2011 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actress

February 17, 2011

Cigarettes, beer. She's a keeper!

The Calvin for Best Supporting Actress features very few of the usual suspects, as the category was exceptionally deep this year. Many years, we complain that there simply aren’t enough good roles for women, but 2010 has thrown that notion entirely out the window.

The winner of this year’s Calvin is Melissa Leo, who played a momma who clearly loved one son more than the other one in The Fighter. She’s rough and abrasive as Alice Ward, mother of two boxer sons (and a host of daughters who constantly have her back). She’s really sort of terrifying in a lot of ways, and you feel every bit of son Mickey’s conflict with her because of her dedication to going for it with this role.

The Fighter also gives us our runner-up, Amy Adams. Effectively, she portrays the “good” female in Mickey Ward’s wife, as is made clear by the fact that all the nodding sisters instantly despise her. Adams continues to demonstrate great range in her acting ability, as in this film she has to be super tough but not so much that she goes over the edge to abrasiveness. Effectively, she and Leo have bookend characters, so it’s somewhat appropriate that they take the top two spots in this category.

Third place goes to Helena Bonham Carter, as her presence in The King’s Speech grounded every scene she was in with dignity and restraint. Since we’re so generally used to seeing her play crazier, more out-of-whack characters, the fact that she was able to go in and bring grace and intelligence to the Queen Mum is all the more admirable. The character could easily have been a one-note “supportive wife,” but her skill lends a cleverness and wit to the character that might not have come across had a lesser actress been in the role.


Mila Kunis takes fourth place for her role as Lily in Black Swan. She’s the ideal counterpart to Natalie Portman’s Nina, as Lily is free and wild, the very personification of the black swan. Because we believe that Lily’s character is the embodiment of what the ballet director is looking for in Nina’s performance, the tension is ratcheted up between them. Lily is nonchalant while Nina is striving for perfection. Without Kunis delivering an almost note-perfect performance, the internal struggle Nina faces would have been diminished.

Next up in fifth place is Marion Cotillard, who had a very tough task at hand as her character is not precisely a real person. If you haven’t seen Inception, you might want to skip the next couple of comments due to spoilers (I guess), but her Mal is a projection of what her husband remembers her to be – complete with all the bittersweet happiness, regret, guilt and nostalgia that would go with the memories of a loved one whose ending is so difficult to bear. This role is far more challenging than it appears on the surface, but we noticed.

Sixth and seventh go to Barbara Hershey and Rooney Mara, for their roles in Black Swan and The Social Network, respectively. Hershey was terrific as an overprotective mother who clearly has a large part to play in her daughter’s lack of emotional development. It’s a pretty creepy character in a lot of ways, but she never overplays it. Mara is extraordinarily memorable even though she is only in a couple of key scenes in The Social Network. She’s the girl who spurs Mark Zuckerberg to set his creation in motion, and her reactions to his highly offensive comments to her are priceless. It’s rare to see any performer make so much out of so little.

Closing out our top ten are Dale Dickey and Chloe Moretz, who effectively tie for eighth place for their roles in Winter’s Bone and Kick-Ass, along with The Town’s Rebecca Hall in tenth place. Dickey’s come a ways since playing Patty the Daytime Hooker on My Name Is Earl, as she delivers a quite chilling performance as Merab, the leader of the women in the Ozark community where Winter’s Bone is set. Her time onscreen is brief, but you’ll never forget her. Moretz had a controversial character to play as she was one of the youngest killers ever on screen, demonstrating a kind of ruthlessness an adult could never display. Even so, she’s super cute through the entire thing, which just makes it all the more disturbing. Finally, Hall has to run through a range of emotions, from blossoming attraction to survivor’s remorse, as her relationship develops with a man who - unbeknownst to her - is a bank robber. It’s not a showy role, but it does help to give the film some grounding in morality.

Actresses who were just out of the running for the top ten were Patricia Clarkson (Easy A), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), Milla Jovovich (Stone), Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right). (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 Actress Film Total Points
1 Melissa Leo The Fighter 126
2 Amy Adams The Fighter 90
3 Helena Bonham Carter The King's Speech 80
4 Mila Kunis Black Swan 79
5 Marion Cotillard Inception 76
6 Barbara Hershey Black Swan 57
7 Rooney Mara The Social Network 50
8 (tie) Chloe Moretz Kick Ass 48
8 (tie) Dale Dickey Winter's Bone 48
10 Rebecca Hall The Town 45



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