The Departed, whether intended or not, is a legitimate Oscar contender and may, until Dreamgirls opens, be the frontrunner for Best Picture. I didn't think this would be the case, even after I saw it. Don't get me wrong, it is an excellent and the best of what has been in national release this year. That said, I worried that it would cater only to one demographic, until I started hearing from women how much they loved the movie. And then I saw the box office numbers - $77 million in 17 days. Scorsese's movies aren't known for making a lot of money (although The Aviator did eclipse 100 million). And then there's the weak opening of Flags of Our Fathers and the poor early reviews of Babel. Both of those films were considered locks for Best Pic.
It's still too early to see what happens, but I think The Departed picks up momentum with each week. November isn't a huge month for Best Picture contenders, but December is. The Departed should be well past $100 million by then and Warner Bros. should have its campaign going strong.
Here's a USA Today article on this very topic.