Volume 9, Issue 3
“This is the first Oscar and sixth nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio.”
First, the collective sigh of relief, then, the applause. Finally, the tweets and Facebook statuses.
Our Leo had won, they screamed.
Our Leo? Who exactly was claiming him? This man was a populist people’s champion, and his crowning had two defining features –
1] the realisation of the mantra, “try and will you succeed”; and
2] the heroism narrative – not only does he win Oscars, he’s going to solve climate change!
The Oscars needed a collective, ‘we-did-it’ moment. Marred by claims of exclusivity and lack of recognition of black actors in the #oscarssowhite movement, the Academy successfully managed to get us on side again… by recognising the long-underappreciated successes of a white dude.
Movie stars don’t exist any more. Yes, Celebrity is everywhere, more ubiquitous than ever, exponentially tied to screen media’s proliferation. But true movie stardom? Lights in the sky, household name, beyond-real Cary Grant and Aubrey Hepburn-esque movie stars?
Brad Pitt? Will Smith? They’re no guarantees. You need a high-concept premise to attach an actor, or a franchise. You can’t sell a movie with only a name any more –just look at Will Smith in “Concussion”!
We can’t even pin our hopes on the new generation. Jennifer Lawrence? Channing Tatum? These actors still thrive best when attached to franchises and big-studio tentpoles – Tatum’s “Foxcatcher” is one of his best performances and a great movie, but it still couldn’t break even on just his name alone (even with Steve Carell!).
But Leonardo DiCaprio is a fuckin’ movie star.
He’s the only one around who can sell a movie on his own bat, and rock and roll his way to critical and commercial success. The great thing about Leo is that you can always see him acting. Think back to his over-the-top turn in “Django Unchained” or even the theatricality of “The Wolf of Wall Street”. All of the buzz around “The Revenant” had to do with the lengths he went to for the performance. In a Leo movie, you know you’re watching someone act. Leo’s not going to get the accolades of ‘chameleonlike’ or ‘naturalistic’ like his fellow nominee, Michael Fassbender, or Best Actress winner, Brie Larson might. But those people aren’t movie stars. They’re not known by your parents, your neighbour, your high school maths teacher the way Leo is. Because Leo is a movie star.
And we need movie stars to win. They need to win if the Oscars are still to maintain viewership. But more importantly; they need to win if we’re to continue believing in old-Hollywood, universal cultural touchstones. The world is getting confusing. The writers Negri and Hart called it the end of the “Empire”, as postmodernism takes hold and the old status quo ceases to exist.
Leo’s win was a triumphant moment because it gave us a feeling that we’re still in-the-know, that there are still moments we can all rally behind, that there is a world that still makes sense.
But it’s all smoke and mirrors, a show-trick. Donald Trump is a serious contender for president of the United States, and the gap between what our logic dictates should happen and what actually happens continues to widen.
But at least Leo finally won an Oscar.
Timothy Sarder is a second-year JD student
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Also in Issue 3:
The Level Two Fountain: Students Hail False Prophet
A Food Co-op for MLS?
The Clerkship Diaries: Mission Indispensable
Miss Sian Indispensable
A Really Weird Show: A Month in Kununurra, WA – Part 2 of 2
At The Movies with Sarah & Tom
Sarah Goegan, Tom Monotti