Saturday, February 27, 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio and the Great Oscar Race [Contributor: Megan Mann]

This Sunday, our favorite stars will fill our screens and dazzle us. The red carpet will be rolled out. They’ll wear perfectly-tailored suits and fresh-off-the-runway gowns and answer the same questions we hear every year. All of their work over the past year will finally come to fruition on Hollywood’s biggest night: The Oscars.

Sure, this year’s telecast has been met with some serious controversy about the lack of diversity and many stars are choosing to boycott the event because of it. And yet, Hollywood still waits with bated breath to hear this year’s winners. More specifically, Hollywood and everyone else around the globe — no matter their gender, political leaning or their level of dedication to the arts — are hoping that this is finally the year that all of those memes over from the past and all of the angry screams at their televisions will finally be justified.

It’s time for Leonardo DiCaprio to win that Oscar already.

It’s become a sort of running joke on the Internet that Leo has never won his Oscar, even though he’s been nominated for his work in films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond, The Wolf of Wall Street, and this year’s gripping drama The Revenant. We, as a collective, wonder how it’s possible that someone with such an illustrious career, someone who has been so familiar to us for almost three decades on both the small and big screen, has yet to receive Hollywood’s most prestigious honor.

Each time Leo’s nominated, it’s as if he gets so close only to have it snatched away. He’ll win the Golden Globe for something like Revolutionary Road, but won’t even receive a nomination for the Oscar. Or he’ll win the Critic’s Choice Award for The Wolf of Wall Street but he won’t move from his first row seat and be handed that naked golden man.

We groan and wonder how any actors could have surpassed him for this award. And sure, we look at the other nominees and see the stellar work that they produced. But they aren’t Leo. Leo has put in the work for double the amount of time that many of these actors have — such as last year’s winner Eddie Redmayne (who really did do an incredible job as Stephen Hawking, just to be clear). And yet, other actors are seeing much more success at the Oscars than our favorite blonde-haired wonder.

What is it about Leonardo DiCaprio that has many people around the world — many people within his own profession — so keen on him receiving an Oscar? What is it that has people wondering what his next move will be and if it’ll finally lead him to the awards recognition that he so rightly deserves?

It’s simple, really.

From the beginning of his career, Leonardo DiCaprio has done what very few actors and actresses have been able to do. While he took early TV roles to catch his early break — hello, oversized 90s flannel on Growing Pains — Leo was in complete control of his career from the very beginning. For the most part, in order to get your name out there, actors and actresses will continually take roles that they aren’t especially interested in. They take these roles almost as a way to pay their dues, in order to "earn" better roles in the future. If they act in terrible roles and in terrible projects, the hope is that this will lead to bigger and better things down the road.

But not Leo.

If you actually take a look at his filmography, it’s really not that long. At least not for someone who has been in the business as long as he has. See, what people don’t realize is how strategic Leo’s been. He’s taken only the roles that he believes in, and the ones that he knows will produce deep, meaningful, raging emotional work.

Instead of auditioning for an accepting roles in major film franchises (he almost auditioned to play Anakin before many people talked him out of it, thank God) or acting in movies just to stay relevant or make a quick buck, Leo’s been very selective about the scripts he chooses. How many young actors would have taken on the gritty, drug-fueled drama The Basketball Diaries so early in their careers? Who in young Hollywood at the time would have thought that Baz Luhrmann’s classic/modern hybrid adaptation of Romeo + Juliet would have become such a cult classic?

Of course, we all know Leo from the film that launched the best modern Hollywood love story, Titanic, but he had already been cultivating a certain image even before taking on his role in the film. The thing about Leonardo DiCaprio is that takes on the roles that most people would be scared to even think of doing — roles that don’t guarantee the film will be a hit when so many of those in Hollywood are focused on the numbers and box office sales. Some of his movies, such as Revolutionary Road and The Beach, weren’t even really big hits at all. But he believed in those roles enough to want to make the film. Leo has never taken a role that goes against his integrity. He harnesses his power and does what very few in Hollywood have ever done: accept only the films he wants. And everyone in Hollywood allows him the space and time to do that. Why?

Because we all know that when Leo decides to make a movie, it’s going to be good. Even if we don’t exactly identify with the story, we’re watching for Leo. We’re watching for that magical spark that — in, Hollywood where everyone is replaceable and can be ripped from the spotlight within seconds — is entirely unique. Leonardo DiCaprio is of the upper echelon, the untouchable group that has existed since the beginning of cinema over a century ago and is so powerful, so good in every role that you can’t help but be dazzled by him.

Leo’s got the look of Old Hollywood, the power and presence of Gary Grant, Marlon Brando, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, combined with the ability to make an audience member feel every emotion so deeply that you have to pause and wonder if he’s even real.

When Leo won the Golden Globe this year for his incredible work in The Revenant, the entire room instantly gave him a standing ovation. Social media exploded in a fury of happiness, and this has only continued as he’s swept up every award in his path leading up to this Sunday’s Oscars.

From the biggest hitters in Hollywood to the little boy in Australia hoping to become an actor some day, we are all rooting for one of the best actors of our time to finally receive what he’s so deserving of. We’ll all be waiting for the moment when Julianne Moore steps out (in what is to be assumed an incredible gown) onto that stage, opens that envelope and hopefully — finally — says the words “And the Oscar goes to... Leonardo DiCaprio.”


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