In addition to rewarding individual performances, films, directors and writers, BOP also recognizes that the overall composition and chemistry of a cast is critical to the success of a film. To that end, we select those groups whose contributions were most important to the quality of the projects in which they starred.
2015 Calvin Awards: Best Cast
By Kim Hollis
February 10, 2015
Our winner for Best Cast is the acting team behind the delightful confection The Grand Budapest Hotel. This comedy from Wes Anderson features plenty of the usual suspects we’ve come to expect in his films – Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton and Bob Balaban – but also adds a host of performers outside the norm. Ralph Fiennes is the centerpiece of the film, as his Monsieur Gustave H. is a memorable character for the ages. He’s ably supported by young up-and-comers Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan, who provide a wide-eyed naïveté as counterpoint to Fiennes and F. Murray Abraham. Harvey Keitel (who previously appeared in Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom) is shockingly hilarious, and other featured players include Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux and Tom Wilkinson. It’s an absolute wealth of riches and they all work together beautifully to deliver a comedy unlike anything released in theaters in 2015.
Coming in a very close second is Birdman, which received more first place votes overall from our staff (six for it versus four for The Grand Budapest Hotel), but had less consistent ballot support (GBH was on 18 ballots versus just 12 for Birdman). With the entire film having an intimate feel, appearing to be following the actors in a continuous long take, it was necessary that the audience really get a sense of each individual’s place in the story. Of course, the film is centered on Michael Keaton and his character Riggan Thomson. Since Riggan is directing a stage play, the actors and certain crew members become important as well. Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough each have their own individual conflicts, while Emma Stone as Riggan’s daughter and assistant is a sad, sympathetic figure. Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan and Lindsay Duncan are also terrific in supporting roles.
Next up is Interstellar, which has a smaller set of very passionate voters behind it. Anchored by Matthew McConaughey, who has reinvented himself quite nicely over the last two years with this film, Mud, Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective, the film also relies on some top-notch youth performances from Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet. Jessica Chastain is our earthbound guide as the film progresses, and other supporting turns from Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, David Gyasi, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn and John Lithgow provide compelling (and sometimes alarming) performances.
BOP definitely has some fanboys in its ranks, as three of our remaining Best Cast films are comic book adaptations. The first of these is also is the biggest box office earner of the bunch. Guardians of the Galaxy shocked the world when it was released and not only because it made oodles of money. Everyone loved it, too, and much of that adoration comes from a cast that was hilarious and fun. Of course, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord provides a Han Solo-esque hero for a new generation, while the other Guardians were terrific as well. Dave Bautista, previously best known as a wrestler for the WWE, was pitch perfect as Drax the Destroyer, a violent but surprisingly sensitive soul with no ear for irony. Other members of the group were Gamora, portrayed by a caustic Zoe Saldana, and Rocket Raccoon and Groot, who were magnificently voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively. (BOP favorite Sean Gunn provided the motion capture acting for the two CGI-rendered characters.) A supporting rogue’s gallery includes Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan and Djimon Hounsou, while John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro and Peter Serafinowicz each get their moments to ham it up. It’s a stellar cast in an out-of-this-world Marvel movie.
Gone Girl takes fifth place, as its ensemble cast brought the characters from the popular Gillian Flynn novel to life. Heading up the group were Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy Dunne, the seemingly troubled couple at the center of the story. Affleck plays off his own persona nicely for the role, alternating between likable and fallible. As for Pike, Amazing Amy is a role that seems to be perfectly in her wheelhouse. Tyler Perry is the best he’s ever been in a small supporting role, and Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit and Neil Patrick Harris all provide outstanding work as well. It’s a movie that lives and dies on the strength of its cast, and David Fincher and his team hit a home run.
Sixth place brings us our second of our three comic book films, X-Men: Days of Future Past. The latest film in the Marvel franchise brings together cast members from the original three films as well as the recent reboot X-Men: First Class. Thus, we have both James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen as Magneto, and then Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page and a host of others to take on the many mutant roles that populate the film. The blend of past and future becomes seamless thanks to the work of these performers.
One might think that Selma is a film driven purely by a single performance, and indeed David Oyelowo is transcendent as he portrays Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet, his performance might not rise to the level it achieves without a top-notch cast to back him up. Carmen Ejogo is particularly noteworthy as Coretta Scott King (a role she has now played twice), and there are also strong turns from Tom Wilkinson as Lyndon Johnson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Colman Domingo and Wendell Pierce.
Musicals are a tricky genre. Often, they’re comprised of large, sprawling casts and set pieces, making it easy for things to get out of hand and one character or another’s storyline to get lost in the shuffle. Into the Woods managed to transcend this issue, as it is simply brimming with memorable performances. Foremost amongst the actors involved are James Corden and Emily Blunt, who become our eyes and ears as they guide us through the story. Anna Kendrick is an unexpected and sympathetic Cinderella. Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone provide youthful innocence in their portrayals of Red Riding Hood and Jack. Johnny Depp shows up to be creepy for a few moments – an interpretation perfectly in keeping with his particular character. Meryl Streep has been getting a lot of attention for her portrayal of The Witch, but it may be Chris Pine who actually steals the show. His Prince Charming is over-the-top smarmy and hilarious, a cad who you can’t help but fall for.
Our final comic film appears in ninth place. Captain America: The Winter Soldier obviously rests primarily upon the very able shoulders of Chris Evans. And yet, the film rises to greatness because of the supporting players. Sebastian Stan does damaged well as he portrays Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier. Scarlett Johansson finds some additional depth for the Black Widow in what is now her third appearance in a Marvel film. Robert Redford reminds us that he’s a classic for a reason. Additional terrific performances from Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell and, of course, Samuel L. Jackson remind us that even when a superhero film is focused on one key character, it’s the people who surround the hero that make him interesting.
Rounding out the top 10 is the cast of Boyhood, the 12-years-in-the-making passion project from Richard Linklater. What’s perhaps most impressive is that the film’s center, Ellar Coltrane, becomes more than just a kid Linklater signed to play a role. We grow with him and watch his development, and we’re truly invested in what happens to him. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are both Academy Award nominees for their performances and deservedly so. Different cast members filter in and out of the “boy’s” life, though one constant is his sister, Samantha, portrayed by a delightful Lorelai Linklater.
A few movies that finished just outside of the top 10 include Snowpiercer, The LEGO Movie, Chef, Inherent Vice and 22 Jump Street.
2015 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music