Well you know what they say – sixth time lucky! On Sunday the Academy satisfied a meme that began before memes were a thing, by awarding Leonardo DiCaprio the Best Actor award for his performance as frontiersman Hugh Glass in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s revenge drama The Revenant. Whether or not he deserved it this year (I reckon he did, just about), this award has been long in the making, and goes to a man who maintains an extremely high quality level across his films. Few combine such great fame with privacy as DiCaprio does, the result being his performances are what we remember. I’m delighted he won, was very impressed at his speech & am a fully-signed up DiCaprio fanboy; and as such, here are his Top 5 performances. This was a tough list, so make it all worth it by sharing your thoughts in the comments or at @dreamdepends. And congratulations Mr DiCaprio!
5. Jay Gatsby – The Great Gatsby
Ever since Titanic, there has been an immense pressure around every role DiCaprio takes – despite his renown, he must make it his own. How fitting that he would take on one of literature’s most well-known yet reclusive characters, the charming but troubled millionaire living on Long Island. From its bombastic soundtrack to glitzy costumes and even a surprisingly effective use of 3D, there are frills aplenty on this film; but like Gatsby in the novel, DiCaprio is the quiet heart, and truly makes us believe in his love for the under-the-thumb Daisy Buchanan.
Best moment: Many to choose from including the GIF-worthy champagne toast (IN HD!! THE BEAUTY!!), but I’ll go with his long-sought reunion with Daisy, when the faintest touch of fingertips transmits years of desire.
4. Hugh Glass – The Revenant
Oscars are often given for actors playing strongly against type; could the frothing, bleeding, grunting, spitting, shouting Glass be any further from the slick charm of Jack Dawson or Romeo Montague? In many previous roles, DiCaprio talked his way to the top; by giving him just a handful of lines, Iñárritu focussed our eyes on the injured but pulsing figure of a man wronged. For all the bows, arrows, skulls and CGI bears, it is the sight of Leo making a trail across the frozen plains that is the most arresting image here. A couple of strong scenes in The Wolf Of Wall Street aside, it had been too long since DiCaprio really got physical; this more than made up for it.
Best moment: Kudos for sleeping a horse and the wild thrashing of the bear scene, but the pinnacle is when Glass is discovered by the Arikara, & retreats into the water like a snake before throwing himself down the rapids. I’ve never seen a human look this much like an animal. Watch this fascinating Anatomy Of A Scene with Iñárritu to see how it was made:
3. Arnie Grape – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
We’re starting to realise as a society that people with mental illnesses are fun, lively, interesting, difficult, kind, fragile and, well, as worthy of our time as anyone. This is something DiCaprio knew, and showed, in a beautifully rounded portrayal of Arnie Grape, Gilbert’s younger brother who has a developmental disorder. Given the first of his Oscar nominations at the 1994 ceremony, it still hasn’t been bettered as a depiction of the delights and the darkness that people with this condition can bring.
Best moment: (SPOILER) Arnie discovering his deceased mother and being unable to process her death is about as heartbreaking as cinema gets.
2. Dom Cobb – Inception
The Greatest Film Of All Time deserves a performance to match, and gets it in DiCaprio’s convinced yet doubting dream thief Dom Cobb. An interpretation of Inception is that it all takes place in a sleeping Cobb’s mind; for this to work, we have to find him engaging, intelligent and worthy of spending time with, for us and his dream colleagues. DiCaprio makes him more than that; he is an accomplished but flawed man, whose ultimate aim is also his weakness – he just wants to get back to his wife and kids.
Best moment: The film has set a new standard for WOW moments from CGI-folding Paris to actually rotating a hallway, but DiCaprio’s highlights are more simple – repeatedly checking the spinning top, forming a bond with Saito, and particularly his acceptance that the wife he still loves no longer exists.
1. Howard Hughes – The Aviator
Biopics are tricky. Play it too subtle and it seems you’re too reverent of the person; too loud and you’re doing an impression/not finding any depth. In his second collaboration with Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio hit just the right note in a sensitive and still shocking portrayal of the aviation pioneer Howard Hughes. He establishes the character in the early scenes, and then takes us with him on a trip through a true rollercoaster life, rising and dipping through a succession of jobs, relationships and most notably, obsessions. It is sometimes said that there are no more classic actors in the mould of Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant; through performances such as this, DiCaprio shows himself deserving of a place in that pantheon.
Best moment: When accosted by his agent and Errol Flynn (brief, sparky turns from Adam Scott & Jude Law) when at dinner with Katharine Hepburn (legendary turn from Cate Blanchett), Hughes’ mental turmoil begins to get the better of him. Through DiCaprio’s excellence, we see him at once as troubled, unique, and yet entirely human and like us.
So how have I done? Enraged at no Wolf of Wall Street? Are you missing The Beach? Put your opinion down in the comments – it’s the way of the future!