Leonardo DiCaprio — one of the most recognizable names in the film industry — has won an Academy Award.
Of course, many people believe that he should have won a long time ago for one of his previous nominations. I have even heard people say that DiCaprio has starred in so many exceptional films over the years that he deserves an Oscar. I disagree.
Starring in so many good films in no way entitles you to an Oscar.
DiCaprio’s list of losses is as follows: Best Actor in a supporting role for, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape — 1993; Best Actor in a leading role for The Aviator — 2005; Best Actor in a leading role for Blood Diamond — 2007; and Best Actor in a leading role in The Wolf of Wall Street — 2013.
To decide if DiCaprio deserved to win past nominations, I will look at the competition year by year and give my opinion.
In 1993, DiCaprio was up against: Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive (winner); Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List (my personal winner for that year); John Malcovich, In the Line of Fire; and Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father.
I believe that DiCaprio was least deserving of the Oscar among the powerhouse actors he was up against.
The only factor in DiCaprio’s favor was his young age. But, there are no Oscar handicap points for age. That year, DiCaprio was simply out-acted.
In 2004, DiCaprio portrayed the historic character, Howard Hughes, an American business tycoon and aviation enthusiast who set numerous airspeed records.
Although DiCaprio’s acting in, The Aviator was nomination worthy, he was ultimately overshadowed by Jamie Foxx’s brilliant performance as Ray Charles in Ray. Although Foxx did lip-sync the musical performances in Ray, this fact did not diminish his dynamic portrayal of Charles’ life of struggles and triumphs.
In 2006, DiCaprio was nominated for Best Actor in a major motion picture for his role in Blood Diamond. The winner that year was Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
While I believe that portraying an infamous historic figure aided Whitaker’s win, I also believe that playing historic figures can be much harder for an actor, as it requires the actor to vanish from the audience’s awareness and simultaneously reveal a convincing rendition of a well-known historic figure.
Whitaker delivered such an amazing performance as Idi Amin that he won with a role that was essentially secondary to the larger historic focus of the film.
Fast forward to 2013, when DiCaprio was nominated for Best Actor in a major motion picture for The Wolf of Wall Street. While entertaining, his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street was clearly out matched by Matthew McConaughey’s emotionally and physically demanding performance in Dallas Buyers Club. Placed against McConaughey’s efforts, DiCaprio’s performance clearly lacked sustained, believable emotions.
As we know, DiCaprio won this year’s Oscar for Best Actor in a major motion picture for his performance in The Revenant. The film is the mostly true story of Hugh Glass, and it contained all of the acting components that DiCaprio failed to deliver in previous years.
In this film, DiCaprio finally portrayed his character with a full range of believable emotions and connecting convincingly with his fellow actors.
While I give him credit, should DiCaprio have won over other actors this past year?
I definitely agree that he beat out Matt Damon (The Martian) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl). I will even give him the win over Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs).
However, I have a hard time putting him above Brian Cranston (Trumbo) in which Cranston portrayed Dalton Trumbo during the era of Hollywood blacklisting. I rank Cranston over DiCaprio because I forgot that I was watching a movie. I watched Cranston transform himself into the role of the struggling writer. I did not have the same experience when watching DiCaprio.
I believe that DiCaprio won this year because the pool was largely weak. Does he deserve the 2016 Oscar? I see merit in his win even if I would have personally voted for Cranston. Would he have won for his performance in The Revenant within any other year that he was nominated?