2011 Calvin Awards: Breakthrough Performance

February 16, 2011

Maybe this will earn me that guest spot on Glee.

It’s all about Girl Power in this year’s results for Breakthrough Performance, as our top four finishers are all young women who made a big impression over the past 12 months. In fact, six of our top ten are of the female persuasion as well, not to mention all of the contenders who came within spitting distance of that coveted top ten spot. With the Calvin for Breakthrough Performance, we honor those actors who had big years – they’re either unknowns who burst on the scene with impressive roles, or they might be people who surprised us with stellar work that we hadn’t really seen from them before.

Our winner this year takes the award in fairly dominant fashion, as she had 27 more vote than the second place finisher. When Hailee Steinfeld auditioned for the role of Mattie Ross in True Grit, she was a virtual unknown, having appeared only in commercials and supporting roles in TV movies and short-lived series. Out of more than 15,000 youngsters who auditioned for the role, the Coen Brothers selected the then-13-year-old Steinfeld, whose diction and preparation were enough to knock their socks off. Obviously, the BOP staff felt the same way, as the young star-in-the-making delivered Shakespearian-style dialogue with more aplomb than plenty of more seasoned performers ever could. She was in virtually every scene in the film, and was a shining star even as she stood alongside the larger-than-life persona of Jeff Bridges, himself fresh off an Academy Award for Best Actor. Now Steinfeld is heading to the Oscars ceremony as a nominee, and will have plenty of opportunities afforded her. She’s rumored to be under consideration for the lead role in the hotter than hot property The Hunger Games, which is poised to be the next book-to-film breakout a la Twilight.


Second place goes to the other young actress who made a huge impact on awards season, as Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone saw a groundswell of support that pushed her almost to the top of the chart. Like Steinfeld, Lawrence had primarily appeared in bit roles in TV movies and the like, but she did get a starring role as the daughter of Bill Engvall’s daughter in his TBS series The Bill Engvall Show prior to being cast in Winter’s Bone, a small movie that tells a grim tale of a teenage girl and the steps she must take to protect her family in a rural, harsh Ozarks community. The role of Ree Dolly is a gritty, brutal one, and even though the film only made about $6 million domestically, it’s certainly gotten enough attention to see both Lawrence and the movie itself nominated for an Academy Award. Later this year, we’ll see Lawrence as Raven Darkholme/Mystique in the Matthew Vaughn-directed X-Men reboot X-Men: First Class.

Emma Stone is our third place finisher, and although you might have expected that she would have been on our list before, perhaps for Zombieland, the BOP staff felt that her performance in Easy A was such a good one that she merits attention. She almost single-handedly made teen films fun again with her portrayal of Olive, a genuinely smart and likable young heroine. Never taking herself too seriously, this is the kind of role that will be remembered for a long time, much like Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles or John Cusack in Say Anything… We’re going to root for Stone’s career to take more of a Cusack trajectory, and given that she’s playing Gwen Stacy in the Spider-Man reboot, it’s looking like she might be able to do him one (or more) better.

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