Since breaking onto the scene in the early 90s, the auteuristic work of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino has been celebrated by audiences and critics alike. With his illustrious yet controversial career soon coming to an end, his penultimate piece is comedy drama Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Set in 1969 Los Angeles, the plot follows fading actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his trusty stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) on their quest for superstardom. When rising actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband move in next door to Rick, a dark chain of events are set in motion.
The visionary director Alejandro González Iñárritu has been an Academy favourite now for some time and after the huge success of his last film, he again presents an Oscar frontrunner in hunting drama ‘The Revenant’, loosely adapted from Michael Punke’s novel of the same name. Leonardo DiCaprio takes the leading role as frontiersman Hugh Glass, who embarks on a fur trading expedition alongside John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) and their leader Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). When events take a drastic turn for the worse for Glass, he uses survival instincts and will power to exact revenge on those who have wronged him.
After scooping his third Golden Globe and his first BAFTA already, Leonardo DiCaprio looks like a shoe-in to pick up his first golden statue at this weekend’s Oscars ceremony. The bookies certainly seem to think so, and have him priced at a ridiculous 1/100 to win! Jokes have been had, memes have been shared but now we should celebrate his greatness by looking back at his best performances that were shockingly overlooked by The Academy…
Yes, he’d already starred in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, as well as being nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but his performance as Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s disaster epic was arguably his breakthrough. The happy-go-lucky character enjoyed a whirlwind romance with Rose (Kate Winslet) before an icy twist saw his character memorably float to the bottom of the Atlantic.
4. The Departed
In 2002, Leo struck up a fruitful working relationship with auteur director Martin Scorsese when they collaborated on Gangs of New York. Their third project together was Boston gangster flick The Departed which explored a cat-and-mouse game of cops and criminals. The film earned Scorsese his first Best Director Oscar after a career that had spanned over thirty years but poor Leo wasn’t even nominated for his work.
3. Shutter Island
Another Scorsese directed film, Shutter Island is a neo-noir psychological thriller centered around U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels. DiCaprio stars alongside one of this year’s and last year’s nominees Mark Ruffalo, and gives a dark, complex performance that has more layers than Mary Berry’s sherry trifle, but again he went unnoticed awards-wise.
Appearing in an all-star cast that included Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page and Michael Caine, Leo starred as Dom Cobb in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending heist movie Inception. He played an ‘extractor’ which is someone who has the skill to infiltrate minds to steal information. A complicated plot ensues where Leo delves into a dream within a dream within a dream, but still his dream to win an Oscar was unfulfilled.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
Bold, brazen and bonkers, Leo’s outrageous turn as drug-fuelled stockbroker Jordan Belfort is perhaps his wildest performance to date, and saw him team up once again with Marty Scorsese. He pulled out all the stops and we saw him as we’d never seen him before, but was The Wolf of Wall Street just too extreme for The Academy? Probably.
It appears his brutal and bloody performance in The Revenant will finally get him his prize. If his name isn’t read out this year, he’ll be forced to grin and bear it.
In what is the fifth project from the dream team of Martin Scorsese and his muse Leonardo DiCaprio, they present ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’; an epic retelling of the stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name. It follows the rises and falls of the exuberant entrepreneur in Wall Street throughout the late eighties and early nineties as well as the highs and lows in his turbulent social life. Leo produces and stars as Belfort alongside Jonah Hill as his friend and business partner, Donnie Azoff. Scorsese is arguably better known for his past glories rather than his more recent works but here, he is back to his best. His direction is fresh and energetic and his trademark style is taken to another level, which is complimented by Terence Winter’s jet-black comedic script, and of course the astounding central performances.
We have everything you would expect from a Marty film and more, from the troubled lead to the trophy wife blond, and technically, from the use of slow motion to the pop-rock soundtrack and velvety smooth voice-over narration. Belfort’s big personality fills the screen and he guides you through his methods of corruption, breaking through the fourth wall and boasting to the audience about how much money he has, loving every minute of it. Some may protest that this glamourises his deception, taking from the poor to fund his excessive drug and alcohol habits but Scorsese rarely makes films about good honourable men, or role models, so why would this be any different now? Personally, I am more drawn to villains than heroes which is possibly why his work appeals to me so much.
When Belfort’s illegal activities catch up with him, and his home life descends into chaos, we see the creative techniques cleverly become distorted. For example, Belfort’s adversaries grow internal monologues to combat his, and in one scene, his wife openly responds to a thought in his head. It is these small but effective innovations that make this film so refreshing and exciting to watch as it is impossible to predict which trick the crafty filmmaker will pull off next.
Leo DiCaprio has a history of playing deeply conflicted men, disturbed by past traumas, and he is also no stranger to playing wealthy men. Tackling Jordan Belfort combines these qualities, like Gatsby crossed with a monster, a wolf in designer clothing, and even though the character himself may be incredibly shallow and materialistic, DiCaprio’s performance has layers upon layers and has moments which show off his talent in a whole new light. Cool on the outside, calculating on the inside, Leo captures the money-hungry persona and takes us through a whirlwind of emotion with him. His sheer charisma is extraordinary and his on-screen relationships with co-stars are great.
When next to Jonah Hill, they are both hilarious and bring the dark dialogue to fruition in flowing conversation. Leo rarely shows his capacity for comedy but bouncing off Hill’s excellent improv-chops, he is very good. Donnie, the bespectacled motor mouth with a taste for crack serves as a creditable sidekick to Jordan and despite his controversial philosophies and questionable morals, he is wickedly funny and I am a big fan of the character. Belfort’s reactions to Azoff’s outlandish comments are fantastic, as is his two-hander scene with Matthew McConaughey where the camera zones in on a young Belfort’s naive awe-struck expressions as eccentric stocks boss Mark Hanna takes him under his wing and delivers a motivational introduction into Wall Street leading to a mad chest-pumping chant which you will no doubt find yourself humming days later. In contrast to this, his chemistry with stunning newcomer Margot Robbie is intense. Scorsese has a knack for directing arguments and reminds us with a few brilliant confrontations between Belfort and fiery wife number two Naomi Lapaglia.
At a whopping three hour running time, this film is packed with money, fun, drugs, sex, jokes and more drugs and is, in a way, a gangster flick – but where the power is greed, and the guns and fedoras are exchanged for briefcases and braces. It is long without becoming overlong but the length does result in some frenetic editing which crams everything into a suitable cinema duration. I couldn’t get enough and when the original four hour cut featured on the hard copy release hits the shelves, I will be first in line to indulge in the extended version. The Wolf provides only further proof of the genius of Martin Scorsese that in unfortunately nearing the end of his filmmaking career, he can still create a masterpiece worthy of his prime.