It’s a bit of an understatement to say that our Best Supporting Category was a runaway this year. Our winner had 16 out of 22 possible first place votes and won with a whopping margin of victory of 76 points. That’s the largest degree of separation since Heath Ledger dominated the same category with a 77-point lead over second place when he won for The Dark Knight. For BOP (and really, for everyone), there was one performance in 2014 that loomed large over every other one.
2015 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actor
By Kim Hollis
February 12, 2015
Yes, J.K. Simmons has won the Best Supporting Actor Calvin Award for his portrayal of the studio jazz band conductor Terrence Fletcher. The abusive, mocking mentor likely felt all too familiar to those of us who spent any part of our life trying to be in the top band or make first chair. But even for those of us who were not musically inclined, Simmons’ portrayal of a dark, merciless teacher worked effectively, as the longtime character actor has created a villain for the ages.
The fascinating part about Fletcher is that it would have been easy for this character to be simply detestable, but Simmons infuses him with a sort of weird charisma. He paints the picture of Simmons with shades of gray rather than making the man purely a black hat antihero. At one point, Fletcher is playing piano with a group in a bar, and at that moment, we simply see him as a guy who is dedicated to the art of amazing music. There simply aren’t enough superlatives to describe this transcendent performance.
Our runner-up is Ethan Hawke, who portrayed Mason Sr., the father of the main character in Boyhood. Hawke has effectively grown up with director Richard Linklater, having worked with him through all three “Before” films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight) as well as participating in the 12-year-long project that was Boyhood. What’s particularly striking about Hawke’s work in this film is that the “Boyhood” premise – watching a person grow from a boy to a man – applies doubly to Mason Sr. and Mason Jr. When we first meet Mason Sr., he’s irresponsible and unprepared for fatherly duties, but as the film progresses, we see him leave youthful whims behind and accept the obligations that come with parenthood and surviving in the real world.
Edward Norton takes third place for his work in Birdman. He plays an exasperating Broadway actor who is so confident he can skim by on talent that he barely bothers to look at the screenplay. And when he does, he figures he knows about a million ways to make the production better than the director could have planned for. Norton absolutely shines here, which is particularly impressive given the fact that he’s starring alongside our winner for Best Actor and runner-up for Best Supporting Actress.
Next up is Josh Brolin, who steals the show as Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen in Inherent Vice. An LAPD detective who assists private investigator Doc Sportello with a series of unrelated cases, Brolin is hilarious and charismatic in every scene where he’s featured. Inherent Vice is loopy and weird for a lot of reasons, but it’s Brolin’s scenes that will stick with you long after the credits have rolled.
Fifth and sixth place go to a pair of actors from the same film. Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum play Olympic gold medal-winning wrestlers and siblings Dave and Mark Schultz. From the physical conditioning that went into creating the characters to the intensity and competitiveness of world-class athletes, both Ruffalo and Tatum sank their teeth into these roles. Their illustration of the complex relationship between brothers makes Foxcatcher one of the most memorable films of the year.
Our next two supporting actors are a long-time veteran of the film industry and a British actor who is beginning to find himself with more and more opportunities for breakout roles. F. Murray Abraham has been a quietly consistent presence in movies for years, and his portrayal of the elderly version of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Zero Moustafa is poignant and touching. In The Imitation Game, Goode is the cocky yet charismatic Hugh Alexander, who begins as antagonist but evolves into something more complex.
Finally, we close out the top 10 with a guy who has often been the target of BOP jokes and a long-time Hollywood icon. Tyler Perry has been the topic of a lot of derision from this site over the years for his formulaic Madea and other “Tyler Perry Presents” properties, but he was just genuinely terrific as the hotshot defense attorney Tanner Bolt in Gone Girl. He isn’t onscreen very long, but he maximizes every second with an engaging performance. Our final actor, Robert Duvall, exudes a commanding presence in The Judge, though he allows a few moments of vulnerability to sneak through, too.
A few of the actors who were oh-so-close but just couldn’t quite break into the top 10 include Chris Pine (Into the Woods), Zach Galifianakis (Birdman), Tom Wilkinson (Selma), Logan Lerman (Fury) and James Corden (Into the Woods).
2015 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music