Oscars: Chinese Fans Mourn Lack of 'Little Golden Man' for Leonardo DiCaprio

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Leonardo DiCaprio

The world's second-largest film market, where the star is known as "Little Leo," was mostly underwhelmed this year by the absence of big-name Chinese stars among the nominees.

Chinese viewers watched avidly as the “Little Golden Man,” as the Oscar is called here, was handed out to various celebrities in Los Angeles Sunday night. But the focus was mostly on Leonardo DiCaprio’s failure to win a statuette.

The Wolf of Wall Street and Great Gatsby star is one of the most popular overseas celebrity here because of his role in Titanic, which remains the most popular Hollywood movie in China. Factoring in the pirate DVDs of the movie doing the rounds, it is believed to be more popular than Avatar.

The star is so beloved in China that he is known here as Xiao Li, which means "Little Leo."

“I feel so sorry for Xiao Li, he didn’t get an award," even though he was nominated for his lead role in Wolf and for his producer role on the film in the best picture category. "Don’t cry, Little Leo, the Little Golden Man will be yours sooner or later,” wrote one fan, using the handle 1024xiangle, on social media network Sina Weibo.

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Daily newspaper Beijing News ran a story about how DiCaprio had missed out on an acting Oscar for a fourth time. “Don’t cry, Xiao Li, you have won the lifetime nomination prize,” it said.

On Weibo, China’s answer to the banned Twitter, another user, AA Jessica, wrote about how she thought Gravity was a worthy winner in various categories and definitely worth watching. “It has touched everyone in term of hope and belief for life in the movie," the user said. "Leonardo won nothing, but I still love him.”

And another user, Qingfeng Yueshu Bo, made a joke that name-checked 12 Years a Slave and referred to the booming housing market in China, which is driving property beyond the reach of many ordinary people. “When I saw that 12 Years a Slave had won, I thought it is a story about buying an apartment in China, and becoming a house slave for 12 years,” he wrote.

The Academy Awards ceremony was streamed live on several Chinese websites, but because it was on in the early morning local time, an edited highlights version was shown on state broadcaster CCTV6 on Monday evening.

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The Oscars are popular here, but the reaction this year was somewhat muted by the fact that there was no Chinese presence, save for a technical nomination for Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster.

Chinese people enjoy the ceremony and think back fondly to previous Chinese highlights, when top directors like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige were nominated in the best foreign film category. Taiwanese director Ang Lee won an Oscar twice, for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain.

Otherwise, there was a lot of traffic and buzz on Weibo about Lady Gaga's dress, as people had been expecting something wackier.

A notable omission from China’s entries to the best foreign film category was Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, which has been denied an official release in China even though the director apparently worked with censors from the beginning to ensure one. Pirate sites have started streaming his movie online, making its prospects of a big box office release in China slimmer by the hour.

Instead, Feng Xiaogang’s Back to 1942, which featured Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins, was chosen as this year's candidate for the foreign language Oscar race, but it was not a widely popular choice and failed to make the final cut of nominees.

The Oscar is in danger of becoming like the Nobel Prize, which eluded China for so many years, until Mo Yan won the literature prize last year.

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The only filmmaker from the People’s Republic of China to win an Oscar so far is composer Tan Dun, who won for best original score for his music in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in 2000.

In comparison, China’s bitter rival Japan has won 15 nominations and four Oscars since 1947.

The Oscars took place as China’s Communist elite started meeting for its annual parliament session, the National People’s Congress, a body composed of several thousand members who vote in secret and make decisions with global repercussions.