Tag Archives: The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio – Ten Best Performances

In honor of Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning Best Actor, here’s a retrospective of some of his best performances. 

10. Titanic (1997) – Jack Dawson

For better or worse, Titanic catapulted DiCaprio from “up and comer” to “Hollywood superstar.”  The film itself has taken its share of criticism over the years, but it remains popular largely due to DiCaprio’s performance.  Jack Dawson isn’t close to the deepest character that DiCaprio would tackle over the years, but his charisma and heroism carry the movie.

9. The Basketball Diaries (1995) – Jim Carroll

After DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Basketball Diaries was the first time he demonstrated that he could carry a movie in a leading role.  His balance of charisma and personal demons here would serve him well in later roles.

8. Revolutionary Road (2008) – Frank Wheeler

DiCaprio plays of lot of larger than life figures, so Revolutionary Road was something a bit different for him.  Frank Wheeler isn’t a great hero from an interesting time in history.  Instead, he’s the stereotypical 1950’s “man in the grey flannel suit.”  The fact that DiCaprio snagged an Oscar nomination for this role is a testament to his versatility.

7. Inception (2010) – Cobb

Inception is a great film with fine performances.  Even so, DiCaprio gives Cobb a deep sense of pathos and connects with the audience.  This is no easy feat, Inception is a high-concept film and could have easily looked silly if its lead role was in the hands of a lesser actor.

6. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort is a scumbag, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by watching DiCaprio’s performance here.  He’s charming and charismatic.  Even as he sinks deeper and deeper into to depravity, violence, and stupidity, we kind of feel bad for the guy.

5. The Revenant (2015) – Hugh Glass

I wrote before that this was DiCaprio’s fifth or sixth best performance, and I’ve settled on number five.  It is certainly his most physically demanding role, but Glass himself is not a particularly deep character.  He deserves an Oscar here for degree of difficulty, but he’s been better when he’s had more to work with character-wise.

4. The Departed (2006) – Billy

The Departed has the strongest cast of the films that DiCaprio has appeared in.  He is excellent here, but his role is really a co-lead with Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon.  It gets moved down a couple of slots because in some ways, it’s easier to be part of an ensemble than to be asked to carry a movie yourself.

3. Gangs of New York (2002) – Amsterdam Vallon

Gangs of New York is one of the best movies of the 2000’s, and DiCaprio’s performance comes across as particularly powerful and authentic.  This is no small feat, since he’s opposite Daniel Day-Lewis here.  If DiCaprio’s performance wasn’t well-balanced against the great Day-Lewis, the film could have come across as far more melodramatic.  Instead we have a powerful glimpse into a dark corner of American history.

2. Blood Diamond (2006) – Danny Archer

I was debating putting this performance as #1, and it certainly has a lot to recommend it for that spot.  DiCaprio’s character arc is long and filled with pitfalls here.  For instance, he comes across as an authentic mercenary at the beginning, but leaves just enough room for a potential redemption.

1. The Aviator (2004) – Howard Hughes

There’s a reason why playing well-known historical figures often wins Best Actor awards.  How do you say something new and interesting about someone the audience feels like they know so much about?  DiCaprio pulls out all the stops here, and delivers a haunting performance as a man with control over everything except his own advancing mental illness.

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe

 

Oscar Preview 2014 – Best Director and Best Picture

By D.G. McCabe

Here we go with the last two categories – Best Director and Best Picture.

Best Director

1. Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón takes a fairly standard plot and uses innovative shots and an extraordinary setting to create a masterpiece.  The camera work is just one aspect of the skill needed in this one, since handling fewer actors for longer periods can be more difficult than managing many actors over shorter periods.

2. Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave

While Cuarón uses innovative methods to tell a familiar survival story, McQueen uses the established conventions of European cinema to tell a groundbreaking story.  McQueen doesn’t really push the creative envelope as much as Cuarón, and that’s why he will finish a close second.

3. David O. Russell – American Hustle

Russell is quickly establishing himself as the premier actor’s director in Hollywood.  He gets great performances out of his entire cast in American Hustle and, by now, I’m sure a-listers are lining up to work with him.  The construction of the film just isn’t up there with the top two, however.

4. Alexander Payne – Nebraska

Payne is another quickly emerging Hollywood auteur, and Nebraska continues a streak of well-shot, poignant, family dramas.  A solid effort from an up and coming director just doesn’t have the juice to win this year.

5. Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

If Goodfellas (1990), Raging Bull (1980), Taxi Driver (1976), Gangs of New York (2002), and Mean Streets (1973) can’t get Scorsese a Best Director statue, this one certainly won’t either.

Best Picture

Here’s the top of the heap – the category that everyone is looking forward to and debating.  To be honest it’s a two horse race – but what a two horse race!

1. 12 Years a Slave

I had to separate in my mind the movie that I think is going to win from the movie that probably should win.  I don’t want to take anything away from 12 Years a Slave – it is one of the best four or five movies of the last ten years.  So is #2 on this list, however, which I felt was more innovative from a technical standpoint and therefore potentially more influential.  One has to take into consideration who is voting – a great portrayal of historical trauma is going to beat a genre thriller every time in the Academy’s mind.

2. Gravity

12 Years a Slave should be required viewing for anyone who wants to understand American history – and it will win on Sunday night because of that.  Gravity is a more impressive artistic achievement.  Ultimately, both these films will be watched and re-watched for years to come, but Gravity pushes the envelope of technical achievement in the most technically difficult genre – thrillers.  It’s a shame they both can’t win, as they are easily better than many of the best picture winners from recent years.

3. American Hustle

Anyone who thinks American Hustle can win is banking on a concept that the heavyweights will knock each other out.  It has happened before in Oscar history.  Arguably Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson’s greatest performances canceled each other out in 1974, allowing Art Carney to win.  American Hustle has gotten a lot of support from the Acting Branch as its SAG victory suggests.  It won’t happen – American Hustle is a very good movie, Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are great movies.  There’s a clear difference, and the Acting Branch can differentiate between great ensemble performance and great films in general.

4. Dallas Buyer’s Club

Like American Hustle, this one has strong performances.  Like 12 Years a Slave, it deals with historically traumatic social issues.  Unlike either of those movies, it feels disjointed and unfocused at times.

5. Nebraska

Rounding out our “this is all the nominees there should be” segment is Nebraska.  It is hard to argue against including it, but harder to argue that it really has that extra oomph to pull off an upset.

6. Captain Phillips

This one has a lot to commend it for, it is accurate and intense.  The Academy didn’t really like it though, as noted by Tom Hanks being left out of the Best Lead Actor race.

7. Her

This one had the potential for heavyweight status on Oscar night, but something just doesn’t feel right about it.  Great timely concept, check.  Up and coming director, check.  A-list performances, check.  Timely subject matter, check.  Resonated with audiences, meh, not so much.

8. Philomena

I can’t really comment on this film, beyond the fact that it doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy.  It may just another good film that gets nominated because the Academy likes it and we need 9 nominees for some reason.

9. The Wolf of Wall Street

Opening up the field to nine movies virtually guarantees that whatever movie Scorsese makes that year will get nominated.  The Wolf of Wall Street seems a bit too much like a remake of Casino set on Wall Street.  I haven’t seen it, so I can’t confirm that.  Based on mixed reviews and people I know who have seen it though,  I can tell you that if we had 8 nominees, it wouldn’t make the cut.

That’s it for Oscar Preview week!  Enjoy the ceremony on Sunday Night!

(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe

Oscar Preview 2014 – Best Actor/Actress

By D.G. McCabe

More acting Oscar fun!  It looks at first glance like a fairly competitive year, until you take a look at the results of award season so far that is…

Best Actor

1. Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyer’s Club

Who thought that McConaughey would be winning every award in sight, well, ever?  If you saw Dallas Buyer’s Club you’d know why.  His portrayal of Ron Woodruff, the AIDS afflicted roughneck and businessman, is at once heart-wrenching and funny.  Barring a major upset, he’s probably a shoe-in.

2. Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

It’s a kind of a shame that McConaughey is the clear favorite, because in any other year, Ejiofor would win for his role as Solomon Northrup in 12 Years a Slave.  Still, despite McConaughey’s great performance, great performances alone don’t make legendary films.  We’ll be watching Ejiofor for many years for this one, and I don’t know if I can say the same for McConaughey.

3. Christian Bale – American Hustle

If there were an Oscar for miraculous transformations, Bale would win by a touchdown for his turn as Irving Rosenfeld.  Oh wait, there is an Oscar for that, Best Hair and Makeup, and American Hustle wasn’t nominated.  Way to go Academy, way to go.

4. Bruce Dern – Nebraska

I haven’t seen Nebraska, but Dern has been around forever and has a filmography longer than most screenplays.  I’m sure his performance as Woody Grant is great, but there’s just too much competition here to justify the occasional “lifetime achievement Best Actor Oscar” for Dern.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Haven’t seen this one, but it’s a Scorsese movie so I’ll check it out eventually.  Unfortunately Leo’s about to go 0-5, meaning he may have one of those “lifetime achievement Best Actor Oscars” in his future.  To be clear, this is what they gave Al Pacino for “Scent of a Woman” (1992).

Best Actress

1. Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Strange how the lead actor categories mirror each other this year.  Cate Blanchett has been winning everything in sight for her role as Jasmine, will probably win the Oscar.  However, Blue Jasmine does not appear to be in the highest pantheon of Woody Allen films based on the reviews I’ve seen.  Odds are will be seeing #2 a lot more in the future.

2. Sandra Bullock – Gravity

I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine, so I don’t understand how Bullock could not win for Gravity.   I guess the actors branch (SAG Awards) are the experts, but her performance as Dr. Ryan Stone is incredible, with an added degree of difficulty.  She was, after all, the only actor on screen most of the movie.

3. Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

I didn’t get a chance to check this one out.  I would never count Streep out, and I hope she gets one more Oscar before she retires (to tie Katherine Hepburn).  But this probably won’t be that year.

4. Judi Dench – Philomena

This is another one I didn’t get a chance to see, but I’ll repeat my above comment.  I hope Dench gets another Oscar, since she certainly deserves one, but once again, not this year.

5. Amy Adams – American Hustle

This nomination surprised me.  Of the ensemble in American Hustle, I found Adams’ performance to be the weakest.  She’s a great actor, that’s a given, but this one just didn’t connect with me as a great lead performance.

More preview tomorrow!

(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe

Oscar Preview 2014 – Best Supporting Actor/Actress

By D.G. McCabe

Oh the acting categories.  Generally speaking these are considered to be the “glamor” categories, since this is what gives all the glamorous people an excuse to dress so glamorously.  Full disclosure – I haven’t seen all of these movies.  I’ll indicate which movies I’ve seen and which I haven’t.

Best Supporting Actor

1. Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Saw this one. Jared Leto has been winning everything in sight this awards season, and with good reason.  Television badboy, above average rockstar, guy who is apparently obsessed with Japanese culture – none of this descriptors seem to indicate that Leto could succeed in the role of the tough drag queen, drug addict, and AIDS patient Rayon.  He nails it though, and if he wins on Sunday night, it will be well earned.

2. Michael Fassbinder – 12 Years a Slave

Saw this one.  Fassbinder hasn’t been winning much for this role – a villainous slave master and sexual predator.  In any other year I think he’d be a favorite, as his portrayal of Edwin Epps is monstrous and terrifying, but avoids the kind of mustache twirling that would tempt a lesser actor.

3. Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Didn’t see this one.  I can’t comment on Abdi’s performance, since I didn’t see his portrayal of Somali pirate Abduwali Muse.  Academy members love a rags to riches story though, and Abdi is a Somali immigrant from the upper midwest who was working as a limo driver before he was cast as a central character in a Tom Hanks vehicle.  Pretty compelling if you go in for that sort of thing.

4. Bradley Cooper – American Hustle

Saw this one.   Cooper should buy David O. Russell an expensive automobile, because if it weren’t for this and last year’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” I’m pretty sure he’d be relegated to rom-com/gross out comedy purgatory.   His turn as as the repugnant Richie DeMaso is quite a departure from his usual roles so far in his career.

5. Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

Didn’t see this one.  It seems that Hill snuck in right under the wire for an Oscar nomination here.  I haven’t seen The Wolf of Wall Street, and knowing Scorsese’s history as a great manager of actors (maybe the best ever), I’m sure his take as Donnie Azoff is a worthy performance.  My prediction is that we’ll be wishing him better luck next time.

Best Supporting Actress

1. Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Saw this one. I know that the Screen Actors Guild disagrees with me, but American Hustle would be an above average period piece if it weren’t for Jennifer Lawrence.  As the dim witted Rosalyn Rosenfeld she adds humor to what could easily have been a fairly humorless and routine tale of deception and the death of the American dream.  I don’t think there have been many actors or actresses her age that could carry a film like that from a supporting role.

2. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Saw this one.  I’ll admit that it’s a bit of a battle royale this category between Lawrence and Nyong’o.  Nyong’o if phenomenal as the abused slave Patsey, and draws the audience into her character’s tortuous life.  12 Years a Slave is a terrifying, night terror of a film, and Nyong’o’s performance is a big part of that.  It really depends on the taste of the Academy members for drama or comedy for this one.

3. Julia Roberts – August: Osage County

Didn’t see this one. Was this an excuse for the Academy to get Julia Roberts to come to their little awards ceremony and sit in the front row?  Maybe, but all the reviews I’ve seen indicate that she nails it as Barbara Weston-Fordham.  There are few actresses that can measure up to Roberts when she’s at the top of her game.

4. June Squibb – Nebraska

Didn’t see this one. Nebraska got some great reviews and seems to be a classic ensemble piece.  June Squibb plays Kate Grant, the wife/mother of the two main characters.  Squibb has had a long career, most of which is on stage.  Given that the Academy’s membership skews older and more classically trained, she could surprise some people.

5. Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

Didn’t see this one.  The Academy likes performances from independent films – to a point that is.  Woody Allen’s films have been a notable exception – traditionally Oscar gold for actors and actresses of all ages.  I haven’t seen Blue Jasmine, but Sally Hawkins performance as Ginger is the latest in a long line of Allen nominees, including this year’s best Actress favorite, Cate Blanchett.

(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe