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Jul. 7 2010 - 3:57 am | 2,020 views | 0 recommendations | 10 comments

Will ‘Inception’ finally get Leonardo DiCaprio and Oscar past first base?

I’m crazy about Oscar. I’m addicted to him. Totally hooked. I’ve read books on him, written (too many?) blog posts about him, followed his every move, spent countless hours trying to predict what he’ll do next. I’m like a stalker who just can’t get enough. And still, I just don’t get him.

Neither, so far, has Leonardo DiCaprio. But it’s not completely DiCaprio’s fault. Sure he’s never given that runaway, undeniable Academy Award-caliber performance. He’s never even been a frontrunner. But sometimes Oscar has such terrible taste in actors and actresses. He’ll go home with Hilary Swank (twice) but not with Peter O’Toole or Glenn Close or Julianne Moore or Ed Harris or Johnny Depp or Sigourney Weaver or Annette Bening or Laura Linney or Ralph Fiennes or Edward Norton or Jude Law. He’ll flirt with them, but he won’t go all the way. I swear, that guy is such a tease.

But if the early buzz on Inception holds up, next year he just might be ready to give in to DiCaprio.

It certainly would have taken him long enough. The star of Titanic, formerly the highest-grossing film of all time, has been Academy Award-nominated three times (for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator and Blood Diamond). He’s toplined two Best Picture winners (Titanic and The Departed) and starred in two others (The Gangs of New York and The Aviator). He’s a rarity in Hollywood: an actor and a movie star, capable of carrying films that earn money and excellent reviews.

I can’t remember any DiCaprio film since Titanic with as much pre-release hype (the good kind) as Inception. The Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi action thriller opens on July 16, and already it’s getting some of the best reviews of the careers of everyone involved. And when you consider Nolan’s credits (which include Memento and The Dark Knight) as well as DiCaprio’s Oscar-nominated-and/or-winning supporting cast — Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Berenger, Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Caine — that’s no minor accomplishment.

The film, whose confusing plot involves a thief of subconscious ideas looking for redemption, has a 100% rating so far on Rotten Tomatoes, based on eight reviews (as of July 6). Though biggies like the New York Times and Roger Ebert have yet to weigh in, Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers has, and he’s breathless in his enthusiasm.

The mind-blowing movie event of the summer arrives just in time to hold back the flow of Hollywood sputum that’s been sliming the multiplex. Inception…will be called many things, starting with ‘James Bond Meets The Matrix.’ You can feel the vibe of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in it, and Nolan’s own Memento and The Dark Knight. But Inception glows with a blue-flame intensity all its own. Nolan creates a dream world that he wants us to fill with our own secrets. I can’t think of a better goal for any filmmaker.”

Will others concur? Probably. New raves seem to come in every day. And Oscar? The film’s sci-fi bent might hurt its Academy Award chances more than its mid-summer release date. No sci-fi film has ever won Best Picture (though Avatar presumably came close), but as The Hurt Locker, which was released in June of 2009, proved in March, it’s possible to launch a Best Picture frontrunner — and eventual winner — before December.

As for DiCaprio, what can I say? Depp and O’Toole aside, no other previously nominated actor is more deserving of Oscar’s company. He already has the momentum of having starred in an early 2010 hit, the Martin Scorcese-directed Shutter Island. And if Sandra Bullock can score for a middling effort like The Blind Side, winning for a unaninimously acclaimed film directed by the guy who got Heath Ledger a posthumous prize should be a cinch.

The Oscar race officially begins July 16.


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  1. collapse expand

    Jeremy, I LOVE the movies, inordinately, but ever since Spielberg was snubbed in the 1980’s, I’ve known what you seem yet to have realized; Oscar is a Hollywood tramp.
    Oscar only knows what’s trendy, and influential for today. Oscar is only interested in Mr Right Now, not what has the substance to make classics or stars. Cary Grant never won a Oscar. Need I say more?
    As for Mr. DiCaprio, I’ll tell you what you can say, or better yet do. Watch “The Departed” again. This man was as brilliant as any actor ever was. For that matter, “Gilbert Grape” was also an astonishing performance. I hate movies that require an actor to age decades (aren’t there enough out-of-work actors to play the transitional roles?) but in “The Aviator” DiCaprio pulls off this bigger than life character very subtly.
    Hey Jeremy, maybe the shine on Oscar’s golden body was in your eye; give “The Departed” another look and take Oscar for what he is really worth…..

    • collapse expand

      That Oscar is so infuriating, isn’t he? You’re right that Cary Grant’s dying Oscar-less is unforgivable. And just think, Donald Sutherland will probably never even get nominated. A travesty indeed!
      Don’t get me wrong about Leo. I think he is hugely talented and so underrated, and has given many great performances, but every year he’s been nominated, someone else had more heat or, in my opinion, was a little more deserving. I thought, Ralph Fiennes was a shoo in the year Leo was up for Gilbert Grape. The year of The Aviator, the competition was unbelievable. I would have given it to Don Cheadle for Hotel Rwanda, but I can’t complain about Jamie Foxx’s winning and wouldn’t have griped had Clint Eastwood taken it. And the year he was nominated for Blood Diamond, he should have been for The Departed. You’re right there. But I can’t argue with Forest Whitaker going all the way for The Last King of Scotland.
      At this point, it’s time for his lifetime achievement Oscar. If Reese Witherspoon can win for Walk the Line (instead of Election), Kate Winslet for The Reader (instead of Eternal Sunshine) and Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side (period), DiCaprio is probably, hopefully, finally in the position to get his just for showing up.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Mr. Helligar,

    You want to talk about a scandal, how about Orson Welles who is undeniably one of the greatest directors and actors in the 20th century but only got one nomination for each and no wins in either category. How about Paul Newman who starred in such masterpieces as “Hud”, “The Hustler”, and “Cool Hand Luke” without a win but wins with the flaccid “Color of Money”.

    I remember the very last time I ever watched an awards show of any kind, it was the Emmy awards when they gave “Northern Exposure” the statue for “Best Drama”. Poor Rob Morrow had to apologetically explain that the show was a comedy, the poor nitwits in the TV Academy thought it was a drama because it did not have a laugh track. I thought, “What a bunch of numbnuts”. I came to the same conclusion of the Movie Academy about the same time when they gave the “Best Picture” to “Forest Gump”. While that was a pleasant enough movie, I mean really, better than every other movie in 1994 – I think not. Any of the other nominees (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption) were better and plenty of others that were not even nominated.

    They are just a bunch yahoos.

  3. collapse expand

    DiCaprio’s performance in Grape was one of the all time greats… He really got robbed of the Oscar. Departed was up there as well, both his role and the movie.

    I was EXTREMELY disappointed in Shutter Island, and I’m kinda leery about this next one here, especially because of all the hype.

    In my opinion, a movie that is hyped like this, is hyped like this for a reason – because it has to in order to get out of the gate strong because sales will decline when it’s revealed as a dud.

    I will go see this movie, and I will be open minded and optimistic.. I just don’t get as excited anymore on these big budget thrillers, they tend to disappoint.

    2 great movies this year with no hype:

    Harry Brown
    Winter’s Bone

    Thanks for the post, I’ll check back in after I see it.

    Dennis – Portland OR

  4. collapse expand

    Great article. I unfortunately dont think Leo has ever deserved an Oscar win yet. 1993 Best Supporting Actor, he was much better than the actual winner Tommy Lee Jones, but it was Ralph Fiennes that was robbed of the award that year. 2004 I think Don Cheadle from the nominees was better, and there were a whole load of brilliant performances that went unnoticed that year which I would rate higher. 2006, I think Ryan Gosling gave the performance of the year in Half Nelson. He will win eventually, but there are more deserving actors like Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole, Laura Linney who are more deserving and overdue for Oscars

  5. collapse expand

    Thank you, movie 24! And if you look up a little bit in the comments, you will see that you and I are on exactly the same page. I agree that Leo hasn’t quite yet given that Oscar-shoo in performance. And I also think Ralph Fiennes should have won for ‘93 and Don Cheadle for ‘04. I actually haven’t seen Half Nelson, but it’s hard to argue with Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, and had they given O’Toole a lifetime achievement Oscar for Venus, I wouldn’t have complained. I think Laura Linney will eventually get hers (though it worries me that she now has a cable series — does that mean she’s no longer considered big-screen?), but I worry that O’Toole and Finney might have missed their chances.

  6. collapse expand

    Awesome Jeremy, Im glad we agree. I also think its too late for O’Toole and Finney to win, its a shame it never happened in 2006 for O’Toole. As Great as Forest was in LKOS, I always felt it was more of a supporting performance, but I can see why the academy decided to put him in the lead

  7. collapse expand

    An interesting point about Forest being more supporting than lead in The Last King of Scotland. I’ve never really understood how the Academy decides who is lead and who is supporting. I suppose it comes down to politics, and who drives the action in the film, whether or not the actor actually has the majority of screen time. For instance, why did Kate Winslet win a leading Oscar for The Reader when the performance was campaigned in the supporting category and clearly a supporting performance? (Because it was her year, and they wanted to give her a leading Oscar, and they probably figured that Revolutionary Road wasn’t going to get it for her.) And what made Kristin Scott Thomas a lead in The English Patient and Juliette Binoche supporting? They had pretty much equal screen time, and Binoche was billed over Scott Thomas in the credits. And of course, there’s Nicole Kidman in The Hours, and her roughly 30 minutes of screen time. Ditto Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. Maybe a subject for a future post.

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