2009 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actor
February 12, 2009
In the Best Supporting Actor race for the Calvins, one name loomed large above all others. When the smoke had cleared, there was a loud and resounding vote of support behind one actor, really the only choice possible.
So in the most obvious vote in Calvins history, Heath Ledger wins Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Dark Knight, earning the most points ever in this voting format of the Calvins. After his tragic death last year, many suspected that Ledger had given a dynamite performance in his last completed role. Few, I think, suspected just how amazing Ledger could be, or just how much talent the world of acting had lost.
As The Joker, Ledger was by turns menacing and whimsical, bringing the darkest version of the comic character to date to vivid realization. He even did the unthinkable – his performance outdid Jack Nicholson in the Tim Burton version of Batman, supplanting what was thought to be the iconic performance with one that has become the new standard, exposing Nicholson's role for just how shallow it was. Of course, this is all cold comfort in retrospect, as it's clear we've lost this generation's greatest actor.
Second and third places go to a pair of actors from this summer's comedy smash Tropic Thunder. Robert Downey Jr. was our top pick from that movie as the Australian method actor Kirk Lazarus, a man so addicted to his process that he undergoes skin pigmentation treatment so that he can portray a black sergeant in a Vietnam War movie (aka the dude playing a dude disguised as another dude). When things start to go wrong on the shoot, Lazarus still stays in character, with Downey deftly walking the line between outrageousness and satire. As the only person in the film who really knows what's going on, but unable to really express it, Downey was a comic force.
His castmate Tom Cruise came in for third spot, for his almost unrecognizable role as Hollywood exec Les Grossman. An almost unbelievably profane character, it gave Cruise the chance to show us some heretofore unknown comedic chops (and also some dancing skills). While Cruise has been a controversial guy in the past few years, roles like this will go a long way towards rehabilitating how we see him.
Fourth place went to a very similar role, as we rewarded Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges. As the psychotic but sentimental gangster Harry, he took over the last third of the film, jolting what had been a twisted comedy into a violent train wreck of personalities. Few actors made so much of so little screen time this year.
Fifth was Brad Pitt as Chad Feldheimer in the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading. Returning to his roots as a bit of dim bulb character actor, Pitt was a riot as the good hearted but ultimately confused scammer. Making us laugh with just a dumb, un-understanding smile, Pitt was one of the better idiots we've seen in some time.
We continue the comedy theme with Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. As the vain rock star Aldous Snow, Brand was a surprisingly sympathetic character in the role of the new boyfriend of the title character. He turned what could have been an easy character to hate into one that was still a bit of a jerk but, you know, a fun one.
Comedy's streak is broken with seventh place. Haaz Sleiman finishes here for The Visitor, as a Syrian drummer who awakens Richard Jenkins' main character to the world of music around him, and later to his need to reconnect with people after his wife's death, through a twist I wouldn't dream of spoiling. A relative newcomer, Sleiman is on list of guys to watch for now.
And we're back to broad comedic performances. James Franco comes in at eighth for his role in Pineapple Express, as the terminally baked pot dealer Saul Silver. It's a role that never in a million years should have worked, and really should have annoyed the hell out of us. But in Franco's hands, this one-note character actually gained some dimension, while simultaneously cracking us up.
Burn After Reading shows up again in ninth place with John Malkovich. Playing a self-important CIA analyst forcibly retired and writing his "memwahs", Malkovich played the character with a slight hint of menace, managing to make his scenes that much funnier.
Finally we wrap up with Sam Rockwell, from Frost/Nixon. Playing the passionate researcher James Reston Jr., Rockwell added to the urgency of the film, elucidating the stakes of what the interviews between David Frost and Richard Nixon really were. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
|| Heath Ledger
||The Dark Knight
|| Robert Downey Jr.
|| Tom Cruise
|| Ralph Fiennes
|| Brad Pitt
||Burn After Reading
|| Russell Brand
||Forgetting Sarah Marshall
|| Haaz Sleiman
|| James Franco
|| John Malkovich
||Burn After Reading
|| Sam Rockwell