2016 Calvin Awards: Best Cast
By Kim Hollis
February 23, 2016

Boston newspaper strong.

Eleven different movies received first-place votes in this category this year, illustrating the depth of cinema in 2015. As we’ve seen throughout the awards season, two movies are dominant in this arena. They beat all other contenders easily, although these top two were separated by only three points.

After a hard-fought battle that went down to the final vote, Spotlight wins the Calvin Award for Best Cast. It received three first place votes and was a top three selection on 50 percent of our ballots. Spotlight is one of the true examples of an ensemble piece, with the key players being the reporters/editors from the Boston Globe, along with attorneys and witnesses that they encounter during their investigation of the Catholic church’s cover up of childhood sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests.

The key performances here come from Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, all of whom portray members of the Globe’s “Spotlight” team, an investigative unit that takes months of research to explore and report significant stories. Ruffalo’s conflict with his own experience with Catholicism is critical to the film, as is Keaton’s struggle with his own feelings of responsibility for the story not being covered in a more timely manner. McAdams is the surrogate for the viewer, reacting to the horror of the victims’ stories.

Other critical performers in the film include Liev Schreiber, who plays a new editor whose arrival at the Globe creates some upheaval. Ultimately, it is his drive that brings the story to fruition. John Slattery is Ben Bradlee Jr., who provides the skepticism and doubt that drives the Spotlight team to dig even deeper. And the always-fantastic Stanley Tucci is attorney Mitchell Garabedian, the man who is representing the victims and looks out for their best interests, which are sometimes in conflict with the investigation. All of these players in Spotlight are critical to the composition and success of the film, along with the tertiary actors who also turn in admirable performances.

Our very, very close second place film is The Big Short, which had a fantastic six first place votes, but just didn’t have quite the same level of support as Spotlight across the board. Like Spotlight, though, The Big Short is another film that is driven by its eclectic cast rather than single performances. Christian Bale is probably the closest thing the film has to a lead actor, although some of our voters would argue that Steve Carell qualifies as well.

Either way, Bale is terrific as he plays against type as a quirky hedge fund manager who uncovers the patterns that lead to him predicting the housing market will collapse. Carell is also a hedge fund manager, one who is tortured by guilt over events in his past and also suffers consistent remorse over the fact that if he wins by shorting the credit default market, he is doing so at the cost of extreme strife for humanity.

Other fantastic cast members include Ryan Gosling, confident and cheesy, John Magaro and Finn Wittrock as young investors who stumble upon the impending crisis and short accordingly, and Brad Pitt as a reclusive trader who puts his money behind these young men. The Big Short also features stellar supporting performances from Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall and Jeremy Strong. Ordinarily, it’d be odd to credit people for playing themselves, but Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain all add to the film with exaggerated portraits of their real-life personas. This is one of those times when it’s really true that you have to see it to understand.

Third place goes to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which features an eclectic group of scenery chewers. Once again, there is no real lead performer here, but rather an ensemble working together to deliver a story about some of the least likable, villainous people to ever grace the screen. Kurt Russell is cruel and unpleasant as bounty hunter John Ruth, but you understand his bile pretty quickly as you come to know his prisoner, Daisy Domergue, portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Samuel L. Jackson might be the closest thing the film has to a protagonist, but even he is unsavory and dishonest. Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern also factor heavily into the tale, and all bring their own quirks and distastefulness to the forefront when called upon to do so. It’s a strange movie experience, one that could only be conceptualized by someone like Tarantino.

Steve Jobs obviously has Michael Fassbender at its center, but he’s ably supported by a fabulous cast that helps to depict the story of the man behind Apple at various stages in his life. Kate Winslet is foremost of the group, portraying Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ confidante and a marketing executive for Apple. Seth Rogen breaks out from his typical chuckling comedic role to represent a gloomy Steve Wozniak. Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston and Michael Stuhlbarg are also critical to the film’s success.

The old guard meets the new guard in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which makes for an exceptional movie experience. After the disappointment of George Lucas’s prequels, producers of the latest Star Wars production recognized that what people really wanted was to see the return of the beloved characters from the original trilogy. The Force Awakens brings back Han Solo, Princess (now General) Leia, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2. It might have been tempting to let them drive the action, but instead the movie wisely introduced a new crop of characters, all of whom provide something to love. The torch has now been passed to Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) - and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

The very nature of Straight Outta Compton required a top-notch cast if the film was going to succeed (both critically and financially). Happily, the film delivered on all fronts, with Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E and O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube being the particular standouts. The film also owes its popularity to other major players, including Corey Hawkins (who portrays Dr. Dre), Neil Brown Jr., Paul Giamatti, and BOP fave Aldis Hodge.

While it might seem as though The Martian would be a film that only relies on the performance of Matt Damon, it’s actually a film that absolutely needs all of the moving parts and pieces of its many cast members to drive home the theme that human ingenuity is a team effort. Just noting his crew mates alone might be enough to merit mention on this list. Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie all portray the guilt and drive that you would expect in the situation. But the film also features the people on Earth who desperately want to keep Mark Watney alive, including performances from Chiwitel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Mackenzie Davis, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong and Kristen Wiig. Although Watney provides the humor, the supporting players provide the aid and ideas that eventually bring him home.

Disney and Pixar always find the best voice casts for their films, and Inside Out is no exception. The foremost characters are Joy and Sadness, beautifully portrayed by Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith. The other emotions are just as important, though, with fantastic voice work coming from Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (Anger) and Mindy Kaling (Disgust). Richard Kind is a bittersweet Bing Bong. And of course, the human characters as voiced by Kaitlyn Dias (Riley), Diane Lane (Riley’s mother) and Kyle MacLachlan (Riley’s father) also provide poignancy.

Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are together again in Ex Machina, where they’re joined by 2015’s It Girl Alicia Vikander and Sonoya Mizuno. This was a team that made us stand up and take notice of a singular science fiction production. Our final selection is Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, which takes advantage of the talents of Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames and Sean Harris to deliver a taut, exciting thriller.

Movies that just barely missed our top 10 include Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed, The Revenant, Bridge of Spies, and Brooklyn.

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
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture