As the internet rages at Leonardo DiCaprio’s lack of Oscar recognition, why it doesn’t matter that the actor’s been snubbed again.
Matthew McConaughey is now the proud owner of an Oscar for Best Actor. If anything is an indication of a short term memory in the movie business, that one, simple fact is it. Matthew McConaughey: the star of Failure to Launch, the king of the rom-com lean, the man for whom “must appear shirtless” once seemed written into his contract, the actor arrested in 1999 for playing the bongos, naked – the Hollywood joke; that man, who can also count Teen Choice Award nods for Sexiest Love Scene and Choice Movie Liplock among his nominations, is now Best Actor Oscar winner 2014 Matthew McConaughey. How quickly we can train ourselves to forget.
People are asking the wrong question about Leo’s Oscar chances. What they should be asking is: Does it really matter?
If you’ve been anywhere near the internet since Sunday night, you may have noticed the entirety of the web seems to be asking one question: How did Leonardo DiCaprio fail to win an Oscar again? Well, it seems to have slipped our minds, but Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t Oscar-worthy until a few years ago. Not for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape in 1994, not for The Aviator in 2005, and not for Blood Diamond in 2007 did DiCaprio display acting superiority over the subsequent winners (Tommy Lee Jones, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, respectively) of the Oscars he was also nominated for.
In fact, DiCaprio’s performances circa Titanic and The Beach appear almost embarrassingly bad now – they’re humourless and lacking in substance, especially when placed next to the man’s colossal turn in The Wolf of Wall Street. People are asking why DiCaprio hasn’t won an Oscar yet, with the simple answer being that DiCaprio’s ability as an actor has only just begun to match his status as a megastar. Nominated for Wolf, 2014 is the first year in which Leonardo DiCaprio had a realistic shot at claiming an acting award at the Oscars, but the second coming of Matthew McConaughey was too powerful to be stopped by anyone. Besides, people are asking the wrong question about Leo’s Oscar chances – what they should be asking is this: does it really matter?
Leo’s lack of Oscar has gone from internet conspiracy theory to full-on cultural phenomenon in the past few days. It’s given rise to an amorphous super-meme, Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Snubbed By Oscar, an anything-goes DiCaprio mock-fest depicting the actor’s bitterness, anger, frustration and barely-suppressed grief at the fact that the Academy just won’t seem to recognise him. Of course, the volume of DiCaprio-based memes is typical of any joke that goes big with the netizens – as the gag snowballed, it became as much about getting in on the trend and sharing a laugh with a world that’s in on it. Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Snubbed By Oscar, though, isn’t a big deal right now just because, if a face is going viral, it might as well be DiCaprio’s. Something about the actor means people genuinely want to see him win.
McConaughey’s AIDS-stricken trailblazer trumped DiCaprio’s sociopathic Wall Street broker by being more Academy-friendly
Could it be because DiCaprio, a handsome, selective star of the biggest and best movies, is some epitome of Hollywood glamour, the kind of actor for whom the Academy Award was invented? He seems designed for the Oscar glory that eludes him. Or could it just be that DiCaprio’s level of exposure means his fanbase stretches further than most? Even Brad Pitt, arguably just as deserving of the ultimate acting accolade as DiCaprio, has become a supporting player in much smaller movies, whereas DiCaprio only ever takes the starring role (Django Unchained excepted), and in incredibly successful films. He aims high and swings big every time, and it’s made him a show-stealer in some of our favourite films from the last few years – surely he deserves something to show for that?
Maybe something about DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street is the reason why the ‘DiCaprio needs an Oscar’ revolution went supernova after Sunday’s event. This year, by a cruel twist of fate, DiCaprio was again not Oscar-worthy, but it was for a different reason this time: he gave his greatest performance in a film that strongly divided opinion. Oscar-worthy performances are inspirational, transformative; they don’t involve the character losing his motor skills in a battle with some double-strength ‘ludes, in an overdose scene that’s controversially played for laughs. The Oscars recognise the character as much as they recognise the performance – in 2014, McConaughey’s AIDS-stricken trailblazer trumped DiCaprio’s sociopathic Wall Street broker, by being just that bit more Academy-friendly.
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As we pretend that Leonardo DiCaprio was always as good as he is now, or make ourselves forget that Matthew McConaughey had a risible rom-com phase in which he was upstaged by Sarah Jessica Parker, it appears we’ve also started to kid ourselves that the Oscars really mean anything at all. Really, they’re mere trivia for the future; when the dust has settled, people decades from now will recognise Leonardo DiCaprio’s turn as Jordan Belfort as one of his best, and hopefully only the beginning of a slew of great performances. The actor has a string of fine movies under his belt, as much influence as anyone could ever have in show business and he looks like Leonardo DiCaprio – he doesn’t need some miniature golden statue to make his existence more worthwhile.
Right now, there’s already more support behind Leonardo DiCaprio after his loss than he’d probably ever find after a win. If anything, DiCaprio’s lack of Oscar is fanning the flames of his legend – if he were ever to win an Academy Award, the finality would mark an end to the idea that DiCaprio’s some kind of poor, neglected underdog, unfairly unsung in his own time. DiCaprio’s lack of a small, shiny bald man, and the associated public support that grows for the actor with each passing year, is keeping him essential. So give yourselves a pat on the back, because Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t really need to win an Oscar – he already has your memes.
More on Leo’s elusive Oscar: Is DiCaprio just too big to win?
Featured image: UIP
Inset images: Universal; Universal; Warner Bros