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2011 Calvin Awards: Best Actor

February 17, 2011

This one's for all eight female BOP readers!

Not far behind Bridges is James Franco, who had a bit of harrowing, claustrophobic work to do in 127 Hours. It’s quite gratifying to see Franco receive this kind of recognition, as I’ve been a fan going all the way back to Freaks and Geeks (yes, I watched it on the television. For real). Now, this true renaissance man (he writes, he paints, he acts in Academy Award nominated films…and soap operas) is receiving acclaim for his portrayal of mountain climber Aron Ralston, and most of us know how that story ends. What Franco does really well is to fully embrace a character who is not entirely sympathetic – he’s slightly careless and fairly self-absorbed – but still makes us care about what happens to him. We suffer with him through his ordeal, but even in the midst of all the horror, he makes us laugh. I’m not sure anyone could have done that better than Franco.

Hanging right with the other big boys in fourth place is Jesse Eisenberg for his portrayal of Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. And I feel like I’m a bit of a broken record here, but once again I say to my fellow BOPers, “it’s about time!” Reviewing my past Calvins voting, I see that Eisenberg was my second place selection for Supporting Actor back in 2002 for Roger Dodger. Since that time, we’ve all been discovering what a refreshing young talent he is, though I’d heard people murmur that they were beginning to find his performances “one-note.” Those whispers disappeared after The Social Network, though. Like Franco in 127 Hours, Eisenberg has the challenging task of taking an unlikable – perhaps despicable – character and making him compelling and interesting enough that audiences want to stay with his story to the end. I recently read that prior to the start of filming, Eisenberg had spoken to a cousin of his who worked for Facebook, and learned that Zuckerberg was extremely well-regarded by the employees of the company, and went into the film imagining that his portrayal was a defense of the young man who took (?) an idea and turned it into billions of dollars. Knowing this makes me like this performance even more, and it’s clear that the entire BOP staff felt the same way.

Our fifth and sixth place finishers are Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine and Ben Affleck for The Town. You’d think that Gosling might have leveraged the popularity of the romantic weeper The Notebook to move on to some big budget projects, but no, he stubbornly refuses to move far from the realm of the quirky indie. You can’t argue with the results, though, as Half-Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl and now Blue Valentine have all given him the chance to display some stellar acting chops along with the ability to embrace the unexpected. Affleck’s film was significantly more mainstream, but that box office success was a bit of a surprise. He was the steady factor in The Town, taking the less showy role (Jeremy Renner was the scenery chewer) but still delivering a top-notch performance that helped to propel the dark caper flick to such popularity.




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Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole) and Ryan Reynolds (Buried) take the seventh and eighth spots. For Eckhart, his challenge was to take the role of a grieving father and show us his character’s emotions through subtle glances, quickly masked pained experessions, and one big burst of explosive anger. Nicole Kidman is getting the accolades, but his more understated role feels like the one that was harder to pull off. Reynolds portrays a character contending with claustrophobia, much like Franco in 127 Hours. In Reynolds case, however, most of his scenes were played while staying prone in a single position…in a coffin. The majority of his conversations take place via cellphone. He truly induces the audience to panic along with him as the stakes get higher, and his horrific plight is all the more horrible because we like him and want him to escape safely.

Closing out the top ten finishers are George Clooney for The American and Leonardo DiCaprio for Inception. Most people know by now that The American is not the movie that commercials sold to North American audiences, nor did Clooney play his typical heroic self. He goes further than being just unsympathetic – this film is downright hard to watch because the things his character does are so surprising - but it is these very qualities that make the performance worth checking out. Finally, DiCaprio may be lower on the list than he might have been had Shutter Island and Inception not proven to have such similar plot points regarding his characters, but it is absolutely certain that he is the glue that holds the Christopher Nolan film together.

Finishing just outside the top ten (but a long, long way from the top) were Jim Carrey (I Love You Phillip Morris), Michael Douglas (A Solitary Man), Dicaprio again (for Shutter Island), Robert Duvall (Get Low) and Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter). Here’s hoping 2011 offers a similarly special assortment of candidates – if it does, it’s going to be a good year. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

The Calvins Introduction
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Cast
Best Character
Best Director
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Videogame
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture

Top 10
Position Actor Film Total Points
1 Colin Firth The King's Speech 155
2 Jeff Bridges True Grit 142
3 James Franco 127 Hours 138
4 Jesse Eisenberg The Social Network 129
5 Ryan Gosling Blue Valentine 69
6 Ben Affleck The Town 44
7 Aaron Eckhart Rabbit Hole 42
8 Ryan Reynolds Buried 40
9 (tie) George Clooney The American 39
9 (tie) Leonardo DiCaprio Inception 39




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