See if this sounds familiar. A Leonardo DiCaprio movie comes out. You and a bunch of friends watch the movie and are astounded by his performance. You quote his dialogues for weeks to come. The Oscar nominations are announced and Leo's nominated for one. You wait in anticipation but he doesn't take the golden lady home.
This has happened 5 times now. WHY?
One of the reasons is, because he is too damn cool. Cool guys often don't win Oscars. The other is a matter of sheer bad luck. But hey, you've heard that one often! Let's explore the former reason.
Take the coolest actors of our generation: Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr... None of them are Oscar Winners (At least not for acting). Take former cool guys who have won the oscar: Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, all of them won it in their late 40s or 50s.
Calling an actor "cool", doesn't mean he isn't a great actor. Quite the contrary. However, it's just that "cool" seldom gets you oscars.
See, the thing about "cool" is, it's unattainable. Almost every single character these guys have played on the big screen has a shroud of mystery surrounding them. Maybe that's what makes them so successful.
A cool character doesn't invite you to share his position. But we as an audience CANNOT CONNECT with them. We admire them, we wish we could be them, but deep down we know that we never can be. Tyler Durden, Ethan Hunt, Jack Sparrow (er.. CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow), Tony goddamn Stark.
Consider Matthew McConaughey's performance in Dallas Buyers Club. Ron Woodroof went from a racist, drug snorting, homophobic, sexist jerk (but undeniably cool) to a man fighting against the system, a leader, a symbol who we could relate to. Each one of us could empathize, to a certain extent, with what he was going through. He was still cool, but it was outshone by the humour, rage and fear McConaughey shared with us.
On the other end of the coolness scale, we have Leo's Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street. After the initial stages where he was a little wet behind the ears, he transformed into a drug snorting, womanizing, brilliant, manipulative stockbroker and for more than three quarters of the movie, remained that way. Remember the scene where Belfort sells a ton of penny stocks during his first call at the Investment Centre? One of the coolest scenes to have come out in recent times. It caused everyone in the office to quiet down and listen to him. It was an astounding performance.
But, alas, therein lies the flaw. It was a "performance". We were an audience to the performance just as his co-workers were to Belfort. We couldn't empathize with him.
Maybe that's why the academy favours actors who play downtrodden, gay or ugly actors. Simply because they invite us to feel sorry for them. Maybe that's why the race for the best actor award was between Chiwetel Ejiofor and McConaughey. After all, who would you empathize more with? A brilliant, money laundering billionaire who went to jail for a brief time for the mistakes he made, or an AIDS afflicted man who was fighting for his fellow diseased patients (also remember, it was a sort-of redemption story) or a slave who depicted his plight to near perfection? Definitely NOT the first guy.
Leo is my favourite actor of this generation. But the fact of the matter is, the academy tends to favour more empathetic characters. And if I was in their position, I might too.
Everybody is aware of Leo's talent. A combination of roles which were just too cool and better performances during the same year have played spoilsport for the actor's award winning chances 5 times. If he does choose a less cool role, a role which would make you, as part of the audience, both want to be him and at the same time say, "Yeah, you go, you downtrodden guy!"
I just hope Leo doesn't end up winning an oscar in his 60s or 70s for a performance which is far worse when compared to what he's producing now. Will Lady Luck favour him anytime soon? Guess we just have to wait and watch.