The surest thing was just as sure as we all thought: Leonardo DiCaprio just won his first Oscar. But did he truly earn it? Here is a look at both sides of the debate.
Why He Deserved It:
1. Foaming at the Mouth
Leo spends much of “The Revenant” tied down and immobile. Such a handicapped performance is not impossible to do something interesting with, and he makes that certain by thrashing about and trying to break free, utilizing every last bit of physicality he can muster.
2. He Would Have Gotten Revenge on Us If He Hadn’t
A popular perception is that Leo has been desperate to win his first Oscar. Whether or not that is true, it is not hard to imagine that he would have taken inspiration from his vengeful character and directly confronted every last Oscar voter who voted against him. In all seriousness, he probably would not have done that, but the reason it can easily be imagined is because of how convincing he is as a desperate man with revenge as the only thing on his mind. Commitment is key to any great performance, and Leo made sure to capture every last note of commitment.
Why He Didn’t Deserve It:
1. He Doesn’t Do Much
The issue here is not that Leo is literally restrained. As already discussed, he turns that weakness into an asset. The actual problem here is his relatively small amount of screen time for a film that supposedly rests almost entirely on his shoulders. Extensive portions follow the trapping crew after they have abandoned Hugh Glass, making “The Revenant” more of an ensemble piece than many have perceived it to be. A great lead performance does not have be in every single frame, and it can be part of a larger ensemble, but in this case, that lack dents some of the potential impact of Leo’s attempted powerhouse performance.
2. He’s Had Better Performances
Coronation by the Academy is not necessary to make a performance memorable, but it is always nice when an actor’s most impressive role is duly recognized. His collaborations with Martin Scorcese would have been a good choice, especially “The Aviator” or “The Departed,” which find him losing himself in the emotions of complicated men. As for carrying an entire film on his back the way “The Revenant” attempts to, that trick happens in “Inception,” in which he brings one of the headiest sci-fi concepts in cinema history to vibrant life, as well as in “The Wolf of Wall Street” (again with Scorcese), wherein the entire story of Jordan Belfort is pulsing throughout his entire body.