin was first nominated for his debut film, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.
As Arkin approached the stage, a helpful voiceover revealed that the actor was almost passed over for the role of the trash-talking, heroin-snorting grandfather because the director found him "too virile."
The actor started out with a stoic acceptance speech, but broke down as he thanked his wife and sons.
"More than anything, I'm deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth and connection," Arkin said.
Murphy's snub was just one of many for Dreamgirls, which went into the night with a leading eight nominations, but won just one award in addition to Hudson's—the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing.
Babel, which, like Dreamgirls, was a Best Picture winner at the Golden Globes, also went relatively unrecognized at the Academy Awards, picking up a lone Oscar for Best Original Score despite seven nominations.
The Spanish-language film Pan's Labyrinth won three awards, including Best Cinematography, but was beaten in the Best Foreign-Language Film category by Germany's The Lives of Others.
Another minor upset: The dancing penguins of Happy Feet beat out the talking vehicles of Cars for Best Animated Feature. Meanwhile, Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, 2006's highest grossing film, tallied just one Oscar, for Best Visual Effects. At least it has some $420 million in doubloons for consolation.
An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's call to action on the global climate crisis, won Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song for Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up."
"People all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue," the former vice president said, as he took the stage along with the film's director, Davis Guggenheim.
Etheridge echoed Gore's nonpartisan environmental message in her acceptance speech.
"I have to thank Al Gore for inspiring us, inspiring me, showing that caring about the Earth is not Republican or Democrat, it's not red or blue—we are all green," Etheridge said.
The film's victories were in keeping with the theme of the evening, which was declared the first-ever "green" Oscars, with organizers making a commitment to put together the most environmentally friendly event possible.
Earlier in the evening, Gore appeared onstage with Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio to recognize the show's efforts to reduce its ecological impact.
Though not known for his sense of humor, the politician did his best to get a laugh from the crowd by pretending he was about to announce a second presidential campaign after DiCaprio asked him if he wanted to "make a major, major announcement."
"My fellow Americans, I'm going to take this opportunity here and now to formally—" Gore said, before he was cut off by the orchestra.
Said orchestra was perhaps overly considerate with the amount of time it permitted winners to babble onstage before sounding the cutoff music, given that the ABC telecast dragged on for nearly four hours (the official timekeeper clocked the ceremony at 232 minutes).
Former Paramount chairwoman Sherry Lansing was the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honor ironically presented to her by former Paramount talent Tom Cruise, whose relationship with the studio ended abruptly last year.
Italian composer Ennio Morricone, a five-time Academy Award nominee, received an honorary Oscar in recognition of the many films he has scored over the course of his decades-long career. Morricone delivered a lengthy acceptance speech in Italian, which presenter Clint Eastwood then attempted to translate.
In her first Oscar hosting gig, Ellen DeGeneres played it relatively safe, throwing in an occasional signature move, such as a dance sequence she performed alongside a gospel choir.
One of the night's biggest laughs came in DeGeneres' opening monologue, when in reference to the diverse pool of nominees, she remarked that if "there weren't blacks, Jews and gays, there would be no Oscars…or anyone named Oscar, when you think about that."
And who could imagine a world without Oscars?
Here's a complete roundup of all the winners of the 79th Annual Academy Awards.
Check out the rest of our ultimate Oscar coverage.