What’s Eating Arnie Grape?

"I'm having a Birthday party, but you're not invited, 
but you can come if you want." - Arnie Grape

This isn’t a new argument, nor is it a recognised one by the powers that be but I feel a duty as a film lover and DiCaprio fan to speak these words. We all know that Leo has been in some fantastic films over the years and has worked with some brilliant minds, Scorsese and Nolan to name a couple. Many of us were stunned that nothing was given for his roles in Inception or The Wolf of Wall Street, not even a murmur of recognition could be heard except of course amongst the people that matter, the fans.

What gives?

However, these aren’t the films that I’m concerned with. Some of the lesser known titles may not have drawn as much attention as the more recent blockbusters but they hint at some form of future idolisation, an honouring of sorts for his contribution to cinema.

In more recent times The Great Gatsby, could have served perfectly as a metaphor for Leo’s success during awards season, The Great DiCaprio. But it wasn’t to be. Similarly, while other actors (read: worse) are clambering below, I envision Leo atop his crowning opus of Best Actor,taunting them with “Catch Me If You Can”. Cursing, “if only” under his breath.

Working my way through his filmography on IMDB and inspired by Total Eclipse I picture a world that has recognised Leo’s contribution to film. A mountain of golden statuettes eclipse the world as Leo rests humbly in retirement. But in 1995 Leonardo DiCaprio was merely blossoming as a potential candidate to dethrown the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hanks and his future was exciting if uncertain. What strikes me the most is Lasse Hallström’s, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. For all his humility in patience something has to be eating at Arnie Grape at his lack of recognition.


I can imagine Leo taking a similar approach to Arnie Grape when it comes to his Oscar history. “Sure, you can give me an Oscar if you like? But if you don’t want to, well I’m Leonardo DiCaprio, I can be gratious in defeat, again.”

From that glittery omnipotent corner of the world named Hollywood, where supercillious critics sip on Martinis with their false sophistication transposed straight from a scene in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (a non-Leo related movie), one has to wonder what goes on behind closed doors as year after year Leo is counted as a number, but never a winner.

Granted 2014 has been a quiet year for Leo, his last serious mention coming in the form of Scorsese’s chest-thumping adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s The Wolf of Wall Street. But this has happend before. Unfortunately for Leo his relatively quiet year in 2008 just wasn’t going to make the cut. Revolutionary Road, for all its title promises, couldn’t stir up a revolution in the inner sanctums of the critic world, nor could it elude to an enlightenment within the Body of Lies that is the Academy.

Granted it took Scorsese an incredible amount of time before he was finally gifted with top honours for The Departed but it had reached the point where it was inevitable he eventually would, it just hurt more and more as the years passed by. The issue I have here is that if Leo hasn’t already picked up at least one of those highly coveted statues after such an incredible career then it begs to question what a guy has to do? I mean seriously, did you see him in The Departed?

Calum Marsh recently wrote for ‘Little White Lies’ in their ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ issue when he was reviewing The Wolf of Wall Street and his words struck a chord. He speaks of the ageing director as a principle, as a trend, and how their later movies “are heavy with the past” of their previously successful work. He goes on to congratulate Scorsese on breaking that mould by defying his “encroaching ageing.” I’d highly recommend the whole article if you get a chance but what is important here is that Leonardo DiCaprio falls within a similar category.

At a spritely 40 years of age as of yesterday Leo is by no means old and Robbie Collin of ‘The Daily Telegraph’ even described him as “ageless,” but more from Collin in a moment.

Leo simultaneously carries a deserved but burdensome weight of expectation around with him and one wonders whether this nags at him a little. Until he wins that Oscar his future films will always feel a little reserved, almost resigned to the fact that once again, he won’t be winning.

I can’t help but feel Leo has got to the stage now where directors pick him for his versatility but expect him to give them something they can count on. Each role feels tailored to Leo’s capabilities as an actor but they fail to really stretch him and give him the spotlight that he deserves. They are all great castings but they are all fairly safe. The plot, supporting cast, and direction are second-to-none in all the films he features in but this appears to have hampered Leo.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with the direction Scorsese took with The Wolf of Wall Street I felt like it was really Leo’s opportunity to emulate Jordan Belfort’s high risk approach to business and show the Academy what for. But again he either fell short of their expectations or someone thought it inappropriate to glorify the life of an immoral criminal with more money than sense, who knows.

That should be me.

What I do know is that in my eyes Leonardo DiCaprio has one of the greatest filmographies in recent times and when/if he is finally recognised for the truly great cinematic icon that he is the movie loving world will join him in a welcome sigh of relief and congratulations. The internet will be awash with articles and memes and the busy editorial offices of Empire, Total Film, and Little White Lies will be a hive of activity in preparation for the well deserved special issue cataloguing Leo’s rise to stardom and the indelible longevity in his pursuit of shiny Mr. Oscar.

Bringing Robbie Collin back in to the frame he makes the same point I’m trying to get across, “DiCaprio is most consistently fascinating in his own skin…Perhaps that’s why he hasn’t yet felt the need to give the kind of physically transformative performance pioneered by Robert De Niro in Raging Bull” and so he goes on.

Whether it will take a dramatic change of appearance, a sudden weight gain, or loss, most recently flaunted by Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, remains to be seen but it raises a few questions. Obviously acting as an occupation demands that you become someone else, or ‘get into character’, but whether actors have to alter their physical appearance to be considered for an Academy Award just sounds ludicrous, or does it?

Perhaps a culturally relevant biopic would do the trick? But that appears off the cards too after he pulled out of Danny Boyle’s plans for a Steve Jobs picture. Personally I’m not too bothered about the biopic suffering a casting set back as I think ‘Apple’ gets far too much coverage as it is, a film will only make all those iLovers wet their pants and run straight out and buy the next unnecessary product they can churn out. But that is neither here nor there.

My real issue here is that I can’t help but feel Leo has missed a great opportunity here. It saddens me that Leo has got to the stage where donning a turtle neck, glasses and a shaved head will actually do him a favour in his golden pursuit but unfortunately that seems to be the way the cookie crumbles in this day and age.

With Christian Bale in line to take on the mantel of Jobs, or is it Michael Fassbender? I can’t keep up these days. Whoever lands the role could be on to a winner and if he nails it Leo’s casting in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revanant may go by the wayside come January 2016.

But I am optimistic, and rightly so. Under the direction of critically acclaimed director Inarritu, of 21 Grams fame and more recently, Birdman, starring Michael Keaton in a poignantly relevant return to the screen, The Revenant promises great things.

The classic sporting cliché, ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ springs to mind here. Leo’s return to the screen in 2010 once again under the direction of Scorsese in his adaptation of Shutter Island had box office hit written all over it. But as good as it is this is one film that I can agree Leo didn’t deserve the Oscar for. The same cannot be said for Inception. Highly regarded as one of cinema’s greatest releases in recent years, if not in the history of cinema the fact that Leo was involved should have meant something. But no, he wasn’t even nominated this time, and Nolan’s dreamscape epic fell short of The Ki-Ki-King’s Speech.

Lazy jokes aside Colin Firth’s King George VI was probably a deserved winner but to not be nominated must have hurt. The world’s favourite movie star at the minute, Matthew McConaughey will hit astronomical heights come Friday 7th November with Nolan’s science fiction masterpiece Interstellar and no doubt he will recieve the deserved attention for it but Inception was just as, if not more original in scope and yet not even a murmur.

Only time will tell but it is exactly time that is Leo’s greatest enemy here. Don’t get me wrong I believe Leo has some great years if not decades left in him but is he likely to win anything with age, I sincerely hope so.

A toast then, to Leo and The Revenant

~ Don’t give up on us Jack, not yet. ~

21 thoughts on “What’s Eating Arnie Grape?

  1. Damn this is a fantastic article James. Supremely observant and there are too many points for me to dissect. So I’ll agree generally here that I think Father Time is no longer on Leo’s side. Not that he’s old, and he certainly isn’t. But it’s getting old how time and again he puts damn well everything of himself into a performance only to not get recognition for it.

    Then again, the guy’s a class act. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn he could care less about recognition finally becoming “official” with a statuette. Here’s a guy whose environmental conscientiousness speaks volumes about the depth of his character. He’s so active in that arena it’s really impressive. He deserves an award for pushing awareness for conservation of resources and switching to more sustainable ways of living. But that’s a whole other conversation I guess.

    I love reading this post now, after just seeing The Revenant last night. I’m still not convinced this will be the role that “does it” for him, but Hugh Glass has got to be up there with some of the most profound and challenging roles he’s ever undertaken. He’s a winner in my book. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome stuff Tom, thanks! I don’t get to see The Revenant til next Friday but I’m super excited! Thanks for such an in depth comment and you’re right to bring up his environmental concerns as well, so much more than just an actor.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting point about directors expecting to get something from him they can rely on. I would think you’ve hit that nail on the head there.

    I loved his performance in The Departed more than any other but he’s always fantastic and nice to be reminded of his ‘smaller’ roles and films.

    I guess he just doesn’t win Oscars because he doesn’t play their political game, like you said, the fans are the ones who count. But i hope he does win one still (even though he should have already won three times at least and it pains me that Eddie Redmayne has won one….)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic post which I really agree with. I’m a huge Leo fan myself and some of my friends and I will talk about this and lament and curse the fact that he hasn’t won Best Actor. This guy is truly a beast, so I’m sure we’re all hoping he can finally win that award. Having said that though, I think us fans can only say this to the naysayers- Leo’s greatest achievements are measured by what he gives to his roles and not by awards!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog JW, greatly appreciated! It’s always a pleasure to meet a fellow Leo fan. You’re right, actors by principle should measure themselves on their performances and reward themselves rather than feel the need to attend glittering awards ceremonies. That being said, I can honestly say that I couldn’t want anyone to win an Oscar more than Leo.

      Liked by 1 person

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