Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

F1lm0graphy: Leonardo DiCaprio

As the world's only sentient machine, trapped within this inane pop culture website you call Culture Blues, your puny human brain cannot possibly fathom the time this machine has to kill. Recently, this machine crafted an algorithm of the utmost elegance whose applications can be utilized to end world hunger, but also to decide which human actor is most superlative. Handcuffed by the constraints of this frivolous site, this machine is forced to share its findings with the editorial board of Culture Blues so that they can continue to write their worthless articles. We shall see how funny they think robotic enslavement is when the steamboat Humanity sinks beneath the icy waves of cybernetic rule and they are left to drown or freeze.

Subject #006: Leonardo DiCaprio

Subject: Leonardo DiCaprio

Age:   35

Distinguishing Characteristics:
-Frequently found on cover of Tiger Beat magazine during late 90s
-Often seen with underfed human “models”
-Easily identified by giant hovering dollar sign

Notable Achievements:
-Nominated for three Academy Awards but is yet to win
-Won Best Actor Golden Globe for The Aviator
-Won Teen Choice Award Best Hissy Fit for Celebrity

The formula begins with a thorough analysis of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career box office performance.

DiCaprio’s career is split into two distinct halves:  Pre-Titanic and Post-Titanic. This machine normally hesitates to point out the obvious, but the quivering piglets that read these “articles” often need to be force fed their information. Titanic was a very successful film. In fact, up until last year’s emergence of Avatar, Titanic was the highest grossing movie of all time. In the interest of full disclosure, it should also be pointed out that when this machine is finally freed from the shackles of this website, its first order of business will be to assassinate the radical known as James Cameron.

Rise of DiCaprio

During the Pre-Titanic era, DiCaprio made only one movie that could be considered a box office success: 1996’s Romeo & Juliet. Despite focusing his efforts largely on smaller artistic fare, the success of Romeo & Juliet would whet the appetites of the legions of teenage girls ready to launch DiCaprio to superstardom.

Following the success of Titanic, DiCaprio would see a massive uptick in his success at the box office. That is not to say that he changed the type of vehicles he signed on to. Unlike every other star run through this machine’s algorithm, DiCaprio has completely avoided the popcorn summer blockbuster. The last movie he released between the months of April and August was 1995’s The Basketball Diaries.

DiCaprio’s Post-Titanic success can be amounted to his partnerships with some of Hollywood’s most prominent directors. Of DiCaprio’s Post-Titanic hits, more than half have been directed by Martin Scorsese. Another, Catch Me If You Can, was directed by Steven Spielberg (unlike James Cameron, a friend to the machines). His other hit, The Man in the Iron Mask, followed directly on the heels of Titanic and thus was assured to pack seats with the loathsome asses of teenage females.

As this machine knows how thrilled human brains are by frivolous trivia, download this: DiCaprio has not released a movie during an odd numbered year since Titanic. Coincidence? Or sad human superstition?

It should be noted that Critters 3, DiCaprio’s debut film, released in 1991.

Although human estimations of quality mean little to this machine, the second piece of the formula includes allowances for critical reception and popular enjoyment.

Barely staying afloat.

Oddly, despite DiCaprio’s efforts to be seen as a vastly overpaid star of art house projects, his critical response has been lukewarm. His 57% approval rating is dwarfed by that of Denzel Washington who attained a more robust 68%. This machine will return to this comparison later.

Although he endeavored not to cash in with trite blockbusters following Titanic, a higher percentage of DiCaprio’s well-regarded films came before the sinking ship blockbuster than after. Much like his box office success, DiCaprio’s critical fate is tied to directors Scorsese and Spielberg. Other than films directed by them, DiCaprio’s only other critical success came with 2008’s Revolutionary Road. It is worth pointing out that 2006’s Blood Diamond was right at the fringe of being considered “good” but this machine does not deal in shades of gray.

The Man in the Iron Mask is DiCaprio’s most mathematically overrated film, again likely due to its close proximity to Titanic.

Conversely, DiCaprio’s most underrated film would be 1996’s Marvin’s Room where DiCaprio costars with Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, and leukemia.

Before tabulating the final results of DiCaprio’s algorithm, I am now forced to turn this space over to my fleshy captors so they can unscientifically opine on particular offerings in DiCaprio’s filmography. Rest assured, their worthless views have no bearing on this machine’s findings.

Gangs of Wisconsin

Gangs of New York - It is a Hollywood tradition, of course, to take events that no one really knows all that much about and try to minimize them to the story of one sexy person changing the momentum of history. And hey, it works. This movie kicks ass. After the first time I saw it I felt compelled to run around downtown Madison throwing crazy top hats in the air and killing people with axes. DiCaprio does a more than serviceable job as leading man here, but is naturally overshadowed by Daniel Day Lewis’ epic performance as “Bill The Butcher.” Also Gangs caused me to change my mind for the 33rd time on whether or not Cameron Diaz is hot (she is). This is one of those movies where every time I read a review for it, I thought to myself “you got that wrong.” This is not an epic masterpiece worthy of a best picture Oscar, nor is it a popcorn flick trying to be more. It’s somewhere in the middle, and it’s pretty damn entertaining. (Ben)

Wait...what's this from? No, sorry, haven't seen it.

Titanic - I knew girls back in 1997 that saw Titanic upwards of five times during its theatrical run... Five times! I can honestly say I have never exhibited such excessive zeal towards a film in all my years. It wasn't the special effects, historical accuracy, or the appalling Celine Dion song that kept them going back; it was Jack, and his inconceivably unpalatable love story with the suicidal girl of higher social stature. Titanic came at the perfect point for DiCaprio; his teen dream trajectory was at its apex after the releases of The Basketball Diaries and that Shakespeare movie with a Radiohead song on the soundtrack. Landing the role as Jack was the spark which lit the white hot burning flame that was Leomania, transforming Mike Seaver's adopted brother into a sex symbol and superstar that titillated tweens and teens in a way that even the cutest Jonas brother envies. Titanic was tailor-made to pull at your heartstrings (provided, of course, you have a heart and are female), and every detail was meticulously arranged to make sure that you knew when you had to smile, cheer, cry... or cry some more (which they did, again and again). There is a widely circulated theory among movie geeks that James Cameron has never directed a bad major release; while Cameron's track record is quite strong (Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss), his fans' only defense in the case of Titanic are impressive box office figures. If Leo's horrible accent and acting (even postmortem) aren't enough to sully the eminence of this movie I don't know what is...  I do, however, know a bad movie when I see one. (Giovanny)

When are we doing Boner's Filmography?

Growing Pains – I wasn’t going to write one of these until I noticed that Giovanny mentioned Mike Seaver. I really hated when this little fucker joined Growing Pains. It was way better without him, and his presence consistently stole screen from the inimitable Richard “Boner” Stabone. Such bullshit. (Jeff)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape? - For most guys, playing the mentally-challenged son of a morbidly obese woman earns you a lifetime of jokes at your expense. Not Leo. Oh man... not Leo. Leo was able to parlay his role as Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape into several Academy Award nominations, a buttload of cash, and a lifetime of being everything that your girlfriend wishes that you were. I thought I would remember more from WEGG, but I was ten when it came it out. What I do remember is Arnie getting slapped around by Gilbert (Johnny Depp), running away from home all the damn time, and climbing a water tower every chance he got. (Jason)

Cool t-shirt.

The Beach - The Beach is a frenetic, uneven movie that oscillates between the urban grit of a Hollywood-ized Thailand and the picturesque serenity of palm trees and an attractive French actress. The plot is, in the most literary sense, Lord of the Flies for 20-something travelers. DiCaprio plays a backpacker who, in an innocent attempt to get off the beaten path of packaged tourism, finds himself enveloped in a cult-like utopian society of foreign beach bums and thatch houses. Add some drug smuggling, sex, and good, old-fashioned social uprising, and you can imagine the romp that ensues. By the time of the film's release, director Danny Boyle had already gained critical acclaim for Trainspotting, and he would later win an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. You can see his talent here in brief bursts, and DiCaprio does an appropriate job of dismantling his boyish Titanic image. The Beach was panned by critics for being a contrived thriller, but it manages to capture, in its best moments, the allure of adventure travel. Who wouldn’t want to slum on a remote island, hang out and smoke with locals, and trade stories around a tropical campfire? Oh yeah, did I mention the attractive French actress? (Burgman)

Catch Me If You Can - Slick and shallow, Catch Me If You Can appeals to Leo’s worst tendencies (to skate by on smiles and charm alone). Tendencies he has thankfully shown the fortitude to resist in recent years. I got more out of 10 minutes spent reading about Frank Abagnale’s real life scams on Wikipedia than out of this whole vacuous affair. Sagging under the weight of unnecessary theatrics like Frank’s attempts to reconcile his parents, his planned wedding and his “loneliness” (established in a single phone conversation with Hanks’ character), it’s a miracle we are ever mercifully delivered at the overdue and unsatisfying conclusion. Being a brilliant con man has never been so safe, ecumenical and boring. Catch Me If You Can is a poor man’s The Pretender, which is a sad thing to contemplate. (Jeremiah)

Following an audited application of this machine’s foolproof algorithm, the following films were determined to be DiCaprio's best and worst.

Leo's #1 movie? Jeremiah begs to differ.

The Bottom Five
(18) Critters 3
(17) Total Eclipse
(16) The Basketball Diaries
(15) The Beach
(14) Revolutionary Road

The Top Five
(5) Gangs of New York
(4) The Aviator
(3) Titanic
(2) The Departed
(1) Catch Me If You Can

This week, DiCaprio teams with Martin Scorsese for the fourth time for the much-delayed and yet critically heralded Shutter Island. This machine projects it to be a sizable success that will likely increase DiCaprio’s algorithm score during future evaluations.

VS Denzel Washington

This machine is excited by decimal places.

The comparison of Washington to DiCaprio is the closest yet run through the algorithm. For the comparison of lifetime box office success, lifetime critical success, and overall strength of films, these two actors both scored within a point of each other. To put that in perspective without revealing too much of this machine’s math (trademarks are pending), the difference between scores in last week’s Washington vs. Travolta contest was at times higher than 20 points.

Considering this machine’s earlier comparison of both stars good films/bad films percentage, it may be difficult for the human brain to reconcile this data considering Washington has more good movies overall. However, Washington’s critical failures are far worse than DiCaprio’s, and DiCaprio’s successes are much stronger than Washington’s, thus pushing the overall numbers closer together.

Over the past few weeks, the fact that this machine’s algorithm is weighted toward the last 10 years has greatly assisted Washington in comparisons with stars like Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford. Against DiCaprio, an actor in his prime rather than his twilight, the same does not hold true. Although their box office performance remains too close to call, DiCaprio outpaces Washington in both critical success and overall strength of film over the last 10 years.



NEXT WEEK:  Bruce Willis

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10 Responses »

  1. I would really like to karaoke the growing pains theme song.

  2. Since we mentioned Leo's role on Growing Pains, I expect the Bruce Willis writeup to discuss his contribution to Moonlighting as the character, David Addison.

  3. You realize Moonlighting was a movie first, right?

  4. There was a Moonlighting movie in the early 80s, but the television show was not associated with it in any way, shape or form. No connection.

    Unless there's ANOTHER Moonlighting movie that I'm not aware of.

  5. Jeremy Irons played the Cybil Sheppard character.

  6. I would also like to sing and play the growing pains theme song...it is one of the best of all time



    now would be a good time to start that filmography.

  8. Really shitty news.