2014 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actor
By Kim Hollis
February 13, 2014

Don't tell me I should have gone with the green eyeshadow.

For our Calvin Award for Best Supporting Actor, our staff agreed with all of the guilds and other awards organizations who have thus far made Jared Leto the front-runner for the Academy Award in a few weeks. In Dallas Buyers Club, he is a standout as a transgendered woman named Rayon. Leto gets all the best lines in the film and as such, becomes the cynical, observant voice of the viewer as both tragic and triumphant events play out on the screen. The interplay between Leto and McConaughey is effervescent, too, progressing from snarky and guarded early on to something close to siblings later in the movie. If this is what Leto’s going to be like after an extended hiatus, we certainly welcome his return.

Our runner up is a complete newcomer, someone who had never before acted in a film. In fact, prior to a casting call for Somalis in Minneapolis, he had worked variously as a disc jockey, a salesman in a retail store and a limousine driver. Somehow, with no experience, Barkhad Abdi was able to stand alongside A-lister Tom Hanks and deliver a performance that left an indomitable impression. As the Somali pirate Muse, Abdi was menacing and threatening, and yet through his performance he somehow carried a thread of humanity. There was always a sense that there were lines he would not cross, even if they adhered to a moral code that applied only to him.

Not far behind in third place is Michael Fassbender for his chilling performance as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave. A Louisiana plantation owner, Epps is a man who believes he has religious justification for punishing his slaves (and worse). Fassbender plays the character as erratic, irrational and tyrannical, reserving his most extreme mood swings for the long-suffering Patsey, a beautiful slave who is able to pick more cotton than anyone else. This character has almost no shades of gray, but Fassbender manages to make Epps’s deep internal struggles emerge to the surface, with indications of addiction and insecurity.

Next up is Daniel Brühl in Rush, who made a fairly dislikable individual in Niki Lauda fascinating character study. A Formula One racer who prioritized precision and perfection, he was the ideal nemesis for the hard-partying, fun-loving James Hall. Thanks to Brühl’s subtle interpretation of the role, the viewer became as invested in Lauda’s success as Hall’s, and in fact allowed for an intriguing juxtaposition between the two.

It’s bittersweet to announce our fifth place finisher. James Gandolfini passed away in June of 2013, but fortunately he left behind a lovely performance in the romantic comedy Enough Said so that we’d have a way to remember him in the best possible way. As Albert, the romantic interest in the film, he plays the character as gentle with a detectible air of sadness. He accepts his own foibles, but the people around him seem to see nothing else. What a delight that his softer side was revealed.

It’s almost too perfect that our sixth and seventh place selections finished within one point of each other. Jonah Hill and James Franco both owe much of their early careers to Judd Apatow, as two of Hill’s earliest roles were in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, while Franco got his break on the TV show Freaks and Geeks. Since that time, both have been nominated for Academy Awards (Hill is actually up to two!) and in 2013, they were onscreen together as fictionalized versions of themselves in This Is the End. They also had memorable supporting roles, with Hill playing a coke-addicted boiler room con man in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Franco portraying a creepy drug dealer in Spring Breakers. Hill was just appalling in the best possible way in his role, crafting a vile character who could still elicit laughs. You don’t exactly root for Donnie Azoff, but you do wonder what excesses he will go to next. Franco’s Alien is a similarly unpleasant sort that somehow manages to bring the charisma. The movie itself may leave you wondering if you loved it or hated it, but there can be no doubt that you will never forget Alien and his constant, hypnotic repetition of the line “Spring Breeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaak. Forever.”

Eighth place goes to Sam Rockwell, who happens to be imparting his best brand of Bill Murray-esque wisdom in the wonderful coming-of-age film The Way Way Back. He portrays Owen, a waterpark manager who takes the lead character, a teenager struggling through a vacation summer with his mother and her boyfriend, under his wing. While a 20,000 foot view of Owen would make you think that he’s an irresponsible 40-something man child, as he interacts more and more with his protégé you appreciate that he has a kindness and gentleness that lead him to appreciate the underdogs in life.

Bradley Cooper takes the ninth spot on our poll thanks to an over-the-top performance as FBI Agent Richie DeMaso in American Hustle. His second successful collaboration with director David O. Russell proves to be fruitful once again, as he plays the character all swagger and bravado, but shows just an edge of cravenness under the surface. And really, any man who is brave enough to wear curlers in a movie deserves at least some consideration, right?

Rounding out our top ten is someone who had what can be classified as a Very Good Year. In 2013, Matthew McConaughey transformed from “the bongo guy with the abs” to “Serious Actor.” Also a top five finisher for Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey also captured our attention as the title character in Mud. In that film, he plays a strange, backwoods man who befriends some teenage boys as he attempts to reunite with his lost love. Even though this character could have been weird to the point that it’s a joke, McConaughey infused him with life and made him sympathetic.

Just missing the cut in this category were American Hustle’s Jeremy Renner, George Clooney in Gravity and once again Matthew McConaughey for his small role in The Wolf of Wall Street.

2014 Calvin Awards
2014 Calvin Awards
Calvins Intro
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Cast
Best Character
Best Director
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Videogame
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture