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Leonardo DiCaprio: Have the Oscars Really Snubbed Him?


February 20, 2016

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Leonardo DiCaprio is an icon of the cinema to say the least. A lot of Hollywood celebrities haven’t earned their fame, but there’s no questioning the brand name of DiCaprio. It was built on his sweat and blood.

DiCaprio, especially in the last 15 years, has been known for his dominance and quality as an actor. This has led to awards talk, Oscar nominations, Golden Globe nominations, Screen Actors Guild nominations, etc. along with a reputation of being one of the most dependable actors. One reason is that he limits himself. In the past 15 years, he’s done 15 full-length movie roles. So on average, DiCaprio is kind of like the Oscars in the fact that we seen him only once a year.

DiCaprio is up for the Best Actor Oscar for Revenant and I have zero doubts that he will win and no longer be a top 5-10 actor to have never won an Academy Award. All his fans (especially the girls who find him quite attractive) will be overjoyed. It has been a long time coming.

It’s been so long, that there actually was a computer game created where the user can play as DiCaprio and chase after an Oscar. No, I’m being completely serious. You literally chase. It’s right here: http://redcarpetrampage.com/

The basic concept is the user is in a race game where they get around obstacles and catch the Oscar. It’s in good humor, but, and this is a bad habit of mine, it got me wondering if people think that DiCaprio has been snubbed by the Oscars.

Everyone who loves movies has an opinion on the Oscars. They’ll say, “Oh that guy deserved an Oscar for that role!” Well ok. But are they really sure? Most of the time, they think they are because they don’t have all the facts. So let’s do some walking in their shoes; say for about a mile.

Let’s pretend for a second that we the people each have omnipotent power to dispens our own Oscars. Then let’s test the theory that Leonardo DiCaprio has been snubbed all these years by the Oscars.

DiCaprio’s Oscar history starts with his one of his very first real film roles in what I feel was his best performance was his first as a supporting actor in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape which was written by Peter Hedges (whose father was my dear friend and childhood pastor so I may be slightly biased).

DiCaprio’s portrayal of the severely autistic/mentally retarded Arnie lost that year to the comic/serious role of United States Marshall Sam Gerard who was portrayed with perfect sass and delivery by Tommy Lee Jones. That’s the one year where DiCaprio fans have a case to say he was robbed. Gerard’s type of character is not typically critically acclaimed and while he was well done, many people would say that portraying Arnie is much more difficult than portraying a funny yet serious cop.

But let’s not think that DiCaprio and Jones were the only horses in the race. Who also could’ve or should’ve won, looking back on the time period, was Ralph Fiennes and his chilling portrayal of Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant in Schindler’s List.

Ah, you forgot that Fiennes was a nominee that year did you? What about John Malkovitch for In the Line of Fire or Pete Postlethwaite for In the Name of the Father, did you know they were up that year too?

Most likely you didn’t. And if you haven’t seen all those performances, I urge you to at least watch some clips on YouTube because they’re worth watching.

See, that’s the problem that most people have. Lack of memory when it comes to such trivial knowledge, but at the same time, it’s not trivial because how can we say anyone “deserves” the award without seeing the competition? It’d be like saying that one kid deserves to win the Spelling Bee when half the kids are still around.

DiCaprio was amazing in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and that movie basically made his career happen to a degree because without it, I doubt he gets into Titanic or any of the other subsequent roles. Acting is about making a name for yourself once, then doing it again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Repetitive huh? But that’s how it works.

So DiCaprio shook off that loss with dignity. Remember DiCaprio was a baby then. He was only a teen when he had that role. There have been cases where great actors, like Timothy Hutton who won Best Supporting Actor for Ordinary People, who win and then fall off the face of the earth. Maybe it was better for DiCaprio to have it denied to him, so that he’d have a slight chip on his shoulder to want to become better.

There’s no doubt DiCaprio wants the Oscar. I think he craves the Oscar in some way. He wants that gold statue to solidify his status as one of the all time greats. He doesn’t want to be a cinematic version of Dan Marino. It wouldn’t surprise me if he wasn’t behind the Gamespot game in the first place.

For years DiCaprio has been an Oscar candidate. After reaching a new level of international viewing from his performance in Titanic, he was able to use that newfound fame as a launching pad to secure more desired roles. Roles that typically require a name the audience knows and then if those roles are performed well, the name becomes further known and echoed throughout the movie universe.

Since Titanic, DiCaprio has been in Gangs of New York working with Daniel Day-Lewis (maybe the greatest actor ever) and director Martin Scorsese. That movie was a big hit there. He followed it up with a Golden Globe nomination in Catch Me If You Can which was as much as comedy as it was a drama.

Then came the big breakthrough that began the Oscar hunt for Best Actor. DiCaprio was masterful as the eccentric paranoid billionaire mogul Howard Hughes in 2004’s The Aviator. Then the world got a double scoop of DiCaprio ice cream when The Departed and Blood Diamond both were released in 2006, but only Blood Diamond got an Oscar nomination.

It took another seven years for DiCaprio to get another Oscar nomination for Wolf of Wall Street and in between those years, he received a lot of love (nominations) from the Golden Globes for Revolutionary Road, J. Edgar, and Django Unchained.

This is where the DiCaprio fans can say that he’s being snubbed because to be nominated for the Globes but ignored for the Oscars happens, but that’s three roles that were ignored.*

*Sidenote: I think the problem with Django Unchained was he wasn’t in it enough. His supporting actor co-star Christoph Waltz was the winner and he was in well over 50% of the screen time. I don’t know why Waltz slid in as a supporting actor when he and Jamie Foxx deserved double billing. Though my guess was he wanted to win the award and not face Daniel Day-Lewis, who won for Best Actor in Lincoln.

The thing with DiCaprio is that he went up against great biopics. Now, a quick reminder, a biopic is a biographical movie and there are probably more award winning biopics than there are pure fiction movies. Because people love stuff that’s already happened which makes it believable. Even fiction movies like Citizen Kane and The Godfather were heavily based on real people like Moe Greene was literally Bugsy Malone who built Las Vegas and Charles Foster Kane was blatantly a giant chunk of William Randolph Hearst mixed with two-three other guys to dilute him.

The three times that Leonardo DiCaprio lost the Best Actor Oscar was to biopics.

First, he lost in his own biopic, The Aviator, to Jamie Foxx who was Ray Charles in Ray who won the Muscial/Comedy Best Actor Golden Glove opposite DiCaprio’s Drama one for The Aviator.

The second time, his performance in Blood Diamond was beat out by Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland which showed the world just who the mad tryant Idi Amin really was. I’m slightly biased again on this one because my former bishop actually was a Ugandan pastor Amin wanted dead but escaped. Forest Whitaker showed a perfect blend of charm, then control freak, the absolute madman as he swept awards.

Then the last biopic that beat DiCaprio out was The Dallas Buyers Club and Matthew McConaughey, who ironically was a co-star in DiCaprio’s biopic/dark comedy Wolf of Wall Street.

Now, Wolf of Wall Street is a good movie, but I’m betting that some voters, and I get where they are coming from, didn’t want to award the movie because Jordan Helfort, the biopic topic, is basically a thief who is a good storyteller and got a few years in prison for ripping off his own clients of millions upon millions of dollars. The comedy is how this grown man is doing crazy partying like he’s in college when he’s in his 30s and married. The darkness is showing how money really isn’t happiness at the end of the day.

The problem is college guys may watch the movie and think they’ve found a god who has it all because they are too drunk or too stupid to get the end point of the movie. That this guy is a criminal!

I think members of the academy felt if the movie got a ton of awards, it’d look as if they were promoting this kind of criminal behavior and I guarantee you, whether you think that’s ridiculous or not, there are people who will believe that they are. Whether that’s right or wrong is irrelevant. Better to choose an alternate than to have to fight negative feedback from that.

Plus, McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club was fantastic. A native Texan, he already had the accent and mannerisms down. It was just a question of looking as physically devoid of body as he needed to in order to convince people he was playing a guy with AIDS. He lost 47 pounds (183-136 pounds) which I’m wondering how the heck he did that because he starting loosing his sense of sight from malnutrition.

Just like DiCaprio did the insane for Revenant, McConaughey did the same for Dallas Buyers Club. Not only was he the prudent choice, I believe he was the right choice because his performance was fantastic.

Now this is DiCaprio’s year I’m sure of it. He’s gotten nearly every award applicable and all of the significant ones this year. He’s guaranteed in my book to go up on that stage and get the award. It’s about time especially after several of his great performances may have been overlooked for a nomination.

But while I am for DiCaprio getting an Oscar and not being one of the five best actors ever to not win one, I’m not going to succumb or align myself with the theory that he got screwed. The voters have enough trouble distinguishing these diverse roles from each other and these performances are all masterpieces. It’s sad that we as a society in America are more focused on winning versus saying let’s embrace that they were nominated for an amazing job.

But of course, America is about the winner and not the loser which is why America can flat out suck sometimes.

But DiCaprio won’t be a loser on Academy Award night. Not this year.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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