Monday, February 22, 2016

Ranking Leonardo DiCaprio's 6 Oscar Nominations

Leonardo DiCaprio
There are only six days until this year's Academy Awards. There's a lot of speculation as to who is likely to win in every category. However, the one that seems to be getting the most traction is Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor in The Revenant. Considering how long people have argued that the charismatic 41-year-old actor has deserved an award, some see it as an overdue legacy award. But does he deserve it for this film? With six days to go and since he has earned six Oscar nominations (five for acting), it feels like an appropriate time to rank his performances based on what should've gotten him this honor.

1. The Aviator (2004)

Category: Best Actor
Lost To: Jamie Foxx (Ray)
Should He Have Won?: Yes

With Titanic in the not too distant past, it is likely that people still had difficulty respecting Leonardo DiCaprio as a bonafide talent. Having just started to work with Martin Scorsese a few years prior, there's a certain electricity in this that reflects an iconic partnership worthy of more acclaim than it received. Still, this is arguably DiCaprio's peak as an actor. His transformation over the Howard Hughes biopic epic is the work of a singular talent, capturing the bravado and neuroses of an influential yet tragic figure. While some could argue that it is hard to take DiCaprio seriously now as an eccentric rich man (he does that a lot), one cannot help but admit that he does it so well that it's a shame that he got overlooked this year (though Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles work isn't that bad, either).

2. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Category: Best Actor
Lost To: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Should He Have Won?: No, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) should've.

As mentioned previously, it's hard to think of Leonardo DiCaprio playing an eccentric rich person because of how often and well he does it. However, he takes it to a new level in the most recent collaboration with Martin Scorsese. It's a vile, excessive epic about the Wall Street market with Jordan Belfort playing a guy who definitely earns every ounce of the "love to hate" mantra. It's a physical performance that is unrepentant in the ways that everyone wants to praise The Revenant as being. Still, there's something funny about DiCaprio losing to Matthew McConaughey, who also appears in The Wolf of Wall Street in a brief yet  memorable scene.

3. What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Lost To: Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive)
Should He Have Won?: Maybe

It's easy to mistake Leonardo DiCaprio as this whirlwind of a presence nowadays. However, it's ridiculous to think of how impressive he was early on in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Playing a special needs kid, he embodied the physicality and mannerisms so well that one could mistake an 18-year-old DiCaprio as actually being handicapped. It's a performance so good that you'll be surprised he escaped a solid child actor career and just became a great actor period. It also helps that this breakout role was only the start of his run of luck, which would lead to Titanic only four years later (and the rest is history).

4. The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

Category: Best Picture
Lost To: 12 Years a Slave
Should He Have Won?: No

For the sake of comparison, this was also the year that Brad Pitt became an Oscar-winner... for producing 12 Years a Slave. It's a funny pattern when a high caliber actor wins for a category outside of their field. That could've been Leonardo DiCaprio the same year for The Wolf of Wall Street. Despite the film being an impressively energetic and exciting movie, it was also far too controversial and offensive for it to ever think of winning Best Picture. Still, it was so nice of The Academy to give DiCaprio a non-acting Oscar nod, even if it still manages to feel secondary to the performance itself.

5. The Revenant (2015)

Category: Best Actor
Lost To: N/A
Should He Have Won?: No

I have written a piece explaining why I don't want him to win. My issue is that we're mistaking Leonardo DiCaprio wading in water and eating raw bison liver as acting. It's not. It's stunt performing, and also not a great embodiment of what DiCaprio can do as an actor. It's one of his least interesting performances in a career full of charismatic highs. However, there's still the sense that this is a career win akin to Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman. While it makes sense that DiCaprio deserved an Oscar at some point, it should've been for a film more reflective of him doing something beyond grunting and crawling miserably through the cold woods. It's not a bad movie, but it's arguably among the most overrated films of 2015, providing little beyond masochism disguised as art.

 6. Blood Diamond (2006)

Category: Best Actor
Lost To: Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)
Should He Have Won?: No

It seems like Leonardo DiCaprio cannot catch a break. 2006 was the year in which Martin Scorsese finally won Best Picture and Best Director for The Departed, which starred DiCaprio in a prominent role. By some strange luck, he decided to campaign for Blood Diamond instead, thinking that his odds would be better. It worked, kind of. He got nominated, though arguably for one of his least interesting roles post-Titanic. While it works as an activism thriller (and features a more worthy Best Supporting Actor nod for Djimon Hounsou), there's not a lot that reflect the actor at his best. With an accent that tampers his acting and an overtly sentimental finale, it's a good film that only looks worse when you consider that DiCaprio could've easily gotten a nomination for a better film the same year with The Departed.

Do you agree? What should he have won for?

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