2010 Calvin Awards: Best Actor

February 11, 2010

I wonder what Julianna Margulies is doing these days.

When you win the Calvin Award for Best Actor, you're in good company. Past prizes have gone to Frank Langella, Josh Brolin, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Strathairn, Paul Giamatti, Bill Murray, Nicolas Cage and Gene Hackman, which shows that we don't necessarily go with the frontrunners or the most obvious choices.

Yet, for this year's Calvin Award for Best Actor, we've gone just a touch more mainstream – and we're perfectly okay with that. Actually, it's a bit of a surprise that our winner hasn't received the prize previously, given how much we admire his body of work. In a squeaker of a vote, we selected George Clooney as our top acting performance of the year for his marvelous portrayal of traveler/self-help guru/corporate head-taker-offer Ryan Bingham. Clooney is often called a modern-day Cary Grant, and it's easy to see why after watching Up in the Air. The movie itself has the feel of the best classic films, with a complexity and completeness that is often lacking in current cinema. As we watch Ryan become more and more aware of his pain at lacking connection to other people, we experience a real sorrow. His ability to illustrate that feeling of loneliness is so tangible, so touching. Up in the Air is a film that stays with you, and Clooney's performance is a large part of the reason it succeeds on that level.

Just missing out on a win is Jeremy Renner for his memorable work in The Hurt Locker. If you haven't seen this film, you have no idea what you're in for when you finally throw It in the DVD player. Renner plays SFC William James, a bomb disposal specialist working in Iraq. If that sounds like it ought to be a hair-raising job, then you're probably sane, but for William James, he lives for the rush. He's fearless and seems to be unhappy unless he is constantly facing danger. Renner plays the character as somehow damaged even as his bravado tries to stand front and center, though it's a complex damage. William James is a character you want to know more about, and Renner keeps the viewer tantalized with regard to his motivations, flaws and constant need to be moving forward.


Third place is a bit of a surprise, as District 9's Sharlto Copley was so impressive as Wikus Van De Merwe that we're hoping this film's success opens a lot of doors for him. Copley has a very tough task in District 9, as he has to play a clueless and rather despicable character early on, yet as the movie's story expands, the audience has to feel a serious connection to Wikus and to sympathize with his plight. With a lesser actor in the role, District 9 couldn't have been the smashing success it turned out to become.

Apparently, we liked us some science fiction in 2009, because Sam Rockwell is our fourth place finisher for his mind-blowing performance in Moon. Although there are other actors in the film, Moon almost exclusively relies on Rockwell to keep the audience engaged and focused. It's extremely difficult to talk about the nuances of his work without spoiling the film to a large degree, so let's just say that he could conceivably have been nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the same time. An argument could be made that he is most deserving of a win in both categories. If you haven't seen Moon, do yourself a favor and rent it if for nothing else than to marvel at Rockwell's talent.

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