By my count there are only ten or eleven weeks left till the end of the year, and the Oscar contenders just aren't measuring up. Martin Scorsese's The Departed is probably one of the best movies I've seen this year, but it's not a biopic and it doesn't have anyone sick or deformed in it. It doesn't make reference to 9/11 and it's not based on an important novel, so odds are the Academy will ignore it. Its lengthy running time and high quality may earn it a slot, but only if enough of the other contenders take a dive.
Long movies are not the problem this year. Little Children, Babel, Flags of Our Fathers and Marie Antoinette all run more than two hours, and more long movies are surely on the way. And we've got our share of Socially Important movies as well, with United 93 and World Trade Center battling it out for honors. It's a tough call: critics tended to prefer the former, but the latter has grossed twice as much. Philip Noyce also weighs in with this fall's apartheid movie, Catch a Fire. Babel and Fast Food Nation also have a lot to say about society's ills. (It doesn't even matter whether they're good movies.)