Oscar File: Will Best Picture Nominees Be Back For More?

A 'Departed' De Niro? 'More Letters From Iwo Jima'? We weigh chances.

With less than a month to go until the Oscars, it may seem that the long journey of the five Best Picture nominees is finally coming to an end. But in reality — get ready — it may just be beginning. As first reported by MTV, sequels to Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” are already in the works, and while movies with roman numerals attached may seem to be the domain of the blockbuster, let’s not forget that it was Oscar favorite “The Godfather” that spawned a Part II and first gave sequels legitimacy.

Here’s a look at the Best Picture contenders and the word on whether you can expect to see more of them in the future — aside from ad-nauseam viewings on HBO, we mean.

The Movie: “The Departed”

Sequel Prospects: Very good. News broke this week that “Departed” screenwriter William Monahan is already at work on a continuation of the crime saga. And who could possibly be surprised? The film is a tremendous commercial success ($125 million and counting) and is, after all, a remake of a Hong Kong flick (“Infernal Affairs”) that spawned a sequel and prequel. Two of the actors whose characters survive in “The Departed” have already coyly hinted at another installment exclusively to MTV. Mark Wahlberg hinted at the possibilities recently, saying, “We may do a sequel with a new cast, and a prequel and bring back the rest of the guys.” Meanwhile, fellow “Departed” survivor Vera Farmiga even posited a title to us in jest: “The Arrival.”

If We Wrote It: Do not — we repeat, do not — do a prequel (unless you’re going way back “Godfather”-style with new actors). Nicholson barely got away with the shadowy flashbacks in the early scenes of “The Departed.” The thought of his dye job for “The Departed: The Early Years” doesn’t sit well with us. Instead, hold onto Wahlberg’s foul-mouth cop (arguably the best thing in the film), beef up Farmiga’s role (if there’s a better heir apparent to Cate Blanchett, we can’t think of one), and create a new mobster character for Scorsese chum Robert De Niro. De Niro was reportedly supposed to tackle Nicholson’s role anyway. It’s high time for another return for Marty and Bobby’s “Mean Streets.”

The Movie: “Little Miss Sunshine”

Sequel Prospects: Unlikely. Quirky family comedies don’t scream sequel, but then again, has there been a little film that’s had stronger legs than this? It’s been the buzz of the film world since debuting at Sundance more than a year ago, and seems to be just hitting its stride now. And now that we think about it, there was another dysfunctional family road comedy that spawned a few successors once before. But the less said about “Vegas Vacation,” the better.

If We Wrote It: Why not let the screenwriter of the film, the Oscar-nominated Michael Arndt, comment on how it should go down? Arndt told MTV exclusively: “Here’s my idea for the bad sequel: The whole family goes back to Albuquerque and they find that grandpa was part of a pair of triplets. So they have his will and they have to figure out how to divide up his estate. Now they need to bring both his estranged triplet brothers in and figure it out. Think of it: two Alan Arkins!”

The Movie: “The Queen”

Sequel Prospects: Moderate. Curiously, “The Queen” is already a sequel of sorts. In 2003, Stephen Frears directed Michael Sheen as Tony Blair in a TV movie called “The Deal.” They repeated this collaboration for the acclaimed 2006 film and added a dame named Helen Mirren to the mix for good measure. Flash forward to 2007 and you’ve got an Oscar favorite in Mirren and the must-see flick of the season for the “Masterpiece Theatre” crowd. Sequels to these kinds of films aren’t the norm, but then again, who would have thought Cate Blanchett’s “Elizabeth” would spawn a successor (“The Golden Age” comes out later this year).

If We Wrote It: Mirren has had her time to shine. Let’s give Sheen a chance on the next go-round (as far we’re concerned, he was robbed of an Oscar nod). Of course, his sympathetic portrayal of Prime Minister Tony Blair might take a beating when it comes time for the Iraq years. Arndt says he’d like to see another dynamic duo for the sequel: “Tony Blair and George W. Bush? I’d wait in line on Friday night to see that.”

The Movie: “Letters From Iwo Jima”

Sequel Prospects: Nil. It already is a sequel. Well, sort of. Just as Clint Eastwood was preparing to tackle the ambitious “Flags of Our Fathers,” he went and had the craziest idea since making those chimpanzee movies in the ’70s — essentially telling the same story from the Japanese perspective. Considering that virtually every speaking character in the film didn’t make it off the island, we’re not holding our breath for “More Letters From Iwo Jima.”

If We Wrote It: We’re not that creative.

The Movie: “Babel”

Sequel Prospects: As gloomy as the mood of the film. One strike against the prospects of another tale for these characters is the reported rift between screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu. These two have collaborated on three films now, and “Babel,” by all accounts, represents the end of their productive artistic journey. Still Iñárritu’s stories do tend to overlap and intermingle within his works. We could certainly imagine any of his characters from “Amores Perros” and “21 Grams” sharing a cry with Brad Pitt’s haggard tourist.

If We Wrote It: Let’s get all these characters together. Deaf student Chieko comes to America to be the new au pair for Brad and Cate’s still-grieving family. All hell breaks loose when the whole gang pops into the car for a trip south of the border to the home of Amelia (best supporting actress nominee Adriana Barraza). There’s your laugh riot for 2008. Send the check care of MTV.

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Departed,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Queen,” “Letters From Iwo Jima” and “Babel.”

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