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The Grouches traditionally do a series where we write up our biggest hopes, expected disappointments, and things of that ilk in the days leading up to the nominations.  For a variety of reasons we decided to just put together a single post summarizing some of our feelings.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more from us in the days leading up to the Oscars.

JOHN

I find myself somewhat disengaged this year and I’m not sure if it’s my fault or the films’. I will say I haven’t found myself blown away by much this year and I haven’t uncovered much in the way of pet causes like the Richard Jenkins or In The Loop of years past. Part of that may be that I’ve seen fewer films than usual given the early nomination date. I’ll probably see Beasts of the Southern Wild or something next week and fall in love with it.

One nomination that could still possibly happen is an Original Screenplay nod for the inventive Looper, one of my favorite movies of the year. Some precursors have recognized the film, so my fingers will be firmly crossed.

Beyond that, my hopes are such long-shots that they’re not worth expending energy wishing for them:  Adapted Screenplay (or any category, really) for Bernie or a Best Actor nod for Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Finally, I’ll finish with some fairly unambitious desires. Brave moved me more than most, it seems. I think it will be fine but I hope the mild critical response and backlash about it being “lesser” Pixar doesn’t prevent it from getting its due in the Animated Feature category. And its two original songs are the best of the bunch so here’s hoping they get some recognition as well.

BRIAN

Biggest Hope:
The Fix-it Felix Version (happy): Since we’re working within reason here, its that Beasts of the Southern Wild gets a picture nomination. I’m relieved that I get to make this statement before my fellow grouches see it and hate it, because I loved it. The Katrina-inspired fable had some monumental acting performances, the score is the best I’ve heard since The Social Network (or perhaps even There Will Be Blood), and it toed the line masterfully between realism and fantasy.

The Wreck-it Ralph Version (angry): That Tom Hooper gets shut out of the director category for absolutely butchering Les Miserables. Everything about his choices ruined any chances I had of enjoying the musical and sapped all the life and emotion out of what is theoretically a good musical.

Biggest Lock:
The Channing Tatum 2012 Version (happy): Daniel Day-Lewis. He carried Lincoln from beginning to end and absolutely disappeared behind the beard and top hat.

The Taylor Kitsch 2012* Version (sad): Les Mis for best picture. See above — or just read Jared’s review in which he stole all of my good lines.

*John Carter was actually good. Don’t listen to people and go see it.

Biggest Disappointment:
The 21 Jump Street version (for a nomination): When someone from the boring and dull Best Exotic Marigold Hotel gets nominated.

The Rust and Bone version (for a non-nomination): When Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson get shut out of the Best Supporting Actor category. They carry the second half of the film and kick Django into a whole other gear of awesomeness.

JARED

Usually when we are writing up these posts, at least one of us begs for the Academy to throw some curveballs our way with an out of left field prediction or two.  You won’t see that this time.  Every single category is in play this year, and there are seemingly limitless scenarios of how this thing plays out.  Maybe Lincoln steamrolls to 300 nominations.  Maybe we only get five nominees and something big gets left out.  Could Zero Dark Thirty be huge and pull down all sorts of crazy noms?  It is going to be a lot of fun watching the nominations come out regardless of whose names are called.

Unfortunately I find myself agreeing with my compatriots.  I can’t really find any films or people on the bubble who I really want to see get in.  The Perks of Being of a Wallflower‘s screenplay, I guess?  It would be great if Matthew McConaughey could get a nomination, it is just hard to get behind his role in Magic Mike when he’s so riveting in Killer Joe.  I suppose, staying in the category, it is kind of silly that De Niro seems to be on his way to nomination for a relatively pedestrian performance, I wouldn’t mind if he missed.

I really want to be rooting for Skyfall, because Bond so rarely flies this close to Oscar, I just wish the film was, you know, actually a Bond movie.  That said, a cinematography nomination would be a lot of fun, and well-deserved.  And a Bond bad guy nomination is long overdue, so I’d be in favor of Javier Bardem showing up.

And the only thing I can think of that would really make me sad is a Tom Hooper nomination, but Brian covered that.  Well, the Les Miserables best picture nomination as well, for similar reasons.

You guys.  Oscar nominations come out January 10th.  Let’s get excited!  As is tradition, I’ll take a look as to where the race appears to be.  First up: Supporting Actor

VIRTUAL LOCK

(none)

GOOD BET

  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

This category worries me a bit, but Tommy Lee Jones seems pretty safe to make it through to the next stage.  He’s riding a crowd-pleasing role in the presumptive favorite for Best Picture.  And he has history with the Academy (nominated for Best Actor for In the Valley of Elah, and Supporting Actor for JFK along with a win for Supporting Actor for The Fugitive).

LIKELY IN

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Alan Arkin, Argo

I haven’t seen The Master yet, but Hoffman’s role is apparently quite meaty.  Like Tommy Lee Jones, he’s got two unsuccessful Oscar noms (Supporting Actor for Charlie Wilson’s War and Doubt) and a win (Capote).  The only knock is that The Master seemed to have run out of steam about a month ago, so it is hard to say for sure that he’ll be safe.

Wanna take a guess when Robert de Niro last received an Oscar nomination?  That’d be 1992, for Cape Fear.  He also has noms for AwakeningsThe Deer HunterTaxi Driver, and wins for Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II.  Sure seems like the Academy would LOVE to get de Niro back in the conversation.  The catch is that he actually isn’t terribly good in the movie, it just seems that way compared to the rest of his output over the last two decades (save for Stardust).

Alan Arkin has an Oscar win for Little Miss Sunshine and prior to that had two noms in the 60s for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming.  He’s good in a small role which happens to be a movie producer, complete with a catchphrase, in a likely Best Picture nominee.  The only question mark is that there isn’t a ton to the role in a film that has a huge ensemble.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Javier Bardem, Skyfall
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
  • Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained
  • Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
  • Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

The fifth slot could go a ton of different ways.  “Genre” movies can occasionally break through, with Heath Ledger the obvious recent example.  Bardem’s role wasn’t quite in that league, but he’s been receiving a decent number of accolades and has a history with the Academy, plus Skyfall appears to have a chance at some Oscar traction.  Django Unchained came out late, of course, and it is still hard to gauge the reaction.  DiCaprio and Jackson both appear to have a lot of fun playing heavies, but Waltz is in a much larger role.  Matthew McConaughey has had a heck of year, which could lead voters to rally around his solid role in Magic Mike, buoyed by all those stories you hear of the film making $100 million off a $7 million dollar budget.  That said, it remains to be seen if the Academy is gender neutral about their strippers with hearts of gold.  I don’t know what to do with Les Miserables at this point.  Some people love it, that’s for sure.  Maybe that will mean enough support for Redmayne, since I don’t see people going for Crowe.

DARK HORSES

  • Russell Crowe, Les Miserables
  • John Goodman, Argo
  • John Goodman, Flight
  • Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Ewan McGregor, The Impossible
  • William H. Macy, The Sessions

Crowe is dealing with criticisms of his singing.  Goodman has to deal with votes being split between two tiny, but showy, roles.  Henry has to deal with fewer people seeing his movie.  What little capital The Impossible has left is being spent on the push for Naomi Watts.  And The Sessions is suffering from a lack of buzz, which would be needed to garner this nomination.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe

I’m kind of curious as to who actually loved Revolutionary Road.  As near as I can figure, it cater to people who want their philosophy of “Life sucks and then you die” affirmed.  But only in the American middle class definition of “sucks,” of course.  Oh, wait, I got it.  People who found Titanic insufferable and knew deep down that if Leo and Kate had ended up together, they’d be absolutely miserable.

Otherwise, I don’t know.  The film is ninety minutes of DiCaprio and Winslet whining at each other.  Which is exactly as much fun as it sounds like.  John asks if people sympathize with one character over the other.  It is a good question, the answer to which probably reveals something about ourselves.  Other than bros before, um, gardening tools, I’d offer that neither is particularly likable.  Which I guess is sort of interesting in that in the movie they are repeatedly referred to as the “fun” couple, but really I’d rather hang out with just about any other character in the movie.

That’s all I got.  The film is pretty clearly failed Oscar-bait.  It isn’t bad, but it drags, is repetitive and doesn’t have much in the way of redeeming qualities.  I felt after filming they went back and inserted a few soliloquies nearly at random for Kate Winslet in an effort to bolster her Oscar chances.  Because if there is one thing people like more than whiny characters, it is whiny characters who drone on.

I hinted at it above, but I guess I sorta liked all the minor characters.  Kathy Bates had been tipped by some for a nomination, which is silly in my mind, but she was fun.  I enjoyed Kate and Leo’s neighbors, and I think I would have much more love for the movie if they featured more prominently.  And Leo’s co-workers were all very amusing, in a film that could have benefited from more comic relief.

And then there’s Michael Shannon.  Call me a dreamer, but I think I just might start a Michael Shannon for Bond villain bandwagon.  His character pretty much runs roughshod over the movie.  I mean, his character is a well-worn plot device and it is probably misused, but a definite breath of fresh air.  So yeah, his awesomeness is probably amplified by the more subdued nature of the rest of the film.  But the nomination is still deserved, I’d say.

I love me a good suburban malaise movie. I’ve lived in a variety of types of suburbs and now live in a city so I think I have a good handle on the pros and cons of suburban living. There can be a lot of interesting themes to mine there, not the least of which is that chase for the elusive “American dream.” That’s a broad subject to tackle though, especially for a viewer like me with a “quit yer whining” mentality.

But I really loved American Beauty so I thought Sam Mendes’s return to suburbia might be up my alley. Advanced word diminished my hopes, which even still turned out to be set way too high. The problem is that Revolutionary Road isn’t an effective portrait of the soul-sucking suburbs, it’s just a story of two tools in a bad marriage. They use the oppressive homogeneity of suburban living as an excuse for their crumbling relationship, a potentially interesting topic, but in the end they’re two pieces of work that shouldn’t be married to each other, if anyone, who just subject us to their yelling and whining for two hours. I’d be curious to hear if anyone else found themselves leaning towards one character or the other. I found myself sympathizing with him marginally more; he is a jerk but she’s truly unbalanced.

Revolutionary Road is billed to be this great acting movie, but to me it felt bogged down in its Serious Acting. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio never felt real (she was a worse offender than him). Or perhaps the style of precise enunciation and showy emotion missed its mark for me; regardless I was not terribly impressed. Supporting Actor nominee Michael Shannon steals every scene he’s in, but he feels like part of a completely different movie. His character also managed to sap any sense of subtlety out of the film; what better way to hammer a point home than to have a crazy person just come out and say it explicitly?

Not all of it is bad, however. A lot of it is quite interesting from a technical or more cerebral standpoint (y’know, if you don’t bother with little things like plot or character). It’s fun to see a film throw itself so completely into its era, especially since 1950s America tends to get overlooked in film in favor of World War II on one side and the swinging 60s on the other. So the sets and costumes, both Oscar nominated, were interesting, as were all the little touches from the time period (like the serious amounts of liquor and cigarettes Kate Winslet manages to imbibe while pregnant, or the glimpses into the business world). And I will say it’s often effective in tone; if more people had seen it it could’ve been responsible for a measurable increase in marriage postponements. For a film with so many missteps it was impressively brutally bleak and mostly earned it.

I also really dug the ending. I wasn’t always fond of where the film leads but for where it does lead the resolution works very well. But then the very final scene killed my good will. If your film has to make an over-the-top, meaning-telegraphing final pronouncement, then make it ridiculously over the top like the absurd rat at the end of The Departed, not stupid and smug like In the Valley of Elah.

Maybe the American dream with its illusory suburban picket fence is just a formidable challenge to take head-on. One of my favorite suburbia movies of recent years isn’t really about the suburbs at all: Brick, a modern noir populated with detached youth and set among the sidewalk-free roads and empty big box store parking lots of the suburbs. Maybe suburban angst works best as a supporting character.

Oscar nominations will be announced on January 22. We’re counting down to the big day by tackling some tough questions and spouting some mad opinions. Today we’re making predictions. Going out on a limb a little, what will and will not happen in the nominations?

Brian: Torino for the Upset

Gran Torino will squeeze in as a Best Picture nominee, kicking out Frost/Nixon. I think Oscar voters will be blinded by the strong box office performances of Eastwood’s take on the Incredible Hulk, and the old fogeys will be regretful if they don’t throw some dap to what could possibly be Eastwood’s last film. Considering the movie’s pure audacity, I can’t even protest the pick that much, even though it was not very good. I like its chances, and like the Arizona Cardinals making a playoff run, I think that a surprise nomination could give it upset special potential over Slumdog in the end game.

John: TDK Loses, HSM3 Wins

I’ll believe Dark Knight getting a Best Picture nod when I see it. It deserves it but the Academy is so good at disappointing me. Despite love from nearly every guild (producers, directors, writers, art directors, editors, sound mixers, cinematographers, costume designers) SAG skipped it for its Ensemble award and the acting branch is by far the largest in the Academy. I know the correlation between SAG Ensemble and Best Picture isn’t perfect, but I’m pessimistic. The Reader seems so much more up the Academy’s alley that I can definitely see it ignoring the comic book film. This is a prediction I’d love to be wrong, but I expect lots of fanboy bitching tomorrow.

After last year’s debacle in the category I expect High School Musical 3: Senior Year to score at least one Original Song nomination. Fortunately rule changes prevent it from nabbing more than two so it can’t match Enchanted‘s three. None of the groups that names Best Song has given the bland musical tunes any love, but if anyone can it’s the Academy.

Jared: Good News Coming for Happy, Winslet, Leo (DiCaprio); Bad for Jolie, Blanchett, Leo (Melissa)

It is hard to make exciting predictions this year, with so many categories seeing so much uniformity across guild awards and the other precursors.  I won’t make up something crazy just for the sake of being bold, but I can see a few slightly unexpected things to happen.  Happy-Go-Lucky will garner three nominations (Actress, Supporting Actor, and Original Screenplay). I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I think the film’s unbridled optimism will resonate with voters in this political and economic climate, and since Eddie Marsan is the one counter to that in the whole movie, he stands out too much not to be noticed.  Kate Winslet grabs two noms, and Leonardo DiCaprio comes along for the ride. The former is more likely than the latter, but I think Winslet peaked at the right time, is a name people know and want to vote for, and I think people want to get her an Oscar win.  There are scenarios where Revolutionary Road or The Reader pull down more nominations, but I see them having difficulty cracking the big categories, so support could funnel to DiCaprio.  Leo, Jolie, Blanchett out for Best Actress. This category is an eight woman (well, no, nine, Michelle Williams has a non-zero shot) free-for-all, and really, nothing is absolutely guaranteed.  I think Jolie misses because Changeling didn’t resonate in general any more than A Mighty Heart.  I’m even now second-guessing myself about Blanchett, since the Academy loves her so, but I think she has more of a chance if Benjamin Button broke out a little more at the box office.  And Leo will suffer from being in a movie released too early and being too little of a name.

Adam: Those Expecting Surprises Will be Disappointed

Not sure how much of a long shot it is, but I think Leonardo DiCaprio edges out Pitt and Jenkins for a Best Actor nod.  I also second Jared’s prediction of Happy-Go-Lucky getting more nods than it deserves (which I have no problem ridiculing in the days to come).  I think Dev Patel rides the seemingly-universal love for Slumdog Millionaire into a supporting actor spot.  Honestly though, I really don’t see that many “long shots” in even remote contention.

May 2017
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