2009 Calvin Awards: Best Actress

February 12, 2009

She's lucky we don't also do a Calvin for Worst Haircut.

The 2008/2009 awards season has been hotly contested by the candidates in the Best Actress category. Anne Hathaway was the early frontrunner for her work in Rachel Getting Married, but then Kate Winslet's dual outings in Revolutionary Road and The Reader made her the darling of The Golden Globes. Recently, Meryl Streep's role in Doubt has reminded people of what a great actress she is as well as the fact that she hasn't won in 25 years, a full ten nominations ago. Best Actress is perhaps the most hotly contested category in Academy Awards history. Our staff, however, didn't have much doubt (pardon the pun) about who to choose.

Anne Hathaway is the winner of the 2009 Calvin for Best Actress by a near-50% margin over Streep and Winslet. Our staff felt that her understated outing as a Lindsay Lohan-type struggling through the steps of addiction recovery lapped the competition. The beauty of Hathaway's work here is that the back story cleverly paints a picture of the person she used to be with brief snippets of her days as a model who wound up being on Cops. Hathaway imbues her character with a sense of grace and the beyond-her-years suffering that comes from suffering too much too young. As the viewer gradually comes to understand the events that molded her as a monumentally screwed up human being, a better appreciation of the subtlety of Hathaway's performance shines through. Rachel Getting Married is not a perfect movie, but it is a very good one with a near-perfect acting performance. In a year where two of the most lauded actresses in the history of the industry offer some of their best work ever, it is Anne Hathaway who stands above the rest as the best actress.


Then again, Meryl Streep is no slouch, either. After a rare misstep in the instantly forgettable Lions for Lambs, the Prada-clad devil made a triumphant return in 2008 with a $600 million chick flick featuring the music of Abba followed by a dazzling turn as a tough nun in Doubt. It is the latter role that merits her the honor of second best actress of the year. In Doubt, Streep portrays a woman of God whose foundation is struck to the core when her worst nightmare is realized. A priest who had been forced to change parishes due to ominous allegations suddenly befriends a young boy. Streep's character had been warned to look for signs such as this one that may be indicative of inappropriate behavior and she finds the courage to confront the priest with accusations about his wrongdoing, even though she is uncertain of their veracity. The role requires a tough-as-nails woman to show that suspicion of the truth is not enough to set someone free. Streep is quite possibly the only woman in the industry today who could make the nun seem morally justified as she attempts to destroy a man she is not certain is guilty.

Kate Winslet had her votes divided this year. Because of this, she finishes in third and fourth place for her work in Revolutionary Road and The Reader. If she had but one of the titles released over the course of the year, she probably would have had a better chance of winning the category. Instead, our staff was evenly divided between the roles with Revolutionary Road getting the slight nod. In this role, she portrays an ambitious actress and honeymooner who views her husband and herself as much better than their neighbors. The couple plans to live in Paris with the other cultural elite of the world, but plans fall apart due to unwanted pregnancies, emotional abuse and marital infidelity. Amazingly, this is the cheerier of her two roles for the year. In The Reader, she portrays an illiterate pedophile who may have aided in the slayings of some people at a concentration camp. Clearly, what this woman needs is a nice, comfortable Paul Blart sequel. Until then, she will have to settle for inordinate critical acclaim and two spots in the top four in the Best Actress category of The Calvins.

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