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Friday, February 03, 2023

Leonardo DiCaprio may finally win long-standing battle for an Oscar

The Academy Awards are now less than three weeks away, which means that Leonardo DiCaprio is getting closer and closer to his next shot at finally getting that little golden statue he probably should’ve won long ago. He is nominated this time for his role as Hugh Glass in “The Revenant.” The fact that Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the most talented actors in the business, has been nominated six times for an Oscar and still does not have one has become one of the biggest jokes in Hollywood. Although, beneath all of the laughs and memes is the real question: Why hasn’t he won an Oscar yet?

The Academy has not always been the most fair bunch in selecting potential winners. This year is a good example as the battle for diversity and representation is still being waged. Still, you’d think that DiCaprio should have at least gotten one win by now. But in looking back at all of those nods he has gotten in the past, I might be able to justify why that statue is not sitting above Leo’s fireplace with the rest of his awards.  

Leo was first nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the 1993 film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” as Arnie Grape. I think that this loss was largely because of his age. At the time, Leo was nineteen years old, which makes him one of the youngest actors to be nominated in the category. There have not been a lot of younger actors to receive Oscars in any category, probably because the Academy feels that they have more time to prove themselves down the road. The fact that this was his first nomination and he had to go up against Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive” pitted the odds against him in round one of his Oscar battle.

Round two came a while later when Leo was up for his first Best Actor nod in 2005 for “The Aviator” as Howard Hughes. This one is arguably the hardest to justify, because the Academy seems to gravitate toward well-done biopics, and the critical acclaim seems like something the Academy would’ve gone for. However, the winner that year was Jamie Foxx for the biopic “Ray,” who was also nominated as Best Supporting Actor in “Collateral.” It is rare for someone to be nominated in two acting categories like that, so if the Academy felt that strongly about Foxx, I think the odds were stacked against DiCaprio. The following year he was nominated for “Blood Diamond,” up against Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland,” who had already received a number of accolades.

Next was 2013 with “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Leo got a Best Actor nod that year, along with a credit for Best Picture as a producer. Even though his performance was acclaimed, garnering him a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice award, my justification for his Best Actor snub stems from Matthew McConaughey’s nod and win for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Prior to this point, McConaughey was Hollywood’s rom-com “surfer guy,” and his turn to dramatic acting to pull off his performance in “Buyer’s Club” comes off as a more compelling story than Leo’s latest nomination. “12 Years a Slave” was also the winner for Best Picture that year, a gritty and dramatic film that would have been hard for the vulgar “Wolf of Wall Street” to beat, meaning that Leo’s producing credit would also fly under the radar.

That brings us to this year’s awards and “The Revenant.” I don’t want to jinx anything, but in looking at the category, there doesn’t seem to be any reason that Leo shouldn’t win the award. His two possible competitors could be Eddie Redmayne for “The Danish Girl” and Michael Fassbender for “Steve Jobs,” but even those two don’t seem to be much of a threat. Redmayne already took home his Oscar last year for “The Theory of Everything,” so it would be surprising if he won back-to-back, and while Fassbender gave a better performance than Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, I just don’t think that he has swayed the Academy enough.

Leo, on the other hand, has shown his level of dedication to his character in a way that no one else has, enduring harsh elements, sleeping in animal carcasses and eating bison liver all in the name of Hugh Glass and “The Revenant.” With DiCaprio having already won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award (the latter of which he had never won before either), it would be the biggest injustice in Hollywood history not to give the Academy Award for Best Actor to its rightful owner.

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