2011 Calvin Awards: Best Character
February 15, 2011
It's funny how quickly a revolution can turn stale. When this site first started, DVD technology was still on the way up in transforming the home video market. Now, even with Blu-Ray bringing that same basic concept into hi-def, remote storage and digital downloads have made the concept of physical media seem like a relic of a bygone era. So before having a Best DVD category starts to seem like Car & Driver honoring the best steam-powered car of the year, we've decided to retire it.
In its place is Best Character, which honors those creations in film that don't neatly fit into our categories for acting, but still made movies in 2010 special and memorable. In many cases this represents the melding of acting and theme, with characters lifting up the main ideas of the film into clearer focus. In some others, they're characters who are so central to their films that you can't imagine the movie succeeding without them. When all the parts of a film are working together in congress, you get characters like the ones listed below that should stand the test of time.
The obvious choice for our winner is Thierry Guetta, who also goes by another name (maybe), from Banksy's documentary (?) Exit Through the Gift Shop. A Los Angeles-by-way-of-France videographer of, well, everything, Guetta stumbles upon the vibrant street art scene of the late '90s and '00s and sets about recording the ephemeral projects for safe-keeping after being introduced to Banksy and being commissioned to make a documentary about the scene. The steady reveal of Guetta's quirks – Hoarders should get a hold of this guy, for a start – turns the film into an exercise of “can this guy be for real?”
It's easy to see why – with what seems like an exaggerated French accent, a set of puppy dog eyes and bizarre facial hair, he seems like a perfect creation of parody. And yet, the feeling of authenticity somehow sticks. You couldn't create a character like this, but you could find one. Later in the film, when Guetta adopts his new point of view and decides that he's going to make some art, that's when things really reach grand heights of lunacy. Is Banksy having a laugh on us? Maybe, but I don't think so, and it doesn't really matter anyway as far as the point of his film. And boy, does Guetta's odd behavior ever make that point for him.
Placing a close second is Olive from Easy A as portrayed by Emma Stone. Carrying the load of the entire film and appearing in nearly every scene, Olive is by turns witty, vulnerable and conniving. Her presence anchors the film and creates a way for the film to elevate above what could have been sitcom-worthy material. More than any other scripted film this year, Easy A needed a solid character at its core to make it work, and creating the precocious yet still believable teen is one of the hardest things to do. Time will tell, but Olive Penderghast could become this generation's Ferris Bueller.