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With the release of “The Revenant” just a few months away we caught a sneak peek of its trailer last week and, suffice to say, we were thrilled to see the potential on display. The impact this movie could have on awards season is HUGE and we couldn’t be more psyched to get a look at this bad boy in the near future. The biggest question headed towards the film’s release is whether or not this could finally be Leo’s big moment to win the golden statuette, a statuette that’s eluded him since his first nomination more than 22 years ago. Of course, awards don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, if one were to make a list of cinematic greats that have failed to ever get the award it would be an endless, horribly frustrating list to look at.

DiCaprio’s been nominated four times in his career. Never has he really had a shot with any of those nominations. Most people would just shun him off by saying the nomination was enough, but was it? Along with Joaquin Phoenix we are seeing the emergence of an iconic American actor, one who never plays it safe and always goes for the risky, adventurous fare. Just take a look at the list of filmmakers this 41-year-old actor has worked with: Scorsese, Spielberg, Inarritu, Nolan, Tarantino, Allen, Cameron, Eastwood, Scott, Mendes. A who’s who of great directors. He sure knows how to pick ‘em and yet I get the feeling he’s only getting started and is going to keep pushing the boundaries further in the years to come. Here are ten times DiCaprio proved he was one of the very best actors of his generation.

1) Jordan Belfort, “The Wolf Of Wall Street”

This was the best shot our boy’s had thus far — key words being “thus far”. The sky’s the limit for DiCaprio, and in Scorsese’s now classic epic of debauchery, he brought a whole new range to his repertoire. With some scenes veering towards slapstick comedy, Leo’s portrayal of a Wall Street madman could have quite easily tipped over the top towards caricature, but I don’t think anyone could have pulled it off better than he did. It was a very divisive movie upon its release, but has gained notoriety over the last few years and will continue to do so as a classic. It is the riskiest performance DiCaprio has given us and quite possibly the beginning of an artistic freedom that will have him venture into even more unknown territory, like, for example, Inarritu’s “The Revenant”.

Nominated? Yes.
Who won? Matthew Mcconaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”

2) Howard Hughes, “The Aviator”

Martin Scorsese’s movie is the best ever made about OCD. A mental disease that hasn’t really been understood or treated in the best of ways in pop culture. DiCaprio beautifully captured Howard Hughes’ inner and outer demons in a lavish but personal movie. There are some moments with the tiniest of details that it’s very easy to miss them. Hughes was a neurotic, eccentric billionaire who, as his obsessive compulsion grew, isolated himself entirely from society. This could have been the one to win it all for the then 30-year-old actor. A big budget Hollywood epic, that dealt with an industry legend. Every note was perfect in the performance, capturing the quirks and eccentricities that come with having the mental disorder.

Nominated? Yes.
Who won? Jamie Foxx, “Ray”. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe.

3) Arnie Grape, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”

Tropic Thunder’s Kirk Lazarus said you should never go “full retard.” Crude phrasing aside, DiCaprio clearly didn’t get the memo. It’s in Lasse Hallstrom’s touching film that I first noticed a then 19-year-old actor stealing scenes from Johnny Depp. Playing a character with a developmental disability is not the easiest task to tackle for a young actor, let alone a veteran actor. I didn’t know DiCaprio back then and actually believed that a mentally challenged actor was playing Arnie Grape — that’s how great this performance was. Not many people knew who DiCaprio was, but after watching this movie you sure as hell weren’t going to make that same mistake again. Here was a performance that captured all the details, big and small, and made them feel so real.

Nominated? Yes.
Who won? Tommy Lee Jones, “The Fugitive”

4) Billy Costigan, “The Departed”

When you’re in the same movie as an over-the-top but equally brilliant Jack Nicholson, or have to share screen time with a swear-a-minute ticking time bomb cop played by Mark Whalberg, good luck getting the recognition you deserve. That’s what happened here. DiCaprio’s was the most subtle of performances: a calm, cool and collected guy having to deal with the anarchy unfolding in a society about to breakdown and trapped in unique circumstances where he can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. Scorsese’s best movie since “Casino” or even “Goodfellas” had DiCaprio in his most emotionally and physically complex role carrying the movie through its twists and turns.

Nominated? No. At least the Globes nominated him.
Who won? Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”

5) Jack Dawson, “Titanic”

Can any true movie fan really deny the fact that DiCaprio got robbed of a nomination for this movie? Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart got nominated. It was in fact DiCaprio who carried the movie on his then lanky shoulders, giving it soul and putting a heartbeat to the corny dialogue James Cameron is so well known to write for his films. This is also the movie that many people claim will be the reason why DiCaprio will never win the big award. Leo-Mania was huge. He was a heartthrob who stole millions of hearts, but so what? Ironically enough Jack Nicholson won that same year for playing an OCD-ridden Grinch in “As Good As It Gets”. But if you want a truer depiction of OCD go check out “The Aviator”.

Nominated? No. At least the Globes Nominated him.
Who won? Jack Nicholson, “As Good As it Gets”

6) Calvin Candie, “Django Unchained”

Christoph Waltz won the big prize for “Django”, and he was great, but you know who was equally great? Dicaprio as Calvin Candie: A looney, absurd, frightening performance this otherwise mess of a movie needed. Yes, the performance was over the top, but that’s the kind of thing that was required to get to the eccentric tone of the character just right. A professional connoisseur of the Mandingo game, Candie might just be the most despicable person in the entire movie, a bigoted fool who has enough money to build his own nightmarish empire-esque version of Neverland, this one aptly titled “Candieland”. Not even a nomination for this brilliant portrayal of absurd proportions. At least the Globes nominated Leo alongside Waltz.

Nominated? No.
Who Won? Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”.

7) Teddy Daniels, “Shutter island”

Here’s a film that got no Awards love whatsoever. Relegated to a February release back in 2010, Martin Scorsese’s expertly tense horror movie has, rightfully so, had its reputation grow in stature over the last few years. Every decade there are films that were ill-received upon their release and then get reassessed later on and are proclaimed great movies. The scantily underwhelming 68% RT score and 63 on Metacritic that “Shutter Island” got are quite shocking considering that its IMDB rating now is at 8.1 with almost 700,000 votes. “Shutter Island” can now be considered one of the very best releases of 2010, with DiCaprio giving an exquisitely layered but brutally honest performance as Teddy Daniels, a man trying to relocate himself and his disturbed past. No Awards love but, something better, a reputation that far exceeds any awards, that of a classic.

Nominated? No.
Who Won? Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”.

8) Frank Abagnale Jr, “Catch Me If You Can”

What a playful, enjoyably persistent performance by DiCaprio. Steven Spielberg took Leo’s charisma and infectious personality and used it to move his film into such cheery, infectious territory. This was only five years after “Titanic”. DiCaprio had just come out of relative failures such as “The Man in the Iron Mask”, “Celebrity”, and “The Beach”. With all three movies he was trying to destroy his public image as the pretty boy next door. What he didn’t realize was that he could use his aforementioned image and charisma to give us this great performance. Abagnale Jr’s escapades are so absurd yet they all actually happened. The real life Frank had such a great personality that he got away with almost every bad deed he did. DiCaprio shone because he did just that; he used his attractiveness to mold a character that we cheered for, even as he was breaking the law and making the FBI look like idiots. What is there not to like? Looking back on this performance we can see just how tough a performance like this can be, yet DiCaprio made it look effortless.

Nominated? No.
Who Won? Adrien Brody, “The Pianist”.

9) Danny Archer, “Blood Diamond”

This performance he actually got nominated for. In this case, nomination was probably enough. Justified in fact, but nothing more, nothing less. “Blood Diamond” has a classical narrative that wholly suited this kind of performance. It’s sorta like when Marlon Brando got nominated for “Viva Zapata!” — great acting, but you knew there was so much this actor could do if it were a better screenplay. The role of Danny Archer wasn’t really written with any real subtleties or foreshadowed characterizations, but he was played by DiCaprio with such movie star vigor that it ended up getting him a nomination. That’s no small feat. The film has been reasonably better received over the years, with an 8.0 rating on IMDB, and it’s one of the last movies where the highly talented Jennifer Connelly would get a decent script to work with. Sad.

Nominated? Yes.
Who Won? Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”.

10) Cobb, “Inception”

Cobb has to be included. Of course this was “The Christopher Nolan Show,” but without Leo’s central performance it wouldn’t have been as good. Nolan’s words can sometimes be very cold and distant, but Leo brought real humanity to the screenplay and a beating heart to his character that another actor might not otherwise have achieved. No small feat. In fact, imagine “Inception” without DiCaprio … you can’t. I view Nolan — exception to the rule being “The Dark Knight” and Heath Ledger’s cuckoo brilliant performance — like the puppeteer of the whole enterprise, just having his way with the actors as they basically recite the words he’s written down for them. He’s like the hypnotist just manipulating his actors into doing whatever the hell he wants them to do, without giving them any room or freedom. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering some of the great movies he’s given us, but this makes DiCaprio’s performance all the more accomplished, since he was able to give us a pretty great performance out of the restrictions at hand.

Nominated? No.
Who Won? Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”.

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The race for Best Actor this year already feels full and the season has not yet even begun. The big names crowding the race already include Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, Johnny Depp for Black Mass, Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl, Bryan Cranston for Trumbo, Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel for Youth, Joseph Gordon Levitt for Snowden and/or The Walk, Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs, Tom Hank for Bridge of Spies, Tom Hardy for Legend, Michael Keaton or Mark Ruffalo from Spotlight, Jake Gyllenhaal for Southpaw, Ethan Hawke for Regression, Tobey Maguire in Pawn Sacrifice, Matt Damon in The Martian, Bradley Cooper for Adam Jones and these are just the ones we know about. There could be many more that aren’t front and center that could definitely reshape how we see the race in coming months.

Still we would be remiss if we walked by Ian McKellen’s astonishing portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes. There is virtually no buzz thus far for this great performance and the only reason for that is that everyone is aware of the impossibly crowded Best Actor race. Remember, though, many of these prospects are sight unseen films, and no one really knows how things will wind up by year’s end.

AO Scott writing about McKellen:

The film’s plots are soft and flimsy, and they don’t mesh as gracefully as they might, but they do serve as an adequate trellis for Mr. McKellen’s performance, which is gratifyingly but unsurprisingly wonderful. With his craggy visage and papery diction, his Holmes is a study in wry, intellectual charisma. Anachronistic as it might be, it isn’t hard to imagine Benedict Cumberbatch, the kinetic, intensely focused Sherlock of the BBC series, aging into this mellow codger. (The same can’t be said for the smirky action-hero version played by Robert Downey Jr. in Guy Ritchie’s tedious franchise.)

You might also detect some kinship between Holmes and Magneto, Mr. McKellen’s mutant in the “X-Men” movies, whose genius is filtered through rage and resentment. Not that Holmes is angry, though he does now and then betray a flicker of impatience. He is, however, very much a man of feeling as well as a creature of reason, and the suggestions of buried emotion that can sometimes be detected between the coolly logical lines of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories are brought to rich life here.

The film suggests that there is much about Sherlock Holmes that his fans don’t know. Its most ingenious conceit is that the real man has grown old alongside his legend, slipping into theaters to watch movies made about his exaggerated exploits and gently correcting some of Watson’s fabrications. A long retirement has humanized him, and the specific longings and regrets chronicled in “Mr. Holmes” might constitute only a partial list.

That at least, is the tantalizing possibility implicit in Mr. McKellen’s whispered reminiscences and slow, graceful movements: that beyond the potted vignettes we are witnessing lies the untold story of a great, complex soul, a man more mysterious than any of the crimes he is supposed to have solved.

Review after review cites McKellen’s mesmerizing work as the aging and melancholy Holmes, even if the film overall is being met with less enthusiastic response. McKellen has, unbelievably, never won an Oscar. He is beloved within the industry, however, and received a standing ovation when the film screened for the Academy.

Although McKellen certainly qualifies for the “gold watch” slot we need to remember he’ll be competing with three other veterans — Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in Youth, along with Robert Redford in Truth. Long shot or not, McKellen’s work deserves to be noted and appreciated. Whether he makes it into the winner’s circle or whether his performance becomes yet another warmly-regarded role we talk about in reflecting upon his impeccable career, one thing we know for sure: McKellen is indeed one of our very best actors whose enduring gift to the movies has yet to be recognized at the Oscars.

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Cate Blanchett will enter this year’s Oscar race with another lead performance in James Vanderbilt’s Truth, about Mary Mapes, an award-winning news journalist who broke the Abu-Ghraib prison story. It was the same moment in history when Mapes and Dan Rather uncovered a story questioning whether George W. Bush may have gone AWOL from the National Guard during Vietnam. The story almost ended Rather’s career and altered the course of the election. If the Jeffrey Wigand 60 Minutes scandal didn’t take down CBS, this 60 Minutes story might have.

The film appears to center around Mapes as protagonist — why else cast Cate Blanchett — even if the bigger name, obviously, is Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford.  Pic also stars Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace and Dennis Quaid. It is being distributed by Sony Pics Classics.

My first thought is that all eyes are going to be on Vanderbilt and whether or not he can make a successful jump from writer to director, always tricky. My second thought is, can Robert Redford be believable as Dan Rather?

At any rate, here is the Wikipedia rundown of the scandal, as such:

Mary Mapes produced a segment for 60 Minutes Wednesday that aired criticism of President George W. Bush’s military service, supported by documents purportedly from the files of Bush’s commanding officer, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B Killian. Those documents had been delivered to CBS from Bill Burkett, who was a retired Lt. Colonel with the Texas Army National Guard. During the segment, Dan Rather asserted that the documents had been authenticated by document experts, but ultimately, CBS could neither confirm nor definitively refute their authenticity. Morever, CBS did not have any original documents, only faxed copies, as Burkett claimed to have burned the originals.

After the report was aired, it was immediately the subject of harsh criticism, primarily from the blogosphere, primarily due to the allegation that some of the documents referenced in the report were forgeries. As a result of the controversy over the use of the documents, CBS ordered an independent internal investigation. The panel in charge of investigation was composed of former governor of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney General, Dick Thornburgh and retired president and chief executive officer and former executive editor of the Associated Press, Louis Boccardi. The panel investigated the memo scandal, subsequently dubbed “Memogate” or “Rathergate.” Following the investigation, Mapes and others involved were accused of lapses in judgement and were fired.

Among the allegations in the 60 Minutes report were that Bush, the son of an ambassador, Congressman and future President, had received preferential treatment in passing over hundreds of applicants to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard in order to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam after he had graduated from Yale in 1968. Then-Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes had admitted making phone calls to get Bush into the Guard, as he claimed to have done for the children of several other influential Texans.

The Thornburgh/Boccardi report, however, stated that some of Bush’s former instructors or colleagues had told Mapes that Bush had told them that he wanted to go to Vietnam, but that he could not go because there were others ahead of him with more seniority. Mapes was criticized for failing to air them in the 60 Minutes Report to balance the claim that Bush had enlisted in the Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam.

Mapes was also faulted for calling Joe Lockhart, a senior official in the John Kerry campaign, prior to the airing of the piece, and offering to put her source, Bill Burkett, in touch with him. The panel called Mapes’ action a “clear conflict of interest that created the appearance of political bias.” Mapes was terminated by CBS on January 10, 2005. Also asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy.

Mapes herself continues to deny any wrongdoing. She said that the authenticity of the documents had been corroborated by an unnamed key source and that journalists often have to rely on photo-copied documents as the basis for verifying a story. Further, Burkett admitted lying to Mapes and the 60 Minutes team regarding the source of the documents. Further, she suggested that she would have preferred to do more work on the story, but that her superiors, including CBS News president Andrew Heyward, pushed for the story to be aired on September 8. Mapes later claimed that she was the victim of a right-wing Internet smear campaign, and is dismissive of opinions that the Killian Documents are forgeries.

Karl Rove, assistant to President George W. Bush, called Mapes’ work “the gift that keeps on giving” due to the story’s lurid foundations and the apparent boost it gave to President Bush during his reelection campaign.

It’s probably no surprise that Karl Rove’s name comes up here. It is textbook Rove. He can be outsmarted if you can see him coming. Clearly, CBS did not.

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