Leonardo DiCaprio has won an Oscar; which means someone has spent all day turning the internet off and on again because miraculously mine hasn’t melted once. It was a victory for acting, for cinema, for the millions and millions of The Rock’s, I mean Leo’s fans; for perseverance and artistic integrity, and it was also of course a victory for the man himself.
What’s surprising about DiCaprio though is that despite the huge outpouring of emotion for him, most people I’ve spoken to haven’t seen either of his finest performances. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is still my favourite Leo performance and The Aviator isn’t far behind; and yet despite all the furore they remain relatively under the radar. For such a loyal and fanatical band of followers this strikes me as a little odd, particularly as both are very impressive films.
But therein lies Leo’s true appeal: he can deliver a variety of performances and capture the hearts of a huge range of people without sacrificing his artistic integrity. From Gilbert Grape and Romeo and Juliet, to Titanic and Catch Me If You Can; from Blood Diamond and The Departed to Revolutionary Road and Inception, from Django and The Great Gatsby to The Wolf of Wall Street and now The Revenant. We all have our favourites and we all have our secret snubs (Catch Me If You Can is one of my favourites and I find The Wolf of Wall Street tedious) but ultimately there really is something out there for everyone.
This more than anything won Leo his first Oscar. Although he did still deserve it on merit, DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant was not so remarkable to make him the biggest odds-on favourite in Oscar history. The truth is he played third fiddle to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Emmanuel Lubezki, who deservedly won Oscars for Best Director and Cinematography. They are the true stars of The Revenant and are quickly writing themselves into the silver-screen history books.
And yet despite the success of these three individuals they didn’t win as a collective, coming up short in the Best Picture category to Spotlight. The Academy has made some questionable decisions in this area before of course (Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan is the one that always seems to instantly spring to mind, although I think Life is Beautiful surpasses them both) and although Spotlight isn’t a bad film, it certainly isn’t a great one. It relies too much on the events of the story: Mark Ruffalo is the only outstanding performer and stylistically it is dull. People may say that it’s all about investigative journalism but virtually all those who say this are journalists (which could well explain the overwhelmingly positive reviews) and it certainly isn’t reminiscent of 70s cinema because it is too one dimensional. I honestly think it would have been far more appropriate to recognise the actual journalists than to continue to confuse the Best Picture category in this way. If you want to see a proper film about journalism watch All The Presidents Men, which is better in just about every single way. Personally I thought The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road and Bridge of Spies surpassed Spotlight; and I also preferred several other films which weren’t even nominated, such as Ex- Machina and Macbeth.
It wasn’t a perfect night at the Oscars for Leo then but he does now finally have his golden statue. His speech was everything we have come to expect of him: eloquent, dignified and politically charged. He spoke of tackling the politics of greed and not taking the planet for granted. But perhaps this is also a reminder that we shouldn’t take Leo for granted: just one quick glance at the fallen heavyweights of Pacino and De Niro is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spines.
There is of course still an abundance of talent out there, but such was the jubilation at DiCaprio’s victory that there is little doubt that now more than ever we still need the King of the World.