Much to the distress of tabloid journalists and the many, many “dank meme” reposters of Reddit, Leonardo DiCaprio finally got his hands on a statue of a golden bald bloke for his gritty portrayal of the gruelling and bloody freezing exploits of Hugh Glass in Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant.
For many critiques it was a long over due righting of an unjust wrong after 4 failed nominations in the past and even the BBC News website is headlining how DiCaprio has ‘finally got his Oscar’ but is this actually the case? Has Leo been wronged this whole time, or is simply more a case of timing and even luck?
Let’s have a look at the nominations…
Way before Titanic exploded DiCaprio onto the screens and teenage girls hearts, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape gave DiCaprio his first major breakthrough as the mentally handicapped younger brother of Johnny Depp is this brilliant and powerful drama about one families hardships. DiCaprio is simply sensational in this role taking on Arnie and his many complexities with amazing electricity sensitivity and subtlety. In my opinion this is one of Leo’s most Oscar worthy performances and, as much as I like Lee-Jones in The Fugitive, I do believe it was very harsh of the Academy to overlook him here.
Leo’s first collaboration with Martin Scorcese brought with it the first of his Best Actor nominations. A well deserved nomination for his excellent portrayal of the rise to glory and fall into madness of the fascinating Howard Hughes. Deserved yes, but in my opinion not close to Jamie Foxx’s soulful performance in the brilliant Ray and indeed the real story of these nominations for me was also Don Cheadle’s nomination for the brilliant Hotel Rwanda, hard to pull these two magnificent performances a part both deserved the award.
A good film and a good performance by DiCaprio but Blood Diamond never really grabbed me when I saw it, which certainly did surprise me given the setting and tale of the film. The Last King of Scotland and Whitaker’s performance in particular picked me up and blew me away; in my opinion this was one of the most deserved Best Actor wins of the decade.
Another very memorable performance by our Leo in a very fun film, but at the same time I’ve never really felt like this film or DiCaprio’s energetic performance had that special something that sets it apart and truly reaches out and grabs you especially not when compared to the outstanding bitter-sweet performance of McConaughey which certain leaves it’s mark.
So is it fair to say that Leo has been unfairly shunted by the Academy up until last night?
Well, with the big exception of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, I certainly don’t think so and to think otherwise would be incredibly harsh on the excellent performances that beat him. You could argue that the lack of nomination for his great performances in other greats such as the sublime The Departed or the excellent Django Unchained was also a travesty but in both of these films I still feel like there was that magic touch missing that truly stood him a part from other performances.
Leo is undoubtedly a hugely talented actor and I hope the above critiques don’t give the wrong impression as he is one of my favourite actors and I always enjoy watching films he stars in. He will deservedly be remembered as one of Hollywood’s most iconic actors from this new Century. He is incredibly adaptable, undeniably reliable, brings with him great screen presence and is excellent at being the lead that ties a film together. But I still feel like he hasn’t quite acted out his own masterpiece yet, I can’t think of one performance where he has truly stolen the show in the same manner as other contemporaries like Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, Philip Seymour-Hoffman in Capote or, as mentioned earlier, Forest Whittaker in The Last King of Scotland; I know he has that sort of performance in his locker but it hasn’t happened yet for me.
All of that being said I do believe he deserved the award last night. Another great performance in a brilliant film. I think perhaps timing was on Leo’s side a little as the competition did feel a little light in the Best Actor category , but still Leo made the most memorable and powerful portrayal from any lead actor last year. Well done Leo! I don’t think it will be last time he takes this accolade either.
As a little aside I think the biggest travesty last night was actually Tom Hardy not getting the nod for Best Supporting Actor, the biggest performance in The Revenant by far… and don’t get me started on why Idris Elba wasn’t even on that list!