Saturday, February 9, 2013

Celebrity Profile: Leo DiCaprio
                Nominees for the Academy Awards were announced on January tenth.  This past year, countless films have been released, many of them box-office hits.  It was a good year for films like Lincoln¸ Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook and Argo-just to name a few were well-received by critics and audiences across the nation. 

                However, once more, Leonardo DiCaprio has been snubbed of a nomination from the Academy for his appearance in Django Unchained as the charismatic plantation owner, Calvin Candie. 

                Upon watching the announcement that cloudy Thursday morning, I began to question, does the Academy dislike Leo?  Has his talent and good-looks not met standards for the most highly regarded film award?  Acting in films for the past twenty years with a wide range of roles, DiCaprio proves himself multi-faceted.  He even has a hand in producing various films in the latter half of his career thus far with his company Appian Way Productions.  As far as I’m concerned, this recognition is long overdue. 

                To keep myself busy over break I read up on Leo DiCaprio and watched his films.  After compiling my finds, I find it unorthodox that someone so successful in his field hasn’t received any real recognition from the Academy.  Let’s take a look at his career. 

                The thirty-eight year old actor started acting from very young, doing TV commercials.  Eventually, DiCaprio landed a role on the ABC sitcom, Growing Pains.  His break-out role for the silver screen was the mentally handicapped brother of Johnny Depp in the film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), which he received an Academy Award nomination  for best actor in a supporting role.  Among his roles in the early years of his acting, his most notable was as heartthrob vagabond Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s Titanic.  It was this film that put DiCaprio on the map and transformed him into an A-List movie star. 

                His most notable roles include that as Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can and Dom Cobb in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.  He has become one of the highest paid actors in the world.  Proving his versatility through his portrayal of these characters, one would imagine DiCaprio winning an Academy Award.  However, this is not the case. 

                In the past, DiCaprio has been nominated for only three Academy Awards for best supporting actor-What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, best actor-The Aviator and best Actor- Blood Diamond; he won none of these.  His Golden Globe record for the category “best actor in a drama film” is quite more impressive, nomination-wise. DiCaprio received nominations for Titanic, Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, Revolutionary Road,  J. Edgar, Django Unchained, The Aviator and Blood Diamond.  The last two he won the Golden Globes for.

 An improvement in comparison to what the Academy has given him, but he did not receive as much recognition as he deserved.  Personally, I didn’t think that his role in Blood Diamond was Oscar nomination worthy.  However, the Academy may have nominated him for that role because it wasn’t very good to begin with, and a win wouldn’t be guaranteed on Leo’s part.

                Leonardo DiCaprio has appeared in twenty-four films throughout his career thus far.  His roles have ranged from the dashing, romantic lead to the conflicted, disturbed detectives.  Six of these twenty four (one-fourth, to be exact) films have been nominated by the Academy for best motion picture.  More than half of these films have received nominations from the Academy in almost (if not, all) categories, and received many of the awards.  My point is, how can a film receive a nomination for best picture from the Academy, and its actors not receive awards as well, let alone nominations?

                What’s next for Leonardo DiCaprio?  This May is the release of Baz Lurhmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby where DiCaprio stars as the elusive Jay Gatsby.  Later in 2013, Wolf of Wall Street (which he produced and stars in) will be released, as DiCaprio portrays the daring Jordan Belfort.  With any luck, DiCaprio will receive award nominations next year for these films. 

Sadly for die-hard DiCaprio fanatics, within the last month, Leo has announced that he will be taking a break from acting. 

                His past three roles were very intense.  “I've just done three movies back-to-back, so I'm looking forward to getting back to my house,” he said in a recent interview.  DiCaprio now will get some much-needed “Leo time” as they were emotionally draining for the actor. “I take what I do very seriously.  When I'm on the set that's all I focus on,” he continued. “So my vice is to hang out with my friends, talk about absolutely nothing of importance and act like a complete idiot.”  After being on film sets for the past year and a half, he wants to unwind for a bit before getting back into his acting. 

                While getting some time to chill out, Leo will be getting a chance to work more on his environment work and philanthropy.  He owns an electric Tesla Roadster, a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, and a Toyota Prius.  He also will ride commercial planes instead of asking for his own private jet.  His activism has ranged from donating $1 million to Haiti after their 2010 earthquake to working with 24 orphaned children from the SOS Children's Village in Maputo, Mozambique, and was said to be extremely touched by his interactions with the children.  Charitable, successful, and good-looking? How could you not adore such a celebrity?

                Hopefully Leonardo DiCaprio has a strong comeback in acting once he decides to return to the silver screen.  A fruitful career up to this point like his cannot be ignored, and I anticipate will come back to doing what he loves. 

Argo Review
                Released last November and being a successful film since, Argo has impressed audiences everywhere.  Ben Affleck’s latest film is based on the true story of a rescue mission to Tehran, Iran during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis.  Six Americans are stuck in the Canadian embassy, and there is no way out.  Or so it seems.  Produced by Affleck and the versatile actor/director/screenwriter George Clooney, there is little room for error as the result is extraordinary.

                The dramatization of Tony Mendez’s-the actual CIA specialist called in for the mission-article “Canadian Caper”  (2007) follows Mendez, portrayed by Affleck, as he is called in as a consultant to rescue the six Americans stuck in Tehran, hiding in the Canadian embassy.  His CIA supervisor Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) meet with a committee and brainstorm ways to rescue the six.  Close to losing hope, Mendez comes up with a plan to stage filming a movie and using the hostages as his film crew.

Mendez enlists John Chambers, a Hollywood make-up artist with CIA connections (John Goodman) and film producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to assist him, in order to make everything more legit.  Mendez travel s to Iran posing as a producer and asks for permission to film certain parts of Tehran.  Shortly after, when meeting up with the six hostages at the Canadian embassy, he presents them with his plan to get them out safely and swiftly.

                However, not all plans are perfect and as things complicate for Mendez much quicker than anticipated and risk runs high for these brave Americans. 

                The elaborate scheme is so crazy that it could just work, as Mendez dives into Hollywood connections, the CIA’s big to-do checklists, the Canadian embassy, ultimately risking his life to save the six hostages hiding in Tehran. 

                Like a tide, the suspense was on a constant ebb-and-flow.  Keeping the audience on their toes, just when you thought everything was safe, something new presented itself as an obstacle, and vice-versa.  Affleck and his brilliant cast had a wonderful performance.  Arkin is currently up for the Academy Award for “Best Actor in a Supporting Role.”  His one-liners offered appropriate comic relief for such an intense film. 

                Affleck shined as a director.  He was very innovative and particular when looking to create the feel of the 1980’s quality of film.  He increased the graininess by shooting on regular film, cutting frames in half, and then blew them up two hundred percent.  Affleck also copied camera movements from older films of similar genres.  In accordance to the “Canadian Caper,” the film Argo is very historically accurate and keeps up with nuances such as the cinematography, along with costuming for the 1980 style. 

                Argo received two Golden Globe awards, taking home “Best Picture-Drama” and “Best Director” this January.  It received seven nominations from the Academy this year, including “Best Picture” and “Best Adapted Screenplay.” However, Affleck was not nominated for “Best Director,” which is a shame, considering he won the (well-deserved) Golden Globe for it. 

                This film is beyond excellent; fans of Affleck-as a director or an actor-should go see it.  It was very much so worth the obscene theater ticket price. 

Django Unchained Review

                Released last month, Quentin Tarantino’s latest film Django Unchained has been making a lasting impression on movie-goers and film critics alike.  This ensemble piece features an array of talent, including Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and even Samuel L. Jackson.  Although some people consider it a “western” due to its nature and certain plot points, this film is a “southern” because the setting is America’s Deep South.  North, south, east, or west, Django Unchained is a must-see for any fan of Tarantino.

                Django Unchained follows a German dentist-turned- bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) and a slave, Django (Foxx).  Once Schultz buys Django’s freedom, he trains him to become his deputy bounty hunter.  However, things take a turn for the unexpected.  When they discover the whereabouts of Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Washington), they set out to find her.  The ruthless plantation owner Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) is now in charge of Django’s wife, and the stakes rise in order to get her back. 

                This film was so wildly gory.  Classically Tarantino, Django was able to make me uncomfortable with the never-ending violence and blood splattered more excessively than the paint of a Jackson Pollock.  However, it is so insane that the display put on by all the special effects become a work of art before one’s eyes.  The immense amounts of blood seem to fly through the air ever so gracefully.  I almost have a newfound appreciation for the work put into the graphic aspect of a film. 

                For a while, Tarantino had wanted to do a “spaghetti western;” he first started toying with the idea in 2007. “I want to do them like they're genre films, but they deal with everything that America has never dealt with because it's ashamed of it, and other countries don't really deal with because they don't feel they have the right to.”  It’s about time he got to it, considering the success. 

                The all-star cast did a wonderful job.  Each of their performances was fantastic, individually along with connecting to the plot as a whole.  A cameo from Jonah Hill and a minor role of Samuel L. Jackson as one of Candie’s workers complete the cast list even further.  

                Tarantino’s film has been nominated for sixty-seven awards worldwide.  This includes five Academy Award nominations; best cinematography (Robert Richardson), best supporting actor (Christoph Waltz), best original screenplay (Quentin Tarantino), best sound editing (Wylie Stateman), AND best picture (Stacey Shur, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone).  Django also won the Golden Globe awards for best screenplay (Quentin Tarantino) and best supporting actor (Christoph Waltz).  This was the second time Waltz won a Golden Globe under Tarantino as best supporting actor, the first time was for Inglorious Basterds. 

                Action-packed, historically accurate and even comic at points, Django Unchained is a must-see for Tarantino fanatics.  The all-star cast for this southern film makes it all the more worthwhile. Grossing over $100 million after the first three weeks in theaters makes it so.  Hopefully Django Unchained is able to prove itself once more at the Academy Awards ceremony February 24th and take home well-deserved honors.    

Lincoln Review

Released October eighth last year, Lincoln hit theaters with a bang, grossing over $180 million thus far.  Steven Spielberg’s latest film has wowed crowds all over.  Adapted from the novel Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearn Goodwin, we follow Abraham Lincoln during the last few months of his life.  With an all-star cast of Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Sally Field, the story of our nation’s tallest president is told.

                The film takes place over a span of four months, from January first 1865 up to Lincoln’s assassination that April.  Revolving around the struggle to pass the thirteenth amendment, we learn in detail how much really goes into passing a law.  In the 1860s, one could not simply send a tweet to get information across the country.  Simple tasks such as communicating information were much more tedious, and Lincoln does an excellent job emphasizing this.  Audiences also see Honest Abe struggle on a more personal level with his family, as his son (Gordon-Levitt) looks to enlist in the army and creates a stressful environment for the president and his wife (Field).  One can feel how intense times were for the Lincoln family through excellent performances. 

Lincoln leads the Academy Awards in nominations in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Day-Lewis), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jones), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Field), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score (by none other than John Williams), Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design AND Best Film Editing.  With twelve nominations, Lincoln has a sure-fire chance of taking home some-if not all-the Oscars.  Previous accolades include that of the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild giving Day-Lewis the award for Best Actor in a drama.

If Lincoln takes home the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, it will be the first time in Oscar history that a film about a United States president wins in such a category. 

                Things are looking on the up-and-up for the Brit playing the most-portrayed American president on screen (Abe has become quite the celebrity, appearing in over two hundred films).   Daniel Day-Lewis gives a captivating performance as the sixteenth president.  His portrayal of the charismatic leader is well-deserving of his Oscar nomination.  His physical likeness to the president is uncanny as well; you could slap his face on a five-dollar bill from a screenshot in this movie and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  His mannerisms give audiences more insight to what his personality was like, on both a presidential/professional level, along with a personal one.  Day-Lewis enjoyed his time on set as Abraham Lincoln and said “I never, ever felt that depth of love for another human being that I never met. And that's, I think, probably the effect that Lincoln has on most people that take the time to discover him... I wish he had stayed [with me] forever."  Such dedication is the epitome of an ideal actor. 

Producer Kathleen Kennedy most accurately describes his method-acting: “he is very much deeply invested and immersed throughout the day when he's in character, but he's very accessible at the end of the day, once he can step outside of it and not feel that – I mean, he's given huge scenes with massive amounts of dialogue and he needs to stay in character, it's a very, very performance-driven movie.”  Kennedy said that you “get chills thinking that Lincoln is sitting right there in front of you.”  I felt that way from watching Day-Lewis on the silver screen, let alone being in his presence. 

The make-up department and the costuming for this film was fabulous in transforming the entire cast back to Civil War America.  Soldiers dressed in Confederate and Union uniform were especially excellent.  The story of the film is pretty historically accurate.  One would hope for such an outcome, considering Spielberg spent twelve years researching for this film.  Upon doing research on little nuances, such as little stories Lincoln told and how everything unfolded leading up to the emancipation, I was pleased that most of my results were up to par.  Spielberg was pretty thorough in recreating sets.  He made sure when recreating Lincoln’s office that everything was perfect.  In fact, he even placed some of Lincoln’s actual books on the shelves and decorated with his wallpaper.  However, I was surprised that there was no mention or portrayal of vice president Andrew Johnson, who would succeed Lincoln after his death.  It will definitely leave audiences wanting to learn more about Lincoln, as I plan on reading more about the president and his career in due time.    

Lincoln was probably one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.  It was incredibly historically accurate.  Though a bit lengthy and seemed to drag on at points, it packs in lots of detail.  Without out it, the movie would have been shorter, and probably not as good.  It really showed how getting the Emancipation Proclamation was a long struggle and didn’t exactly happen overnight.  I felt completely immersed into everything that was happening.  With Lincoln, I have a newfound appreciation for escapism, what film was originally all about.  To take one away from reality was film’s original purpose; Lincoln is for anyone who adores the sixteenth president and is looking for a trip back in time in the comfort of your local movie theater. 

As for who is going to take home the Academy Award for best picture, I would say it’s anyone’s award thus far.  From what I have seen, all films are deserving of this prestigious award and may the best motion picture win.