Today is Leonardo DiCaprio's 38th birthday. Even though he is a bit too "give me an Oscar" these days, he is still my favourite actor. I've seen most of his films, especially since I started my infatuation with him in 2009. Even though I wasn't around during Leo Mania (well, I was, but I was like two so that doesn't count), Leo has been plastered over my schoolbooks and walls and everywhere I could fit a piece of him. So I suppose that it is time for me to share a little love for my favourite performances of his, which I've whittled down to ten. Which was actually harder than I thought it would be. Here they are, ranked. And there's not Titanic.
The Basketball Diaries is a film I saw long ago, right in the throes of my obsession, and one which I haven't really thought about since I saw it. It stars a 20 year old Leo (and Mark Wahlberg, back in his Marky Mark days) as poet Jim Carroll, in his early years as a drug addicted teen. The film isn't all that fantastic - nor is it very memorable - but young Leo totally commands the screen as he stands on the precipice of becoming the next big teen thing. Which is why I adore him: he was quite a talented teen sensation.
Even though Inception is probably my favourite film of Leo's, I admit that this isn't really an actors film. There are a few scene-stealers, namingly Cillian Murphy's blue eyes and the teasing between Eames and Arthur, but Leo commands the screen from start to finish. It isn't his best "dead wife" performance, but it is damn good. Plus, his appearance in this spawned quite a few memes (where would life be without the Strutting Leo?!) and everyone started realising how unlucky he was when he wasn't one of the thousand Inception cast members called back for The Dark Knight Rises. Don't worry Leo, I still love you.
I remember when I first saw Blood Diamond - I was so shocked by how brutal it was. Time has passed since then and I've seen a lot more brutality on screen, but I still remember Leo's performance, which was also his last Oscar-nominated turn. As a person from NZ who already stakes a claim on having the worst accent in the world, I didn't know how authentic Leo's African accent was, but he tried. And he tries a lot during this movie, too. That's not to say that he doesn't succeed, because he's pretty badass in this.
You know how everyone my age goes on about people having "swag"? The ultimate swag-meister was Frank Abagnale, a guy who managed to pull off a whole lot of cons. Leo plays Abagnale in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, bringing swag to a whole new level. He's having just as much fun as Abagnale did before he got, well, caught. One of the funniest things about this movie, however, stems from that whole "Bad Luck Leo" thing - he stars in a movie called Catch Me If You Can. Gets caught.
No, J. Edgar wasn't a good movie. Not even close. I saw the trailer and thought that this would be Leo's Oscar time. Then the reviews came in. Then I realised that Gary Oldman wouldn't get a nomination if Leo did (that was also when I thought Michael Fassbender would get nominated...good times). Then I started realising what a shameless Oscar campaign J. Edgar was. Then I started mocking the trailer at work. Then I saw the film. Leo should've got an Oscar nomination, but only if Michael Fassbender was in there too. Leo's work was actually pretty good, and definitely showed how serious this guy can get. Maybe he gets a little too serious, though...
Martin Scorsese's The Departed is a damn fantastic movie, featuring damn fantastic performances from one of the best ensembles we've had recently. It is hard to say who is the stand out (but I do have a soft spot for Mark Wahlberg in this movie), but Leo's performance as the on-edge Billy Costigan is wonderful. He's just got so much angst inside of him. And then there's that ending...
Leo's latest collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island, was met with a pretty lukewarm reception, but I've seen love for his psychological horror grow. And I admit, I was one of those people who gave it a lukewarm reception in the beginning, but I absolutely adore it now. Leo's performance in this ended up getting overshadowed by the box office prowess of his other 2010 "dead wife" movie Inception and the fact that it was released so early in the year, but it deserved to be in contention in the 2010/2011 Oscar season. He plays Teddy Daniels beautifully, playing out all of the confusion that we feel as an audience.
Leo's performance in Revolutionary Road needs only to be summed up by one moment: the look he has at the end *SPOILER* when April dies. *SPOILER ENDS* Seriously, that devastated me more than anything I've ever seen in my life. While Kate Winslet seems to have got all the acclaim for her performance in this film, but Leo is just as good - if not better. It is a subtle performance, which ends up exploding at the end. It is actually quite frightening to watch, and it was definitely not the Titanic follow-up that people were hoping for.
I have loved The Aviator ever since I first saw it. Howard Hughes was a fascinating man, and this slick biopic was just as fascinating. What was even more fascinating was Leo's performance, which is so precise, slick and all encompassing. Leo totally immersed himself in the role, to the point that I could no longer see any trace of Leo in him. It was such a shame that he didn't get any more than that Golden Globe. But hey, in Leo terms, that's better than nothing.
My favourite performance of Leo's is one of his first ones. I've talked about it so much before, but his work in What's Eating Gilbert Grape is just amazing. Every positive adjective in the world wouldn't be enough to describe how great it is. He deserved that Oscar. Even if Ralph Fiennes also deserved it. That's like, the hardest match-up ever...then again, I see why they chose Tommy Lee Jones, because then they didn't need to choose between either of them.
Happy Birthday, Leo! Maybe an Oscar will be coming your way if you're extra amazing in Django Unchained? What are your favourite Leo performances?