Like the Screen Actors Guild, BOP recognizes the importance of an entire ensemble to the success of a film. We saw a fairly close race between this year’s contenders, with only eight votes separating first and second.
2017 Calvin Awards: Best Cast
By Kim Hollis
February 21, 2017
Our Calvin Award for Best Cast goes to the team of actors behind Hell or High Water. This Western crime-thriller is our winner due to remarkable performances from everyone involved in the project. Of course, the primary roles belong to Chris Pine and Ben Foster, who portray criminal brothers, and Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, who are the cops that are on their trail. Pine is the more measured brother, while Foster plays the unhinged one. Bridges is the Texas Ranger nearing retirement, and Birmingham is his long-suffering partner. The audience becomes invested in both relationships, and it’s a credit to the men involved that the tension remains ramped up high to the final moments of the film.
Hidden Figures comes in a close second. This film’s diverse and talented cast worked closely together to bring us the story of the African-American women mathematicians who were critical members of NASA during the early years of the space program. The core performers of this group are Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. Together, these women convey a real sense of camaraderie and shared ingenuity. Along with the three central performers, the film is also bolstered by appearances from Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell (terrific as John Glenn).
Third place also features performances from Janelle Monae and Mahershala Ali. Moonlight is a three-act film that takes us through the life of a young man named Chiron. Portrayed in the various acts by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes, the audience gets a real sense of the character through these three fine performers. Also critical to the film is Naomie Harris as Chiron’s drug-addicted mother. She’s fierce and eventually redeemable. Finally, we also have Chiron’s friend/romantic interest Kevin, who is played by Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and Andre Holland. This talented cast enables the audience to experience both compassion and connectedness in this touching tale.
Next up is the massive cast of Captain America: Civil War, which brought together such superheroes as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Tom Holland (Spider-Man). Generally, comic book films with this many characters are a giant mess, but Civil War handled the story perfectly, and it’s down to the chemistry and professionalism of this group.
Rounding out the top five is The Nice Guys, the Shane Black ‘70s-set noir. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play off of each other perfectly as they initially are foes but soon come to a cautious partnership. Oftentimes, kid actors can be annoying in films like these, but Angourie Rice as the daughter of Gosling’s character is a bright star. Matt Bomer is also terrific as a deadly hit man. Finally, Kim Basinger and and Keith David are stellar in smaller roles (and Basinger’s presence gives us an L.A. Confidential reunion with Crowe).
Sixth and seventh go to a film that is jam packed with cast members and one that relies on a small ensemble. Hail, Caesar! has a ridiculous wealth of riches when it comes to its performers, probably because everyone loves working with the Coen brothers. The players are too plentiful to list individually, but the most noteworthy performances come from Alden Ehrenreich as an innocent “singing cowboy” actor, Tilda Swinton as feuding twin sister gossip columnists, Channing Tatum as an actor/dancer, Josh Brolin as a fixer to the Hollywood stars, and George Clooney as a huge film star. Clooney is kidnapped by a group of communists, and his interplay with this set of individuals is terrific, too.
The more intimate cast of La La Land is our seventh place finisher in the Best Cast category. The musical mostly relies on the chemistry and performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling for the film to resonate, and indeed the two of them do shine. John Legend is fun in a supporting role, and it’s also fun to see J.K. Simmons, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar when starring in director Damien Chazelle’s previous film Whiplash.
We close out the final three spots with two films that are Academy Award nominees for Best Picture and the biggest domestic earner of 2016. Arrival, the science fiction movie about communication and time, had a solid core group driving its action and dialogue. Amy Adams was at the forefront, with support from Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma and Mark O’Brien. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story also had a female star at its center in Felicity Jones, and she was surrounding by a wonderful group as well. Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker (again!) and the voice of Alan Tudyk were all terrific. Ben Mendelsohn and James Earl Jones covered villain territory. Finally, Fences features Denzel Washington and Viola Davis as its primary players, but we also have to credit Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, and Saniyaa Sidney.
Just missing the top 10 were Manchester by the Sea, Sing Street and Green Room.
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music