CATEGORIES Oscar News, Awards
Sean Penn wins Best Picture Oscar 2009When it comes to Oscar winners, it's all too easy to second-guess the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In several cases the members of the esteemed organization have made some seriously head-scratching decisions, especially in the category of Best Picture (many people still haven't gotten over 'Rocky' beating out 'Network,' 'All the President's Men' and 'Taxi Driver' in 1976).

But the Academy's also gotten more than a few things right, as indieWIRE notes in a piece that looks at the last decade's Oscars.

We focused on the past few years and found seven winners that we can't complain about: Sean Penn wins Best Picture Oscar 2009When it comes to Oscar winners, it's all too easy to second-guess the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In several cases the members of the esteemed organization have made some seriously head-scratching decisions, especially in the category of Best Picture (many people still haven't gotten over 'Rocky' beating out 'Network,' 'All the President's Men' and 'Taxi Driver' in 1976).

But the Academy's also gotten more than a few things right, as indieWIRE notes in a piece that looks at the last decade's Oscars.

We focused on the past few years and found seven winners that we can't complain about:

2008: Sean Penn, Best Actor ('Milk').
It was a real toss-up between Penn, who'd already won the award for 'Mystic River,' and Mickey Rourke, who not only made a much-publicized comeback from a self-induced career stall, but did an amazing job portraying Randy "the Ram" Robinson in 'The Wrestler.' The Academy went with Penn, whose nuanced, completely believable transformation into Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay politician, was unlike anything he'd ever done. Worth it alone for his "commie, homo-loving sons of guns" acceptance speech.

2008: Penélope Cruz, Best Supporting Actress ('Vicky Cristina Barcelona').
Marisa Tomei ('The Wrestler') and Viola Davis ('Doubt') put in strong performances, but the Academy was so right in awarding Cruz, whose mentally unstable María Elena in Woody Allen's best movie of the past decade was both hilarious and sexy. Who knew she could be so funny?

2007: Marion Cotillard, Best Actress ('La Vie En Rose').
Julie Christie playing an Alzheimer's victim in 'Away From Her' was some steep competition, and French actress Cotillard, virtually unknown in this country, was an obviously underdog (Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney and Ellen Page rounded out the category). But she inhabited the role of fragile singer Edith Piaf so completely the Academy had to acknowledge it, making Cotillard the first actress to win an Oscar for a French language performance.

2007: Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Actor ('There Will Be Blood')
It was a pretty tough category that year, what with Viggo Mortensen's electrifying performance in 'Eastern Promises,' George Clooney's powerful, understated 'Michael Clayton' and Johnny Depp succeeding wildly as the singing, murderous 'Sweeney Todd.' But Day-Lewis' fearsome performance as a self-made oil tycoon made 'There Will Be Blood' mesmerizing and he proved unbeatable.

The Departed2006: 'The Departed,' Best Picture.
There was so much attention paid to the Best Director contest that year -- and whether Martin Scorsese would finally be rewarded for a career of essential movies (he was) -- that 'The Departed,' up for Best Picture, was itself almost overshadowed. It wasn't a shoe-in: Clint Eastwood's excellent 'Letters from Iwo Jima,' the little-comedy-that-could 'Little Miss Sunshine' and Stephen Frears' critically-acclaimed 'The Queen' were also contenders. But the Academy decided to really make it up to Marty that year. An almost unbearably suspenseful cops vs. mobsters drama featuring several great performances, 'The Departed' was indeed worthy.

2006: Alan Arkin, Best Supporting Actor ('Little Miss Sunshine').
Any of the nominees (Jackie Earle Haley, Djimon Hounsou, Eddie Murphy and Mark Wahlberg) could have taken it, but Arkin was the sentimental favorite. Not only was he a major hoot in 'Sunshine,' but he'd put in 40 years of great performances both comic ('The In-Laws') and not ('Thirteen Conversations About One Thing'). A virtual lifetime achievement award.

2005 - 2008: Best Director Winners
The Academy's done pretty well in this category. Ang Lee ('Brokeback Mountain,' 2005), Scorsese ('The Departed,' 2006), Joel and Ethan Coen ('No Country for Old Men,' 2007), and Danny Boyle ('Slumdog Millionaire,' 2008) were all seasoned filmmakers whose movies those years were among the best of their careers.


Sound off: Which recent winners did the Oscars get right?