In “The Great Gatsby,” Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a man for whom money can’t buy the one thing he really wants. It’s a role that must be close to the actor’s heart. Despite being one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, Di Caprio has yet to claim that elusive Oscar statuette, losing his bids for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), “The Aviator” (2004), and “Blood Diamond” (2006). Many thought his villainous supporting turn in “Django Unchained” last year would finally do the trick, but it was costar Christoph Waltz who emerged victorious from that film.
Now it looks like Leo fans will have to wait until “The Wolf of Wall Street” to start banging the drum for another Best Actor campaign: with a middling 48% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 55 on Metacritic, any serious Oscar hopes for Di Caprio’s performance in Baz Luhrmann’s frenetic reimagining of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel are slim. Same would seem to go for whatever prospects the film has of bids for Best Picture, Director, Actress (Carey Mulligan) and Supporting Actor (Tobey Maguire).
But not so fast! What about the box office?
After all, “Gatsby” has proven to be a surprise hit, grossing $51 million this weekend, about $20 million more than analysts were predicting. Plus, Lurhmann’s no stranger to Oscar: his “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) received mixed reviews as well, and that film scored nominations for Best Picture, Actress (Nicole Kidman), Cinematography (Donald Alpine), Film Editing (Jill Bilcock), Sound (Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Roger Savage, Guntis Sics), and Makeup (Maurizio Silvi, Aldo Signoretti), winning for Costume Design (Catherine Martin, Angus Strathie) and Art Direction-Set Decoration (Catherine Martin, Brigitte Broch).
So while it’s hopes in the major categories aren’t exactly squashed, they aren’t exactly strong either. The May release date doesn’t help matters much: if “Gatsby” is gonna prove longevity against so many heavyweight contenders, voters have to really, REALLY love it, and while some may go for Luhrmann’s pop sensibilities, others may not.
One area the film is likely to factor in is the tech categories. Those stylish costumes and lavish sets by Martin are catnip for the Academy. Let’s face it: a Costume Design nom is almost a guarantee, unless the branch takes a sudden disliking to 1920s period garb. Sequins, frills, fedoras: hell, we might be looking at this years Costume Design WINNER.
The film shouldn’t be discounted for Cinematography either, since three out of the last four winners in that category have been 3D films (“Life of Pi” (2012), “Hugo” (2011), “Avatar” (2009)). So DP Simon Duggan, whose credits include “Knowing” (2009), “I, Robot” (2004), and “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007), could be looking at his first nomination.
And let’s not forget all those Original Songs from Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, Fergie, and a slew of other popular artists. Voters would be crazy to pass up an opportunity for at least one of them to perform on the telecast, and the contender likeliest to appeal to the branch’s sensibilities is Del Rey. Like Adele last year with “Skyfall,” Del Rey is the sort of soothing vocalist the Academy loves to jam to.
Nods for Film Editing (Jason Ballantine, Jonathan Redmond, Matt Villa), Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing are also possible.
So its best bet is in the tech categories, as half of our readers predicted in the poll below. (If you haven't voted yet, make your voice heard now.)
However, one in five respondents expect "The Great Gatsby" to be at least nominated for the top prize. And, if enough Academy members feel the same way, it will happen.
The Overdue Director Factor often decides the winners of top Oscar categories. Would "The Departed" or "A Beautiful Mind" have won Best Picture if Martin Scorsese or Ron Howard hadn't been ridiculously overdue? Maybe not.
Now let's take a look at a few directors who are holding an Oscar I.O.U. To keep reading, click the arrow on the right side of the photo above.
Above: With "Moonrise Kingdom," Wes Anderson added another critically acclaimed title to his already impressive list of offbeat comedies, which also includes "Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," and "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Anderson is a three-time Oscar nominee -- for co-writing "Moonrise" and "Tenenbaums" and for Best Animated Feature for the stop-motion "Fox" -- but the respected auteur has never even been nominated for Best Director.
-- Text by Daniel Montgomery
Earliest Oscars Predictions Ever
Our Oscarologists are busy updating their predictions as they see more and more contenders. Make your early picks now -- click here -- and change them later as the derby heats up.