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Article – Why Hasn’t Leo Won An Oscar?


Posted February 19, 2016 by

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Why Hasn’t Leo Won An Oscar?

All eyes will be on Leonardo DiCaprio on February 28 in anticipation of his first Oscar win. Yes, you read that right, his FIRST Oscar win. Everyone seems to think that this his year, and it may well be, but it got me to thinking. Why hasn’t he taken home a golden statue yet? Is there something the Academy has against him? Sure, many actors go their entire lives without winning an Oscar, but none have starred in as many hugely successful films throughout their careers and still gone home empty handed.

I’ve said again and again that as far as the Oscars go, or any awards for that matter, the films that win are only better than their competition that year. With that being said, I was sure there had to be something Leo wasn’t nominated for that should have been. He’s been in 38 films over his 23 year career and while not all of them are great, you don’t become that big of a box office draw by appearing in junk. Leo is so famous, in fact, that when I type the letter “L” into my app he’s the first thing that comes up. I don’t even have to type in the rest of his name!

In order to properly research this article I spent a lot of time brushing up on Leo’s films that have been nominated for and/or won many awards, but that I hadn’t yet seen. Having seen many, many films that have also been nominated for and/or won many awards that were undeserving, I thought it best to gain some perspective before I started to speculate why Leo hasn’t yet won an Oscar.

DiCaprio’s first nominated performance came in 1993 for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. While this isn’t my all-time favorite Leo film (not to say that I don’t like it, because I absolutely do!), I feel that it’s his best performance by far. Had this been the first film I ever saw him in, I would’ve honestly believed that he was mentally handicapped. To have that kind of range in your second feature film really speaks to what a great actor he is. Of all the films he’s been nominated for this one is the most upsetting loss, especially when you take into account who he lost to. The 1994 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor went to Tommy Lee Jones for his role in The Fugitive, and while I do think he’s just as deserving, I don’t think he should’ve won that particular year. The Fugitive is entertaining enough, but is it really better than What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? I think not! It all seems especially bitter when you take into account the other nominees that year: Ralph Fiennes for his role in Schindler’s List, John Malkovich for In the Line of Fire and Pete Postlethwaite for In the Name of the Father, all of which were better performances than Jones in The Fugitive.

One of the many roles I believe Leo should’ve been nominated for (not sure he should’ve won in this case, but at LEAST a nomination) but wasn’t, was his role as Jim Carrol in The Basketball Diaries. I’ve read a lot of criticism of why this movie isn’t so great, but I think, as far as realistic drug addict films go, Leo knocked this one out of the park. This is one that wasn’t nominated for anything, but I think that has more to do with its competition that year. It was up against films like Mr. Holland’s Opus, Nixon, Apollo 13, 12 Monkeys and Braveheart, to name a few. Given that hefty competition it’s no wonder The Basketball Diaries, and subsequently Leo, didn’t even get a nod in their direction.

The next role DiCaprio definitely should’ve been nominated for, but wasn’t, is as Jack Dawson in Titanic. This was the film that pushed him over the edge as one of the biggest teen heart throbs in the world (to which even I wasn’t immune). The film was nominated for a whopping 191 awards and took home 118 of them, including 11 of the 14 Oscars it was nominated for. Titanic was also the highest grossing film of all time for 12 years, until Avatar came along. So, with all of those records, awards and acclaim, along with the Oscar nomination of costar Kate Winslet, why wasn’t Leo at least nominated? That’s a very good question. Other films that came out in 1997 include Goodwill Hunting, As Good as it Gets, Donnie Brasco and Amistad, all of which are great films. The nominees for Best Actor that year include Matt Damon for Goodwill Hunting, Dustin Hoffman for Wag the Dog, Robert Duvall for The Apostle, Peter Fonda for Ulee’s Gold and Jack Nicholson for As Good as it Gets, with Jack taking home the golden statue. Of those I’ve seen Goodwill Hunting, Wag the Dog and As Good as it Gets. Goodwill Hunting and As Good as it Gets are two of my favorite movies, and I think well deserving of the awards they received. Wag the Dog, on the other hand, is not one I would’ve nominated for much of anything. Not to say it’s not a good and funny film, because it is, but given the choice between nominating Dustin Hoffman for his role in that film, or Leo for Titanic, I would’ve thought that Leo would be a shoe in.

Next in the line of things DiCaprio wasn’t at least nominated for, but should’ve been, was his role as Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me if You Can. Catch Me if You Can is one of those really well done, but highly under rated films I think deserve more credit. It’s 2 hour 21 minute runtime flies by like a gentle summer breeze; it’s wonderful and lovely while it’s going on, but you’ll truly miss it when it’s over. This is one of those films I can watch again and again, always picking up on some other point I’d missed the other times I’d watched it.

Both Leo and Catch Me if You Can had a tough year in 2003. The film didn’t get the recognition it so deserved because of films like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Gangs of New York, The Pianist, and Chicago taking most of the year’s credit. Leo again was snubbed, in both the case of Catch Me if You Can and Gangs of New York, in favor of his costars Daniel Day Lewis and Christopher Walken. This is the second time, in my opinion, the Academy proved that they have something against DiCaprio, but what that specifically is, I have no idea.

2005 brought the second of DiCaprio’s actual Oscar nominations for his role in The Aviator. This is one of those films I need to see again, but I’m very happy to have seen it the first time. I’d heard plenty about Howard Hughes throughout the years, but didn’t know much about him (except for the Spruce Goose and the mental illness and reclusiveness of course). I fully realize that this is Hollywood’s take on his life, and is therefore not 100% accurate, but I’m happy to have gotten some new knowledge about this mysterious man out of it. Given my knowledge of Hughes going into the film, I was truly impressed by Leo’s performance in the role. He seemed to fully embody the emotions and soul of Hughes in a way that I can’t see anyone else pulling off so skillfully. That being said, Leo lost out to Jaime Foxx for his portrayal of Ray Charles that year, and of those two performances, I would have a hard time deciding which was better as well.

2007 was another tough and odd year for DiCaprio. This is the year that he was nominated for Blood Diamond, but was snubbed for The Departed. Of those two performances I’d take The Departed over Blood Diamond any day. I think that Leo’s performance in Blood Diamond lacked the emotion and spirit that usually comes through so strong in his roles. It seemed to me that he was having too hard a time keeping up the accent they made him do to really focus on the character he was playing. In The Departed however, DiCaprio is the glue that holds the tangled web together, while he’s also the one trying to untangle it. It’s a role he played so well that I don’t think the film would’ve worked without him.

It is for this reason that I’m most surprised that he was nominated for Blood Diamond and not for The Departed. In another in the long line of Leo’s career snubs, his costar Mark Wahlberg was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Departed, while Leo lost out to Forrest Whitaker for Best Actor.

2008-2012 brought us many terrific films, none of which Leo was nominated for an Oscar for. These four years include Revolutionary Road (which won 3 Oscars), Shutter Island (which while not nominated for any Oscars, was nominated for a total of 55 awards), Inception (which took home 4 Oscars and had a total of 192 award nominations) and Django Unchained (which won 2 Oscars of its 137 award nominations). These four films, while very different in concept, are all powerful, with exceptional performances by Leo in every one of them. These films are all terrific examples of why it is I think the Academy has something against Leo. Each of them are films that stick with you long after they’re over, albeit for four entirely different reasons. Of his whole career, these are the four films I think are his best and truly express his range as an actor, and also the ones I think it’s most upsetting he wasn’t even nominated for.

2014 brought DiCaprio’s Oscar nomination for his role as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. This is another film, as in the case of Blood Diamond, that I’m not sure Leo should’ve received a nomination for. It’s not because his performance was bad in any way. It’s just that when I compare his role in The Wolf of Wall Street to that of Inception, Shutter Island or The Aviator it’s fairly plain to see which are the better performances. This one almost feels like a token nomination to me; like the Academy thought “Well, it has been awhile since his last nomination. Don’t want people getting suspicious!” I don’t think the really intended on giving him a chance at all here, just a nod in his direction to keep him quiet.

All of this, of course, brings us to this year and DiCaprio’s nomination for his role as Hugh Glass in The Revenant. As I said in the beginning, many people believe that this will be the one; that this will be his year, and at this point I don’t doubt it. It’s been nominated for 12 Oscars and has a total of 117 nominations thus far. Already Leo has won a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice award, a SAG award and 20 others all for Best Performance by an Actor. Do I think he deserves an Oscar? Absolutely! Do I think it should be for this role in particular? Not really. The Revenant is 2 and a half hours of watching Leo struggle through the frozen wilderness. He has very few lines and most of his acting is done with grunts. The ongoing joke is that Leo will finally win this year…for being cold. I think Matt Damon put it best. During his introduction of Ridley Scott at the Director’s Guild of America Awards he said of filming The Martian as opposed to The Revenant, “Every night at 6 o’clock, the horn blew and Ridley [Scott] and I went to dinner. And that’s how you make a movie, and we finished the film really early and we saved 2 million bucks. And Leo – we weren’t cold at all. I’m just sayin’. There’s another way to do it.” Of course, we’ll have to wait a little while longer to see if Leonardo DiCaprio finally takes home the golden statue he’s deserved for 23 years.


Read Similar Articles?…

[Article] – Oscars or Not?
[Article] – ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ – Leo’s First Oscar Nomination
[Article] – The Oscar For Best Actor

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Leah Gage
Leah’s Movie Lowdown
Portsmouth Community Radio
Freelance Contributor

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