Leonardo Di Caprio, the Oscars and the Internet’s Unfounded Outrage

Tis’ the season for the Oscars and this can only mean one thing… anyone with an account where memes are a main attraction to a website will express their utter outrage at a certain Mr Di Caprio being hard done-by when not getting an Oscar nomination. But should they really feel this way? It there a misplaced sense of cult loyalty to this guy? Are there just a bunch of band wagon jumpers out there because they liked Leo in some film from years ago? Or is there a valid point and the elitist Oscar snobs are going out of their way exclude an actor deserving of the statue?

I know, I know, film preference is a subjective one and not everyone has to like what I like but there is something to be said on this topic.

I’m not denying Di Caprio is a talented actor and to be fair to him since appearing in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993 his choice of film and acting has been of a pretty good standard over 20 plus years. Shame the Oscars don’t give out statue for ‘pretty good’ performances. He is probably one of the few child actors billed for greatness that has constantly succeeded and this is of great testament to him and his longevity that he’s been able to do so. I have no doubt he’ll continue to act for many years to come but all this outrage over a lack of acknowledgement for his films at the Oscars, is it well founded?

Here are what I consider to be his strongest films since stardom took to him;

  • What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
  • The Basketball Diaries
  • Romeo + Juliette
  • Titanic
  • Man with the Iron Mask
  • The Beach
  • Gangs of New York
  • Catch Me if You Can
  • The Departed
  • Blood Diamond
  • Body of Lies
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Shutter Island
  • Inception
  • J.Edgar
  • Django Unchained
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

I’ve seen all of these bar J.Edgar and Gatsby so I feel I have a good all-around appreciation of his performances throughout his career thus far. But looking through that list how many performances really should be considered for Best Actor?

My answer… 3… maybe 4.

I would definitely put Inception, The Departed and Gangs of New York up there and maybe include Titanic. So why in these years did the Academy show no love to him?

Well in the 75th Oscars Gangs of New York rightly had winner Daniel Day Lewis nominated and the supporting actors for that year were Chris Cooper (Adaptation), Ed Harris (The Hours), Paul Newman (The Road to Perdition), John C. Reilly (Chicago) & Christopher Walken (Catch Me if You Can). I would probably agree with the argument that you can’t really consider Di Caprio a supporting actor in that film it was just unfortunate Day Lewis was just that good.

In the 79th Oscars the Departed won Best Picture and Leo was nominated for his role in Blood Diamond but lost out to Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. Again this was a no brainer really,Whitaker totally deserved it and while it may only seem like a consolation prize The Academy probably saw his involvement in Best Picture as suitable enough recognition.

In 2011 at the 83rd Oscars Inception was nominated for Best Picture but Di Caprio was nowhere to be seen in the Best Actor nominations losing out to Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and James Franco (127 Hours). Once again the actors nominated are all deservedly there and even though I was a massive fan on his work in Inception I don’t think there’s too much of an argument to say he could/should displace one of the others when looking at those nominated roles. I also feel he was be up against it in this role as the Academy has generally not recognised sci-fi as a particularly strong genre for winners, something I’d like to see changed.

Lastly an honorable mention to his role in Titanic which he did not even receive a nomination for but even if he had Jack Nicholson still would have won it for his role in As Good As It Gets at the 70th Academy Awards.

Other times he was nominated and lost include;

  • Losing Best Supporting Actor in Gilbert Grape to Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive).
  • Losing Best Actor in Wolf of Wall Street to Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).
  • Losing Best Actor in The Aviator to Jamie Foxxx (Ray).

So looking back there aren’t many cases that can be made for him realistically winning an Oscar. Yes the guy consistently makes good films and has been doing it for the better part of two decades but there are a multitude of other actors (who I rate higher) that have also never won.

Ed Norton, Gary Oldman, Albert Finney, Brad Pitt, James Spader, Joaquin Phoenix, Bill Murray, Glenn Close, Michael Fassbender, Vincent Cassel are just some I think have a better case to answer for.

Moving away from Leo himself there is also the Academy to look at. In the last 15 years in particular I would have shared a popular opinion that the Oscars had turned into a predictable old boys club often giving out awards to those not always deserving and outright ignoring others that should rightly being nominated. That being said I do think this year was possibly the first in a while where the winners were completely deserved and the nominations were spot on too. Was this just a year where talent was finally appreciated as it should? Or was this just a year devoid of choices that would be there on merit? I’m favoring the former.

Di Caprio has yet to give me the career performance I think he is capable of but it won’t be far off looking at his record of working. There will be a time for legitimate outrage at him being passed over but now is not that time. The internet needs to quieten down and start watching those films that actually won/were nominated. I’d like to see more legitimate discussions on the quality of films that actually make these lists and topical discussions on the criteria and not just a throw away following of someone that isn’t quite there yet.

AJG

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