Comment: Did Leo deserve his Oscar?

It was always a sure thing – even his competitors came out in support for him – but was The Revenant worthy of being Leo’s Oscar-winning performance? I don’t need to tell you that, on Sunday evening in Los Angeles, he finally took home gold (social media went so crazy that the only way you wouldn’t know is if you didn’t have the internet). It was kind of a big deal. For one, we could no longer say that we had the same number of Oscars as DiCaprio. But did he earn it?

A lot of criticism has been drawn from the fact that his character, Hugh Glass, doesn’t really say anything at all – it was down to his co-stars Domnhall Gleeson, Tom Hardy and Will Poulter to provide most of the dialogue, and therefore narrative, for the movie. Clearly he endured a lot while he was grunting out the few lines he had to work with, not to mention the tedious hours of makeup beforehand, and he went to great lengths for his art, even eating raw bison (no small feat given his well-known vegetarianism). On the other hand, his performance was fairly one-dimensional, at least emotionally, and for someone who is known for his charismatic acting this was disappointing for audiences to see.

2004's The Aviator/Courtesy of Warner Bros.
2004’s The Aviator/Courtesy of Warner Bros.

A lot of people regard his performance as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator as Leo at his very best. It garnered an Oscar nomination at the time but with competition including Jamie Foxx in Ray, the young DiCaprio never really stood a chance. This is the main point that has been made about this year’s Oscars: that there was really no competition. Damon, Cranston and Redmayne all gave convincing performances but nothing worthy of an Oscar win. In fact, I would argue that the only person challenging Leo this year was Fassbender, who gave one of the best performances of 2015 as Steve Jobs. But winning an Oscar for that role was always going to be a challenge, given the film’s relative commercial failure.

Without any real competition, there was no way that Leo couldn’t win. If audiences and critics alike were to rank his performances I’m sure his Oscar-winning role will be somewhere in the middle. However, does this mean that Leo didn’t deserve the Oscar at all? Absolutely not. He’s a great character actor with 5 nominations before his win. He embodies everything great about modern Hollywood, and more importantly, he only makes good movies, which is something a lot of us like to see. Sure, he may not have given his best performance as Hugh Glass, but he certainly deserved a reward for his years of hard work.

James Berman

Featured image courtesy of Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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