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Why Leonardo DiCaprio Should Win The Oscar...And Why He Probably Won't

AbWallman |
February 28, 2014 | 4:36 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street" (Twitter, @ThePlaylist)
DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street" (Twitter, @ThePlaylist)

As we approach the weekend leading up to the 86th Academy Awards, it actually seems like, for once, the winners of all the categories are not as predetermined as they have often been in the past. I wouldn’t wager any bets on any category except for Best Actress, which is Cate Blanchett’s to lose. The category I’ll be paying the most attention to this weekend is Best Actor, though. This is partly because there’s truly a lot of great talent in the race this year and partly because I really believe Leonardo DiCaprio deserves this award, and I worry he won’t get it. It’s his fourth Academy acting nomination, and this is frankly over what amounts to two decades of phenomenal performances. Okay, so maybe Matthew McConaughey has a lock on this award as just a simple Google search result tends to indicate, but let’s pretend for a second that he doesn’t because it’s more fun to pay tribute to Mr. DiCaprio’s stellar work and argue that he’s been robbed of this award one too many times.

I’ve read a lot of, “He’ll win an Oscar someday – just not this time,” responses, and this is probably what poor Leo is getting so sick of hearing. Some people forget, but DiCaprio’s first nomination was way back in 1994 when he was just 19 years old and nominated in a Best Supporting role for "What’s Eating Gilbert Grape," and nominations since then have all been for Best Actor in "The Aviator," "Blood Diamond" and now "The Wolf of Wall Street" respectively. Many people would argue even these four nominations are sparse when considering the career of such a prolific, hardworking actor who arguably was robbed of a nomination for roles in films like "The Departed," "J. Edgar," "Revolutionary Road," "Catch Me If You Can" and, most recently, "Django Unchained." I also personally thought he was great in "Shutter Island." Did you forget about some of those older roles? Maybe Academy voters did as well. I don’t think I could vouch for that many people that would even begin to argue Leo is a bad actor, but the real question comes down to whether or not he is a good enough actor to merit a win. A nomination and a win are two very different things, which brings me to my next point about the value of an “overdue Oscar,” or a win that essentially serves as a culmination of all those other near misses. It’s similar to Meryl Streep’s 2011 win for "The Iron Lady." Not that she wasn’t deserving, but there was no denying that the woman, who has now officially been nominated eighteen times and won three, pending this weekend’s festivities, was long overdue.

It would be a waste of time to compare all the other talent in this year’s Best Actor race, but DiCaprio definitely has some stiff competition. It’s perhaps more interesting to delve into DiCaprio’s long history with "The Wolf of Wall Street," a property he optioned the rights to far before he was ever able to convince Martin Scorsese to direct. In fact, Dicaprio waited seven years to get it made, and sat on the project during a period when Scorsese was off directing "Hugo." He believed in the project and has gone on the record as saying that there was no one else who could capture “the rawness and toughness, the music, and particularly the humor required to convey the excitement of these young punks.” He even pitched Jonah Hill to Scorsese, so maybe Hill owes his second Oscar nomination in part to DiCaprio himself. Spread the love, Jonah.

Lastly, I would be remiss not to discuss the incredible performance of DiCaprio in the 3+ hour-long film. It stands on its own. Yes, "Wolf" skirted the outer limits of an R-rating, and was originally an NC-17 before Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker were persuaded to cut it back to what would play more acceptably in theaters. Even so, the film has been somewhat polarizing and been met with its fair share of controversy and dissent. The one thing that is hard to argue with, however, is DiCaprio’s commanding performance, which is the centerpiece throughout almost the entire film. It incorporates as much drama, dark humor and compelling ensemble work as it does physical comedy. Let’s not forget that he was an incredibly convincing cocaine-addled corrupt Wall-Street-type who basically mesmerized us with what one reporter from Vulture called “a spectacular implosion.” I give the DiCaprio-Scorsese team and screenwriter Terence Winter all the praise in the world for making us want to keep watching the exploits and cringe-worthy downfalls of this Jordan Belfort. In fact, I think one of the only reasons I sat through such a long film was because of the incredible journey DiCaprio was able to take the character on. We watch him build up his empire, and we watch it slowly destroy him and everything around him. Even a plane blows up when it tries to save him! I can’t imagine the film being made with anyone else, and this is probably worth noting as well.

If McConaughey is as good as the performance he turned out as Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club" then I’d like to think there’s more where that came from. He should earn his way. There’s also a very real chance I’m slightly biased, because I would hand Leonardo DiCaprio all the Oscars based off of that country club Quaaludes scene alone. Here’s hoping it’s his year for a win, though. He seems so sorely overdue. The Internet seems to think so too.

Reach Staff Reporter Abby Wallman here.



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