Does Leo deserve an Oscar for 'The Revenant'?
There is a running joke every award season that Leonardo DiCaprio has yet to win an Oscar. He's been nominated five times for best actor, but he has yet to grasp the elusive golden figure. His latest film, "The Revenant", opened in December and everything about it is perfect Oscar bait.
Based on historical events, the movie follows early 1800's fur trapper Hugh Glass and his quest for revenge after he is mauled by a bear and left for dead by the remaining members of his hunting party. Its director, Alejandro Iñárritu, won best picture Oscar last year with "Birdman", which was renowned for it's avant-garde cinematography. "The Revenant" is similarly breathtaking 'beautifully shot using only natural light and in predominantly long takes by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Everything about this film is poised to launch DiCaprio to the win, but many people seem to doubt that his dialogue-starved performance deserves it.
When I say 'people' I refer mainly to reviews and vocal individuals I've seen online, as well as friends I've actually talked to. While most comments have been overwhelmingly positive for the film in general, many people seem to fixate on the fact that DiCaprio's character, Hugh Glass, has very few lines of dialogue. 'He's not even saying anything. How is that acting?' to paraphrase most responses I've seen.
First of all, acting is so much more than just delivering lines. Just because a character isn't telling us their thoughts and emotions doesn't mean they aren't being portrayed on screen. Iñárritu defends the minimal dialogue stating, 'That's for me the essence of cinema: not to rely on the words, but images and emotions.'
Hugh Glass may grunt and snarl more than he speaks actual words, but with only the physicality of his performance, he's able to communicate the desperation and determination of a man crawling 200 miles for revenge. Paired with grand, sweeping shots of mountains and forests that highlight the isolation and insignificance of a single man alone in the wilderness, Iñárritu certainly accomplished his goal.
I was so impressed by every part of "The Revenant" that the only issue I have with DiCaprio's performance is Tom Hardy. Frankly he plays a more interesting character and though he is billed as a supporting actor his performance drives the film. He's been nominated for Oscars in best supporting actor in "The Revenant" and best actor for "Mad Max" for good reason. Though incredible I don't see how they could give the award to someone who isn't even best actor in his own movie, but that comes down to award category politics, which is another issue entirely.
The full list of best actor nominees includes performances in "Trumbo", "The Martian", "Steve Jobs", "The Danish Girl", and "The Revenant". Without seeing all of them I can't honestly say whether or not I think Leo deserves the win, however, I will stand by the fact that I believe he gave an awe-inspiring performance deserving of praise in what was easily my favorite movie I've seen all year.
Watch "The Revenant" trailer here: