2008 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actress

February 21, 2008

I did *not* ask for this threesome.

Our selections for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 include some expected stalwarts as well as a few surprises. This is a category where comic actresses can have a chance to shine right alongside those who are in more dramatic roles. It's also an opportunity to award those who don't necessarily have the responsibility of carrying their film, but who can make a strong impression nonetheless.

This year's winner is Amy Ryan, who didn't hesitate to play what is frankly an unlikable character in Gone Baby Gone. She portrays Helene McCready, a single mother whose child goes missing. As the movie's lead characters try to investigate the little girl's disappearance, she throws obstacles in their way through her stubborn refusal to cooperate. Of course, the more we learn about Helene, the less we're really convinced that she is fit to be a mother in the first place. She does drugs, leaves her child behind to go out to bars and though she apparently loves the girl, doesn't seem to have a lot invested in seeing her grow into a stable human being. Ryan runs with the role, playing the woman as unapologetic and careless. Helene is not a character who the viewer loves, but she is interesting, and that quality really does hinge on Ryan's performance.

Our runner-up is Michael Clayton's Tilda Swinton, playing an equally despicable person. Her Karen Crowder is an executive for a major corporation that is going through a class-action lawsuit. At first, she seems like a woman who simply doesn't know what she's doing, but as the film goes on, what is revealed is an individual who will do whatever it takes to win her fight, with no apparent reservations. She's not in any way sympathetic, and in fact her final scene renders Karen downright chilling. We've been consistently impressed with Swinton in a number of lesser-seen roles, and are pleased that she's had some major recognition for this performance with an Oscar nomination.

Third place goes to Jennifer Garner, who takes a crucial character from Juno and plays her perfectly. Vanessa Loring is an ice queen of a woman who yearns for nothing more than to have a baby. When Juno selects Vanessa and her husband as the couple who will adopt her unborn child, her delight is palpable but measured. Much like the first two characters on this list, Vanessa seems to have many undesirable qualities. She's prissy, bossy and even a little scary. But as the movie goes on, we come to have an understanding of Vanessa and her motivations. It's Garner's deft touch that takes us from wondering why Juno chose her to understanding completely.


Our fourth and fifth place finishers go to actresses who are in movies that bear no similarity to each other whatsoever. The first is Leslie Mann, who to wife- and motherhood to all-time funny levels with her role as Debbie in her real-life husband Judd Apatow's film Knocked Up. She's a woman struggling with the boredom of a long-time marriage and is there to offer counsel to her sister, Alison (Katherine Heigl). When Debbie goes off on a bouncer who tells her she's too old to enter a club, the results are hilarious. As for actress number five, Kelly Macdonald has a small part in No Country for Old Men, but it is a crucial one. As the wife of Llewelyn Moss, she offers some common sense thoughts when he is prepared to go off and do the wrong thing. On the flip side, when forced to confront ultimate evil, her reaction is believable and tragic. Considering that she's a native of Scotland, her Texas accent is quite fine, too.

Allison Janney of Juno and Atonement's Saorise Ronan finish in sixth and seventh, respectively. Janney, who we loved on The West Wing, portrayed the pregnant Juno's stepmother Bren. Through her interpretation, the character is funny and loyal, and even though she has an odd obsession with dogs, she never seems to be a caricature. As for Ronan, the 13-year-old was a revelation in Atonement, as a cruel young girl with great powers of observation. She's severe enough in the role that if you came across her, you wouldn't want to cross her.

Closing out the top ten are Adrienne Shelley, who had her final acting role in Waitress, Talk to Me's Taraji Henson and Kristen Thomson for Away from Her. In addition to writing and directing Waitress, Shelley also offered up a wonderful supporting turn as the meek Dawn, a waitress who is looking for love and hope in the world. Henson is developing into a fine actress, with great turns in stuff like Hustle & Flow and Boston Legal also propelling her to greater attention. She's incandescent as Vernell, the girlfriend of radio personality Petey Greene Jr. And finally, though Julie Christie is getting the bulk of the accolades for Away from Her, Kristen Thomson also deserves accolades for her portrayal of a nurse. Some of her scenes are particularly memorable, in fact.

Actresses that just barely missed our top ten are Joan Allen (The Bourne Ultimatum), Michelle Pfeiffer (Stardust), Catherine Keener (Into the Wild) and Pfeiffer again, this time for Hairspray. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Breakthrough Performance
Best Cast
Best Director
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Video Game
Worst Performance
Worst Picture
Top 10
Position Actress Film Total Points
1 Amy Ryan Gone Baby Gone 52
2 Tilda Swinton Michael Clayton 42
3 Jennifer Garner Juno 40
4 Leslie Mann Knocked Up 36
5 Kelly MacDonald No Country for Old Men 35
6 Allison Janney Juno 30
7 Saorise Ronan Atonement 28
8 Adrienne Shelley Waitress 24
9(tie) Taraji Henson Talk to Me 20
9(tie) Kristen Thomson Away from Her 20



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