A "catastrophe" is what Leonardo DiCaprio feels it would have been if he had won an Oscar at the age of 19 for 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'. Funnily enough, a catastrophe is exactly what his fans feel about him never having won one the subsequent years after. Just take a look at Twitter as an example, millions of fans over the globe are calling out for him to finally win what they think is due.
I've been a big fan of Leo since my first sighting of him in 'The Beach' at age 11; yes, age 11. I was enthralled by what I originally thought was the film, but what later turned out to be the person in the main role. Since then, like the rest of the world, I've watched him churn out hit after hit, interesting character after interesting character. Unlike the rest of the world though, I don't need to see him validated by an award for these roles.
An Oscar award win doesn't make Leonardo DiCaprio a great actor, nor is it the only way in which his acting is proved to have a profound effect people. Since the release of The Revenant and the obvious Oscar hype that came after it, I've been thinking a lot about him and his movies - revisiting much loved ones and watching for the first time some of the more unknown roles - and thinking about what they've each taught me.
Let's go way back, to 1993 to be precise, to the aforementioned 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'. I watched this movie in my late teens; a time that saw particular tension within my family where the structural integrity of which was dependant on a looming exterior weight, much like Gilbert Grape's (Johnny Depp) literal family issues. Anyone watching the film couldn't deny Leo's performance of the accolade it was attributed. His many tics were so vivid and remarkable, his range of emotions palpable. His part as a brother in constant need of care and attention, but someone that is 100% the glue that binds together his family, was a difficult one to play. It taught me a lot about patience, about starting your shame right in the face and standing up for your family. A lesson I badly needed; as Khloe Kardashian says, 'never go against the family'.
I'd always loved literature, enjoyed learning Macbeth in my first year of secondary school and laughed when I went to watch Twelfth Night, but at the age of about 13, I never fully appreciated it. Baz Lurhman's 'Romeo + Juliet' (1996) taught me to give Shakespeare more of a chance. Leo made that stuff 'cool'. From the first time he appears on screen to the sound of Radiohead's 'Talk Show Host', it was just right. He made gut-wrenching emotion ok to bare.
'Catch Me If You Can' was different, it came out in 2002, so I probably didn't learn much from it until I watched it again a few years later. But what did Leo's vulnerable portrayal of Frank Abignale teach me? It taught me to fake it until I make it. Obviously I'm paraphrasing but, at the time, the film taught me that I could be anything I damn well pleased as long as I was willing to play the part. I'm not committing federal crimes on a day-to-day basis, but I guess you could say I'm acting the chameleon in my social and professional life.
One of Leonardo DiCaprio's most admirable qualities is his fearless pursuit of isolated characters, embracing their crazed obsessions and highlighting their inextricable nature. His roles in 'The Departed' (2006), 'Shutter Island' (2010) and most notably 'The Aviator' (2004) were truly some of the most intoxicating parts for me. His presentation as exposed and unstable characters dealing with obsession and paranoia are some of his most intense. If Leo was to be granted his Oscar, I wish they would back-date it for his performance in 'The Aviator' and be done with it.
Don't get me wrong, Leo is great in 'The Revenant', but I don't believe it's his best. Is his guttural and fierce part as 19th Century fur trapper Hugh Glass really that much more deserving of an Oscar than his portrayal of the hedonistic and self-centered Jordan Belfort in 'The Wolf of Wall Street'? Don't believe the hype. I do understand and, in a way, respect the amount of people that are behind him to win his overdue award but if Leo doesn't care, it doesn't matter to me.