September 19, 2015
        “Inside Out”: Looking at potential Best Animated Feature Contenders                "Black Mass" could get Johnny Depp back in the Oscar game                J.J. Abrams and Denis Villeneuve: Ten potential first time writer/director nominees for Oscar in 2015                Roger Deakins offers up some of his very best cinematography in "Sicario"                "The Martian" launches itself as an awards hopeful at the Toronto Film Festival                "Steve Jobs": Oscar predictions for September                "Sleeping with Other People" is one of the most charming films of 2015                Sandra Bullock looks like a contender in the Trailer for "Our Brand is Crisis"                Sam Smith will sing the theme song for the upcoming 007 film "Spectre"                Richard Gere is an under the radar Best Actor contender for "Time Out of Mind"                Telluride and Venice launch festival debuts into the Oscar race                “The Hateful Eight”: Looking at potential Best Original Screenplay Contenders                David O. Russell and Ridley Scott: Which filmmaking contenders this year are most due for their first win?                Telluride Announces 2015 Lineup - Steve Jobs, Black Mass, Suffragette                “Sicario”: Ten Films to see in September        

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

By Sean O’Connell 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, 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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