2009 Calvin Awards: Best Actor

February 12, 2009

Should I drunk dial David Frost again?

It's a wealth of riches in the Best Actor category, as our top ten list features a variety of performances that stack up as being the best grouping in recent memory. Ranging in age from 18 to 71, these ten actors represent a wide range of roles, from historical to comic book-based .

It was a close race, but in the end our Calvin Award for Best Actor goes to Frank Langella for his portrayal of Richard Nixon in the political thriller Frost/Nixon. Although he did not receive the most first place votes (that honor goes to our runner-up), the groundswell of support for Langella was so universal that he was able to just push through for a win. And this is in fact a bravura performance that sees the veteran actor be completely absorbed into the character of Richard Nixon. No, he really doesn't look like Nixon, and it's true he might not even sound much like the embattled President. Nonetheless, when Langella is onscreen, you truly believe that he is Richard Nixon. Despite the fact that you know he is despicable in a number of ways, you can understand how people were drawn to him.


Just missing out on the win is comeback kid Mickey Rourke, who was heartbreaking in his role as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler. For my money, Rourke has been rock solid for the past several years, turning in excellent supporting work in films like Spun (2002) and Sin City (2005). He's at the top of his game in The Wrestler, though, channeling guys like "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. It's easy to imagine him as having once been idolized, as we can picture Rourke in more youthful times when his looks were everything. We can just as easily accept that he's seen his best days pass him by, and we understand why even to the detriment of his health, this character might find it impossible to leave the sport that has served him so well.

Our top ten continues to mostly mirror the Academy Award nominees with our third place selection, as Sean Penn owns the role of Harvey Milk and turns it into something truly special. We're not used to seeing Penn vulnerable or soft, and while Milk is both of these, he's also a force to be reckoned with. The best thing that you can say about both Penn's performance and the movie are that you leave feeling compelled to know more about Harvey Milk. Penn makes the character interesting.

Fourth place is where we diverge from the Oscar trending (sort of), as we found Robert Downey Jr.'s performance in Iron Man to be so fine that it deserves a place amongst the top actors of the year. There might be no person better suited for the role of Tony Stark, industrialist, inventor, millionaire and occasional crime fighter. With Downey in the role, he imbues the character with the perfect amount of snark, smarts and even humanity. For my part, I think it says a lot that I find the Tony Stark of the comic world to be a fairly dislikable character, but that I love Downey's Tony Stark and am totally drawn to him.

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