#leodisscaprio isn’t yet a thing, but it could be. If you type “Oscars hate” into the google search field, the first name that comes up on auto-fill is Leonardo DiCaprio. Whether or not Mr. DiCaprio is really the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards, that’s certainly a popular perception. Knowing this, the editors of Vanity Fair, Yahoo! Movies, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, The Telegraph, and various other media outlets importuned their writers to explain why Leo did or didn’t deserve to win an Academy Award this year or ever. It’s called “click bait.” And their articles aren’t entirely wrong. However, since they’re claiming authority on this matter, they might be interested in what’s missing from the pictures they painted. The five real reasons DiCaprio feels overdue are…

1. If DiCaprio and McConaughey had switched roles, DiCaprio would have won as Ron Woodroof. Some writers make a big deal about McConaughey’s “comeback narrative,” but the trumping narrative is losing 40 pounds to play a man dying of AIDS who overcomes a death sentence to help hundreds of thousands of people (who are being over-prescribed AZT). I mean, sure, McConaughey as Woodroof might have lost to Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, but Matt wasn’t going to win as Jordan Belfort, no matter how much it suited his “comeback.”

2. People associate DiCaprio with drama (the genre) in a way that they associate no one else. Much has been written by scholars about how certain stars come to symbolize certain genres (I need hardly list them here, but let’s start with Keanu Reeves in sci-fi, Judi Dench in British drama, Bruce Campbell in horror…etc.) DiCaprio had quite a few job offers after Titanic; two of them were to play adult Anakin Skywalker for George Lucas and Spider-Man for James Cameron. He turned down both (and the films came out in 2002 without him). How many 25-year-olds have turned down (extremely lucrative) opportunities like these? How many current under-40 A-list stars have never done any kind of superhero or franchise-intended films? That’s a Venn diagram overlap of one. DiCaprio is really this century’s Jack Nicholson; you realize there may be misfires, but every film he makes is intended to be Oscar-worthy. That is also part of why it seems to non-obsessives that the Oscars don’t like DiCaprio. As Bill Simmons put it, you never see Leo cameo in something like Valentine’s Day; he seems like he only cares about making great movies. Somehow, early on, Leo decided that he would put his reputation and career in service of drama. To be more specific, he put it in service of this guy…

3. Martin Scorsese’s Oscar heat warms DiCaprio’s rep, and vice-versa. Around the year 2000, it feels like Leo said to Marty, “I’m putty in your hands. Do whatever you want with me. And…let’s see if we can get you that long-deserved Oscar too.” Marty may have looked at the box office for Titanic compared to the box office for his last three films – Casino, Kundun, and Bringing Out the Dead, and – apologies for the Italian-American cliché – realized this was an offer he couldn’t refuse. Thus: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed (for which Marty finally got his due), Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street. If DiCaprio feels overdue, it’s partly because seven years ago he helped Marty get his long-postponed Oscar (who can forget host Jon Stewart saying “For those of you scoring at home: Three 6 Mafia: one Oscar. Martin Scorsese: zero”?), and now…what if your friend got you the spouse you always wanted, and seven years later, he was still looking? No, it’s not rational, but it’s there. If Tim Burton had as many Best Picture and Best Director nominations and had finally won for, oh I don’t know, Sweeney Todd, people would be wondering why Johnny Depp is always so snubbed as well. (For the record, Scorsese won Best Director on his sixth nomination; Wolf of Wall Street was only DiCaprio’s 4th as an actor, compared to greats like Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole who went 0-for-7 and 0-for-8 at the Academy Awards.)

4. DiCaprio played basically the same role in three consecutive major films, contributing to a feeling of “come on already, Oscar.” This is not to say that Leo played Calvin Candie, Jay Gatsby, and Jordan Belfort the same way…considering that all three were over-entitled pompous one-percent jerks who eventually look into the empty windows of their souls, he actually gave each one distinct nuance and characterization – you could tell which one he’s playing even listening to your TV from the next room. (Wait: rich asshole from 1859, rich asshole from 1923, then rich asshole from 1987? Let me just run some quick numbers here…hey, nice, DiCaprio’s next role is set in 2051, where he buys and sells Tom Cruise in Oblivion Edge of Tomorrow.) Actually, DiCaprio’s recent filmic choices (and here I include the similar down-the-rabbit-hole roles he played in Shutter Island and Inception) offer ample opportunity for a classic commutation test, where you switch roles (at least on paper) and speculate how they’d play out. I could do this myself, but hey, I’m not paid by Vanity Fair or The Washington Post; those “experts” are. Based on my “axis of acting,” I think Leo pitches a lot of heat in the SE quadrant; he’s often medium-strong, but you’re not necessarily ready to trust him, which puts him in an anti-hero area that some critics find easier to take from guys who look like James Gandolfini or Bryan Cranston, instead of hunks like Jon Hamm. That brings me to my last point…

5. His looks are a (first-world) problem. To be fair, some writers mentioned this, but didn’t really explain it. Tom Butler at Yahoo! makes the excellent point that DiCaprio’s co-stars, knowing they’ve got this rock in their scenes, can afford to make showier choices and “steal” Leo’s nominations (e.g. Titanic, Gangs of New York). But that’s only half the story: when studios need a good-looking guy to put on their movie posters (uh, most of the time), they don’t hire that guy to behave like, say, Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Sasha Stone at awardsdaily.com has been talking for years about how young good-looking men have trouble winning Oscars (Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon; raise your hand if you wish you had their problems), and the basic consensus is that the problem isn’t simply resentment, but more that the roles tend to require a sort of sturdiness and even blandness that doesn’t usually translate to “award bait,” Tom Hanks notwithstanding. (And in Hanks’ case, the awards were for the two roles with a disease and a disability; most of the DiCaprio oeuvre doesn’t figure “dis” as a prefix, unless we’re counting getting dissed.) You could make the case, and some have, that Leo has hurt himself by insisting on playing leads (Django Unchained being his only supporting role since What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993))…that hunks like George Clooney and Christian Bale have found the Supporting Actor category the easier road to Oscar. But that gets back to DiCaprio’s motivations, and which of these three are more important to him: making great dramatic films, stretching his chops as a thespian, and winning an Oscar. The third of those seems a very distant third, if even that. So maybe it’s not up to us to project what he wants, or deserves. Maybe we should just be grateful we’ve even got a goddamn Jack Nicholson-like supporter of drama in a world where A-listers like Mark Wahlberg are starring in Transformers 4. Keep up the great work, Leo, and let the h8ters h8, at least until they make you w8 for Oscar nomination #8.

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