Courtesy of The New York Times

February 8, 2016

GUEST ROOM | #WasteHisTime2016: Leo and the Oscars

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Every year that Leonardo DiCaprio appears in a compelling film, the hot topic becomes whether or not it will be his year to win an Oscar. In the decades since his performance as Johnny Depp’s kid brother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, DiCaprio has proven himself to be a committed and strong presence on screen. His usual performances involve compelling and charismatic characters, who are flawed and display an incredible range of emotion. His films have left many in tears, in awe and endlessly intrigued.

However, the Academy has not awarded him for any of his roles. But why? Have his talent and good looks not met standards for the most highly regarded film award? After acting in films for the past 20 years with a wide range of roles, DiCaprio has proven himself multifaceted. He has even had a hand in producing various films in the latter half of his career with his company Appian Way Productions. He clearly knows the ins and outs of Hollywood and is pretty much best friends with legendary director Martin Scorsese. As far as I’m concerned, this recognition is long overdue.

The 41-year-old actor started acting in television commercials at a very young age. Eventually, DiCaprio landed a role on the ABC sitcom Growing Pains. His breakout role on the silver screen was Johnny Depp’s mentally handicapped brother in the film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, a role for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Among his roles in the early years of his acting, his most notable was heartthrob vagabond Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s Titanic. Even though the performance did not receive any recognition from the Academy, Titanic put DiCaprio on the map and transformed him into an A-list movie star. His roles grew to include an obsessive-compulsive filmmaker in The Aviator, a troubled U.S. Marshal in Shutter Island, an undercover cop in The Departed and a misguided teen in The Beach. Even in Baz Luhrmann’s nightmare of a Romeo + Juliet adaptation did he enchant with his iambic pentameter-laced performance.

So which of DiCaprio’s roles has the Academy recognized? He has been nominated five times for Best Actor, gaining nods for his roles in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Revenant. Even though his latest film offered a small range of dynamic acting and deep, psychological anguish (in comparison to The Aviator, perhaps), his performance is still good.

The role of Hugh Glass, a 19th-century trapper, is unlike anything DiCaprio has ever done before, and he put his body through great stress in order to prepare physically and psychologically for The Revenant. However, the film seems like a colder version of Castaway with less existential crises and fewer volleyballs. Anyone could have played Glass just as well as DiCaprio, if not better. In preparation for the role, DiCaprio slept inside an animal carcass, ate raw bison meat and swam regularly in frozen rivers. Glass has a primal drive and his motivation is simple: to avenge the death of his son. Unlike Jordan Belfort of The Wolf of Wall Street or Howard Hughes of Aviator, Glass is very blunt, and it doesn’t take much to understand what he is going through. Similar to Matthew McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss for Dallas Buyers Club in 2014, DiCaprio’s commitment will probably be the main reason the Academy will recognize him as this year’s best actor.

Courtesy of The New York Times

Courtesy of The New York Times

He has become one of the highest paid actors in the world. DiCaprio, having proven his versatility countless times, could easily have already been awarded an Academy Award. Even though The Revenant, in this writer’s opinion, was not his finest work, it is almost a consolation prize that is long overdue. After six nominations, it’s about damn time.

And what does the Hollywood Foreign Press think of him?   He has been nominated 10 times for his acting and has won three Golden Globes for his performances in The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Revenant, all well-acted roles of diverse natures.

So many of the films he has acted in have also received nominations and wins from the Academy. Other directors and cast members from films that DiCaprio has appeared in have been awarded for their work, but DiCaprio always goes unrecognized. My point is, how can a film receive a nomination for best picture from the Academy without its actors receiving awards as well, let alone nominations? There are many who believe that Leo peaked too early as an actor, letting his earlier shots at an Oscar slip away. So many projects he has worked on became instant classics and received endless accolades. Yet, he is disregarded by the Academy.

What’s next for Leonardo DiCaprio? His latest cinematic project is teaming up with Martin Scorsese once more for another biopic. The upcoming film isbased on Erik Larson’s chilling thriller The Devil in the White City that revolves around the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. For the film, DiCaprio is donning a nefarious handlebar mustache as the cold-blooded killer Dr. H. H. Holmes.

With any luck later this month, Leo will get the overdue Oscar, even if it is more of a pity win to pacify the masses. #Leo2016.

Marina Caitlin Watts is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]