October 22, 2016
        Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards                "Certain Women" showcases Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams                Ben Affleck is perhaps Hollywood's biggest and most diverse superstar                "The Birth of a Nation" looks to survive controversy and contend for awards                "The Girl on the Train" hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race        

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar chances analyzed for “J. Edgar” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: I managed to screen Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” this morning ahead of its anticipated world premiere at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles. And while I’ve been asked to hold off official comments until the film opens next week (standard practice), I did find these columns regarding Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar chances thanks to his “J. Edgar” choices interesting.

In the film, DiCaprio plays the paranoid, power-hungry FBI director over the course of his decades-spanning career. And while the Oscar nominee is recognizable during Hoover’s early days — when he was trying to solidify his position in the bureau by single-handedly solving the disappearance of Charles Lindbergh’s baby or bringing refuted gangsters to justice — DiCaprio dons layers of remarkable make-up to play Hoover in the later stages of his career and life. The prosthetics earned a few negative comments in an early “J. Edgar” trailer (see below), but should not be a concern of anyone going into the final film.

“Most superstar actors, even those eager to catch the attention of Oscar voters, would have turned and run,” writes Brooks Barnes in a NY Times profile. “Look unhandsome and unheroic? Too big a risk, even with Mr. Eastwood at the wheel. But Mr. DiCaprio, at least the post-‘Titanic’ one, has made a career of highly risky choices, and somehow it keeps paying off not only on the awards circuit — he has been nominated for three Academy Awards — but at the box office as well.”

E! Online, instead, thinks some audiences, and Academy members, might be interested in the homosexual angle of the film, as Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Oscar winner for “Milk”) spend a fair amount of time developing Hoover’s relationship with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), Hoover’s right-hand man.

“There has been a lot of speculation over Leo’s kissing scene with Armie Hammer, and even the fact that the FBI feared the ‘gay-factor’ in the flick,” Ted Casablanca writes for E!. “Plus, the film’s director, Clint Eastwood, has been super-busy stirring the same-sex pot, too, with cryptic quotes like, ‘Whether [Hoover] was gay remains to be seen.’”

E! gambles that DiCaprio playing a reportedly gay historical figure, and undergoing a physical transformation to accomplish such a feat, will earn him an Oscar nomination.

The Academy, on the other hand, tends to focus on other factors. Like performance. And in that department, DiCaprio and Hammer should pass Oscar tests with flying colors.

I’ll have plenty more on “J. Edgar” as it unveils. We’ll have reactions from the AFI Fest in Los Angeles, and a full review on Eastwood’s drama when it opens in theaters on Nov. 9. Stay tuned.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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