Monday, July 20, 2015

Enemy Mine: Leonardo DiCaprio's Flawed Quest For Oscar Gold

If you've been on the Internet at all in the past couple years I'm pretty sure you're familiar with the various memes about Leonardo DiCaprio's desire to win an Oscar. A particular favorite of mine is Leo as Jordan Belfort crawling towards an Oscar while nearly paralyzed by Lemon 'ludes. He has become the Susan Lucci of the Oscars aka the perpetual "also ran". But it's not like he doesn't deserve one.

Leo has been great in so many films ranging from his first nomination for Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape all the way to Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street. With the release of the first trailer for Alejandro González Iñárritu's upcoming wilderness survival story The Revenant, awards speculation has begun anew. Will this be Leo's year? Personally I don't think so.

Judging by the trailer and source material, The Revenant has all the sign posts of an award worthy performance: he's playing an historical figure, he's required to get dirty and there doesn't seem to be a more showboaty character in the film to draw attention away from him...unless you count director Iñárritu and superstar cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Once again DiCaprio's good taste has turned out to be his worst enemy.

No matter how good Leo's performance in The Revenant turns out, he is destined to be overshadowed by the long takes that the film appears to be shot in. Don't believe me? Just ask Sandra Bullock (Gravity) and Michael Keaton (Birdman). Add to this the decision to shoot the film entirely in natural light and it's a done deal. By continually choosing to work with "name directors" like Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan and especially Baz Luhrmann, DiCaprio is continually allowing himself to become just another stitch in a large, enveloping tapestry.

No matter how great Leo was as Howard Hughes in The Aviator, there was no chance he was ever going to beat Jaimie Foxx in Ray. As capable as Taylor Hackford is as a director, he's not one to try out stylistic techniques that would draw attention away from his characters. DiCaprio, on the other hand, had to compete with epic flight scenes and a color pallet so distinct that even the film illiterate had to take notice. The best you can hope for in a film that big is Best Supporting because you are literally supporting the film. Cate Blanchett had to crank it all the way to 11 just to get noticed and win her Oscar.

Let's remember that Denzel didn't win Best Actor for channeling Malcolm X in Spike Lee's ambitious and sweeping epic, he won it for overwhelming everything in his path in the relatively minor Training Day. Judging by the Southpaw trailer, Jake Gyllenhaal seems to have gotten that message loud and clear. It's even directed by Training Day's Antoine Fuqua!

If Leo seriously wants to take home a golden statue in the near future, he needs to first take a look at Johnny Depp's recent playbook. Rather than resigning himself to being yet another swirly-whirly in yet another Tim Burton film, Depp has opted instead to be the showboat at the center of what looks to be a fairly by the books, true crime tale - Black Mass. No way his newly blue eyes and receding hairline will go unnoticed in that picture! DiCaprio just needs to find a capable second stringer to hitch his horse to. Or perhaps he can just hold out for a lifetime achievement award like Peter O'Toole! 

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