While our Best Actress winner wasn’t the runaway she has been so far this year, she and the performer in the #2 spot are definitely the class of the category.
2016 Calvin Awards: Best Actress
By Kim Hollis
February 25, 2016
You’ve probably ascertained from that opening that Brie Larson is our winner in this category for her performance in Room. Almost one-third of our 25 voters selected her as their top choice, and she finished in second on seven ballots, clearing her path to victory. We’ve been pretty big fans of Larson’s going back to when she appeared as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and we selected her as our ninth favorite Best Actress performance a couple of years ago for Short Term 12. (She also has a pretty hilarious supporting turn in 21 Jump Street.)
In Room, Larson gives a masterful performance as Ma, a woman who was kidnapped as a teen and has been imprisoned in a shed for many years (along with the son she gives birth to). She conveys the love that a mother would have for this child - and the only meaningful human contact she has outside of her captor - even as she also displays the frustration and aggravation that she’d have from being unable to have mature, real-world conversations with her peers and her parents. Through her performance, you’re truly able to appreciate that this character is barely more than a child herself, despite the fact that she has to muster enough strength and fortitude to make it through her unchanging days.
Our runner-up shockingly misses by only a few votes. Alicia Vikander, the actress you saw everywhere in 2016 takes the spot thanks to her virtuoso performance in The Danish Girl. Although Eddie Redmayne is positioned as the protagonist, and the Oscars might have you believe that her performance is a supporting one, the story really unfolds through the eyes of Vikander’s character. She plays Gerda Wegener, a woman married to Einar Wegener (Redmayne). As he awakens to the fact that he identifies as a woman, her entire world changes along with his. The movie is very sensitive and tender with regard to their close relationship even as it explores the challenges and pain they both face as he transitions in an era where this is truly unheard of.
Coming in at a distant third is Charlize Theron, whose performance in Mad Mad: Fury Road left us with a character for the ages. Imperator Furiosa is an honored leader and soldier in service to the film’s villain, Immortan Joe, but she betrays him so that she may free his five wives, who are effectively sex slaves and/or baby factories. Despite having only one arm, she’s tougher than almost every adversary she encounters. And yet she shows vulnerability and crushing heartbreak when she finds that her promised land isn’t what she had expected it to be. The movie may be titled “Mad Max” but it’s Furiosa who’s the real star of the movie.
Next up is Saoirse Ronan for her role as Eilis in Brooklyn. We took note of her talent early in her career, selecting her as our seventh favorite performance for Supporting Actress during the year Atonement was released (she’ll star in another Ian McEwan adaptation in 2017, On Chesil Beach). She’s warm and sweet, smart and engaged in new life experiences. It’s a lovely, natural performance that is well deserving of the universal praise it has received.
Closing out our top five is longtime BOP fave Jennifer Lawrence in Joy. The fifth place finish is actually her lowest ever for us, as we picked her at #3 for Best Actress for Winter’s Bone (and #2 for Breakthrough Performance), #1 for her lead actress performance in Silver Linings Playbook and #3 for her supporting turn in American Hustle. Clearly, her partnerships with David O. Russell have paid dividends, as she is in the conversation for best female performance of the year whenever she collaborates with the director. This time around, we admired her range in Joy, where she depicts a woman with an entrepreneurial spirit. And she did this in a year where she also closed out the Hunger Games trilogy. She’ll be working with Steven Spielberg and Darren Aronofsky in upcoming projects, so there’s a strong chance be seeing her in this space again.
Sixth and seventh go to two of our favorite British performers. Emily Blunt is a fabulous audience surrogate in the disturbing Sicario. Her FBI agent temporarily joins a Department of Defense special task force, and as she watches the ends justify the means, we share her horror. The great Cate Blanchett finishes seventh for Carol, where she plays a somber, determined character who deftly moves from fury to passion. Her chemistry with co-star Rooney Mara is undeniable, and we buy into the film’s romance largely on the strength of her performance.
We wind up our top ten list with a couple of action stars and a comedienne. Rebecca Ferguson and Daisy Ridley both captured our fancy for their roles in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, respectively. Ferguson was tough and sexy, a formidable opponent/ally for Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. In a film with established stars, she was the one who took our breath away. We’ve mentioned Daisy Ridley already in her win for Breakthrough Performance, but clearly she is the new face of Star Wars, a heroine for a young generation. Doors aplenty will be opening for her.
Amy Schumer is our final selection for Trainwreck, where she uses her sharp wit to great advantage to turn the rom-com trope upside down. It’s a triumphant introduction of her comedic abilities to a wider audience than she’s previously experienced and an indication that she’s a name to watch moving forward.
Just missing the top 10 were Lily Tomlin (Grandma), Kitana Kiki-Rodriguez (Tangerine), Melissa McCarthy (Spy), Amy Poehler (Inside Out), Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and Maika Monroe (It Follows).
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music