April 21, 2014

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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