Monday, January 25, 2016

A Fistful of Thoughts...about Leonardo DiCaprio and the quest for the elusive Oscar!


Alright, so this week I had a slew of topics ready to go for this entry of A Fistful of Thoughts, and only ONE of them had anything to do with #OscarsSoWhite (I edited) but then that got (got?) annoying and I didn't feel like talking about it anymore.

And then I saw The Revenant.

Yes, over the weekend I was blessed with the latest offering from torture porn enthusiast Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and I decided that I knew exactly what I was going to talk about today.

Leonardo DiCaprio.


Well, not only Leonardo, but this whole concept of 'baiting Oscar' and the idea that just because he's finally getting his Oscar this year it's somehow some sort of a sin that he's not winning for a performance many deem as 'his best'.  I've been reading tweets for months now debating Leo's inevitable Oscar win and the fact that it's considered some sort of makeup Oscar due to his being, you know, due for an Oscar, and I've been reading so many polls about 'Which Performance Leo Should Have Won For' and random tweets about how 'X performance was better than The Revenant' and after having seen the film...I...just...don't...get...it.


Sometimes I feel like we, as a collective community of people, can never be happy.  The same people who bitched and moaned that Leo didn't have an Oscar are the same people who are bitching and moaning that he's winning for 'grunting and groaning' and 'suffering' and not for snorting cocaine off of some girl's ass.  What's sad is that this kind of mentality completely dismisses what DiCaprio actually accomplished with this performance.  It shrugs off his performance as a mere plea for Oscar, which is not what it was.  To think that Leo has been baiting an Oscar for years is to completely rewrite his professional choices, since nothing about films like Shutter Island, Inception, The Great Gatsby, and when you think about it, The Wolf of Wall Street, scream Oscar winning role.  In fact, despite the physical transformation he underwent, there isn't much about his performance in The Revenant that screams Oscar bait.  Can you think of the last actor who won for a practically non-speaking performance in a brutally violent revenge Western?  There isn't one.  Could it just be that Leo wants to work with interesting directors on interesting projects?

And yet, we still complain.


I mean, I get it...we all want our favorite actors (or just actors in general) to win for their very best, but let's be logical here...that never happens.  Well, it does happen, but this only happens in pretty much one instance:

When you aren't a great actor.

Think of an actor or actress who has won for their VERY BEST performance.  Who is it?  If you thought Mo'Nique in Precious, then I just made my point.  Mediocre actors who blow our minds with a turn no one saw coming can seal the Oscar deal on that alone, and in that case they can genuinely say that they won for their very best, but that's pretty much the only way this happens.  The thing is that great actors will never win for their best work because they are always good, and so their best is expected and subjective and so someone like Leonardo DiCaprio is never going to go back in time and win for something like The Wolf of Wall Street (the one that many seem to point to as 'his best') or for a film he was never nominated for, like Shutter Island (my personal favorite Leonardo performance) but I see no reason to begrudge his win this year for that reason.

And before you say "Robert De Niro won for Raging Bull" I'll correct you that Taxi Driver is his best performance.

I mean, this isn't some kind of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman mess either.  This isn't like Leo is finally winning...for some performance that is beneath him (that would have been Blood Diamond).  Leonardo DiCaprio is winning for a DAMN GOOD performance.  In fact, of his five Oscar nominations, I'd only rank this performance below The Wolf of Wall Street, and not that much below to be honest.  And when you think of the recent Best Actor winners, he's clearly ahead of Eddie Redmayne, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges, and I'd personally say he's better than Daniel Day-Lewis's mimicry Oscar.

Kate Winslet got this kind of flak when it was 'her time' and everyone was all "she's only winning because it's a Holocaust movie" and, sure, it was bait and it wasn't her 'best', but it was a brilliantly composed performance and it was deserving of an Oscar.  Julianne Moore was also beautifully restrained and deserving for her turn in Still Alice, even if it was far from her more inventive and memorable work in the 90's.  The greats are great because they are generally always great, and so when they finally get the chance to take home an Oscar, can't we just be happy that they're winning for, once again, being great?

And it's not like he's beating out someone who is considered to have delivered a performance far better than his.  I'm all for awarding the very best, regardless of actor bias, but it's not like his fellow nominees are thought of to have exceeded Leonardo in any astronomical way.  Michael Fassbender has his fans and his supporters for his performance in Steve Jobs, but I haven't heard anyone say he blows Leonardo away or anything.  It's not like Leo is stealing someone's Oscar.

Like when Al Pacino stole Denzel Washington's.


So, yes, Leonardo DiCaprio nearly died while filming The Revenant, but gimmick aside, this performance is an astonishing work from one of our greats, and even if it isn't his best...I'm damn glad he's winning the Oscar for a performance he can be proud of.

But, enough of this...

Let's talk about you
Kevin talks Tarantino
Matt thinks about some un-nominated performances
Allie & Jenna list of their cinematic disappointments of last year
Britt tries to predict SAG
Alex gets up close and personal with this years acting noms
Sati talks the Smith's pain
Jay saw Star Wars
Ruth talks Darren McGavin
Keith has some random movie awards
Getter is obsessed with Outlander
Josh ranks the 'older' films he saw last year
Dan talks Reservoir Dogs

42 comments:

  1. Well I haven't seen this performance yet but I totally agree with your points. I couldn't agree more about really good actors not necessarily winning for their best work because it's a given that they are always (or almost always) going to give quality performances.

    To take it one step further that is why so many of the greats, Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino, Donald Sutherland, Myrna Loy to name a few, have never received nominations. It's hard to be seen as excelling when excellence is your starting point.

    I do have to throw out Olivia de Havilland as someone who won for her career best performance in The Heiress. Always a fine actress with much other really excellent work on her sheet I still think Catherine Sloper is the best she ever was. But she's an anomaly.

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    1. It's a shame when the greats can't even get a nomination, but the legacy they leave behind speaks louder than any Oscar ever will.

      And I see what you're saying about de Havilland. My point was really that the greats are so great everyone has a different idea of what their greatest is, and so they'll never win for a universal 'greatest performance' because someone, somewhere will say they've been better elsewhere.

      No one will say that Mo'Nique has given a better performance than she did in Precious.

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  2. You're so right on all over this post, brother. I am in the Wolf of Wall Street camp as far as Leo's best work. But my wife always reminds me..."That's just Leo doing a version of Leo." She is a McConaughey fan through and through, and he was the guy that year. The unexpected one. The really good actor not known as an always great actor...until THAT year.

    The Revenant performance is decidedly un-Oscary. I agree. I can't think of anybody winning an Oscar for a role like that, and, when Leo picks up his statue, I hope he thanks himself for taking on a somewhat against-type challenge and doing it well. This is NOT in any way a "make-up Oscar."

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    1. Thanks, bro.

      I find it funny that your wife thinks Leo was just doing Leo, because that was no way shape or form any variation of Leo. It felt like such a left field performance that had nothing to do with anything else he's ever done. McConaughey is the kind of actor who always plays a version of himself...southern boy with a rebel streak. That's all he can do. This guy happened to have AIDS. Guess what...he was still a southern boy with a rebel streak...he was just skinny this time.

      I saw no transformation other than physical, and that to me isn't acting...it's relying on a gimmick. The gimmick worked, which sadly is the case most times (i.e. Redmayne/Hanks/etc.)

      But hells yes to this NOT being a makeup Oscar!

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  3. I love this post. Yes, Leo wants an Oscar but this was a damn good performance. No other actor in his category (and I've seen all 5) comes anywhere close to him. Like you said, it's not a consolation Oscar. He earned it.

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    1. Thanks, Britt! I'm glad to hear that he's not robbing anyone. I've only seen DiCaprio and Damon (and Damon's nom, while fun, is bizarre considering the performances that were passed over) and so I'm happy to hear that DiCaprio is still above the pack.

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  4. Two things:

    1. Thanks a million for the link. Always appreciated.

    2. And thank you for the solid thoughts on the cranky public and Leonardo DiCaprio. I especially love your enthusiasm for his work in Shutter Island, a terribly underappreicated movie and performance!

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    1. Very welcome!

      Shutter Island deserves more attention, for sure.

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  5. What I agree the most here is that indeed DiCaprio is not stealing anyone's Oscar. For me Winslet won for the wrong performance which wasn't even leading and Moore stole Pike's Oscar. But here? Redmayne? fuck him. Cranston? He was good but the movie is insanely mediocre. Damon? Please. Fassbender was excellent but it's not Oscar worthy. i have yet to see DiCaprio and I'm sure I'll prefer Hardy because I value emotional acting more than 'gee I put myself through so much' but I'm sure that the only reason there is a chance we feel for Glass is because of DiCaprio's acting because the script there was fairly lacking. For me DiCaprio's best was Revolutionary Road for which he wasn't even nominated for and McConaughey deserved that Oscar just as a reward for how he turned his career around

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    1. I guess what I mean by 'stealing' has more to do with the overwhelming feeling towards the performances nominated, but best is always subjective.

      I haven't seen Hardy yet, but I will say that DiCaprio's performance is so much more than mere suffering. It's an extremely emotional performance that relies so much on DiCaprio's eyes and internal communication to take us there, and he does. I personally still give my award to Attah, but DiCaprio is my runner-up and EARNED this Oscar.

      McConaughey is a very limited actor who didn't deserve to win anything because his performance was...extremely mediocre, but that's my opinion.

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  6. I find that, right now, it seems the fad is to bitch and gripe and make it sound like it is something new. Hitchcock never won, Cary Grant never won, Joel mentioned other who were never nominated and people like Maggie McNamara(who??) was up for an Oscar for crap. I just saw The Revenant this weekend and I think this is his best performance. I was not bawled over by The Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, I thought it was a bit over the top, smarmy and Scorsese-esque:) In this film he gave his all and we should never diminish the power of silent acting. he had to convey so much and I didn't find I was watching Leo acting, it was a role he encompassed. I agree with you that Shutter island was also one of his best works. I am so sick of Oscars so white that, if I wasn't going to watch the Oscars, I would now. I feel like there is some bullying going on and that one has to vote for an African American actor or film just because of them being African American. Here's a thought-when the role calls for an actor/ actress and it is not set back in history, just let an actor/ actress act and who cares what colour they are.

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    1. The greats have went home Oscarless MANY times. It's a shame, really. Thankfully, this year will rectify Leo's Oscarless stat.

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    2. Maggie McNamara is a perfect example of a performer who scored a nomination because of the notoriety of their film, which was released without a Production Code seal and banned throughout the country, more than the actual performance which is adequate but not memorable. How many times has that happened with someone who is the star of the moment.

      Considering how sad the rest of Maggie McNamara's life was it's nice that the nomination gives her some sort of immortality but it's a frustrating trend when those types of nods crowd out performances and performers who turn in worthier work but fail to garner the attention.

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    3. I have a lot to see from 1953...but that whole lineup looked a little lackluster.

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    4. It is a thin group, I would have only included Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday from the line-up and she wouldn't have won, especially in a year that contained Jean Simmons's beautiful performance in The Actress and Gloria Grahame's amazing work in The Big Heat. Gloria exclusion actually pulls the conversation full circle since she had won the previous year in supporting for a nothing part in The Bad and the Beautiful which surely knocked her out of the running for her far strong, perhaps her best, work in Big Heat.

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    5. I really was not impressed with Hepburn's performance (I felt the normally stale Peck actually delivered the star performance in that movie) and wouldn't even nominate her.

      Simmons was outstanding in The Actress (as was Tracy) and should have been nominated, for sure. I also am quite fond of Jane Russell's scene stealing (alongside Monroe, no less!) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

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    6. Jane Russell is SO brilliant in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as is Marilyn. Now that's a team it's a true pity was never reteamed their chemistry is so natural. Jane's "Is There Anyone Here for Love?" number poolside is both bizarre and so entertaining and she owns it.

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    7. I can't wait to wrap up the 1953 Fistis so we can discuss this further!

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  7. Thanks for the link, but that was Kevin's great work on McGavin :)

    "torture porn enthusiast Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu" Ahah, well to be fair Birdman didn't a torture scene, though you could say it was emotional torture. I think you're right most actors don't win for their BEST role, and one actor I think of right away is our beloved Russell Crowe who should've won for The Insider. I don't think Leo's roles are *bait-y*, I think it's the filmgoers who likes to make such assumptions. But as much hoopla is about Leo never winning an Oscar, I feel more for the likes of Roger Deakins for having been nominated THIRTEEN times and never won a single one :\

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    1. Ah, I did notice that when I read it last week and meant to mention it in my link, but I forgot.

      And, have you seen Inarritu's other works? Birdman is WAY far and away from what he's typically delivering. Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Butiful are harsh. Torture porn was the wrong phrase. Misery porn is the correct one.

      And yes, Crowe should have won for The Insider...or L.A. Confidential...or the little talked about Romper Stomper...and I almost likened DiCaprio's inevitable win to Crowe's because this feels like his Gladiator.

      Deakins needs an Oscar, for sure!

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  8. Hey buddy, thanks so much for the link! I really appreciate it.

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  9. I still think he should've won for The Wolf of Wall Street. If he loses to that insipid wanker who beat Michael Keaton last year, this fucking puto will get inside the TV and do a Stone Cold Stunner on that little bitch.

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    1. LOL, Redmayne isn't coming close to a win this year.

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  10. I have yet to see The Revenant, but as far as nominees go, the praise for Leo in this role is deserving. He has been churning out great work, both for the ones he was nominated and the ones he wasn't. I agree with your point - actors don't necessarily win for their 'best' role (the 'best role' alone is subjective, only the actor can answer that) but that doesn't mean he didn't give his best in his performance. I'm happy for the guy if he ends up winning, but in no way do I think this is a pity Oscar.

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  11. As I get older, I'm giving less of a f--k as to who gets what, but I can't help but root for DiCaprio regardless. The whole process is so f--king arbitrary, it's impossible to rationalize (though entertaining, no doubt).

    Your point about surprising us (and winning) is spot on. But be remarkably consistent? It becomes old hat. Then, really all that's left is a role that is particularly jarring, not the performance in said role. Does that make any sense?

    For example, take Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. I think what he does there is nothing short of brilliant (that final scene alone). He's not even nominated. Why not? Because he wasn't that good, or because Hanks is always that good? Shit makes no sense.

    To summarize: Go Leo. Hanks got screwed.

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    1. It makes perfect sense. Nowadays it seems to always be about the role and less about the performance, which is just shameful.

      And Hanks did get screwed for Captain Phillips...but he also won for 'role and not performance' twice, so I'm not butt-hurt over the snub (even though I personally nominate him).

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  12. Thanks for the link!

    Totally agree on his performance being deserving. Did Brando win for Streetcar? No. Did Hoffman win for Midnight Cowboy? No. Did Crowe win for The Insider? No. Great actors have won for lesser performances, but, like you said, they're consistently great, so a win should be celebrated regardless. To call it merely a makeup Oscar win does Leo's performance a great disservice.

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  13. Well said! I'm in the very lonely camp of people who didn't enjoy The Wolf of Wall Street, so I honestly think The Revenant is Leo's best performance. Some people just can't be pleased, though! I wonder what we'll all do though once Leo does win that Oscar!
    - Allie
    Oh, and thank you for the link! :)

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    1. It's not a lonely camp...I know quite a few who feel the same way you do about The Wolf of Wall Street.

      I'll be thrilled when Leo wins for this.

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  14. Haven't seen The Revenant just yet, but I still agree with everything you say here. Btw, for me Leo's best is The Wolf of Wall Street. And Pacino did steal Denzel's Oscar.

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    1. UGH, Pacino's makeup Oscar is the worst. That is the kind of Oscar wins that deserve the scrutiny because that is when a great actor STOPPED producing great work and was rewarded for mediocre work over a full ballot of more worthy winners.

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  15. Well said. I couldn't have put it better myself!
    - Jen

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  16. This post is so on point. One of the things I didn't like seeing around the internet is that he's only winning because of the extremities of the shoot. No doubt it was hard film-making all around but this is by far his most mature performance to date. And, as you said, perhaps he consistently gives great performances because he likes to challenge himself by working with great directors. He talks so passionately about film being a director's medium and that's the challenge he likes. The Revenant is another role that adds depth to his filmography and all his other nominations. If someone else had a better performance this year, I would say by far that person should win. But this definitely Leo's and he's earned it. :)

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    1. Thanks, Katy. Leo loves what he does, and it shows in the range of projects he takes on. I'm happy to see him finally getting his due, and for a performance that is very worthy.

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  17. His performance in The Revenant is at the top of his game, although sure there are others that are also on the same playing field. I'm not sure if he got robbed in the past necessarily, BUT he's not doing any robbing if his performance is the best of this year in particular. It doesn't matter about any other year than 2015, and no other lead actor performance I saw competes.

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  18. I just saw this post but I want to say thank you so much for articulating everything I cannot!! It makes me kind of sad how people are writing off Leo's performance and going on as if it's his worst nomination ever or something. No, it isn't his best performance, and it may not be the best performance he's been nominated for, but so what? I know it sucks but actors rarely win for their best performances and the Best Actor lineup this year is so weak I honestly don't understand the complaining about his inevitable win. I also don't understand why people act like any actor could've given the same performance as Leo. Leo has his weaknesses but one of his biggest strengths has to be his emotional availability and his ability to really make you care about what happens to his characters. It's apparent here and I thought he did a really good job. Not every actor is capable of doing that so it says a lot about Leo. Besides the suffering he goes through, this is a different role for him because it doesn't rely on his charisma or heavy dialogue and instead asks for more subdued acting from him. He has to convey a lot with just his eyes at times so I don't understand why some people are saying this is a typical role for him? I'm really glad someone else feels the same as me because it's been bumming me out lately how his inevitable win is already being compared to Pacino's win. Thank you so much for this post.

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