2012 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actress

By Kim Hollis

February 16, 2012

People respect me because of the hat.

Our Best Supporting Actress results turned out to be quite interesting this year. Two actresses see their names appear in the top ten twice for roles that they had in different films, meaning that this time around, we actually only honor eight individuals. But you’ll have to read on to find out who those two might be.

This year’s Calvin for Best Supporting Actress is awarded to Octavia Spencer, whose portrayal of Minny Jackson is as memorable as they come. Minny is outspoken and opinionated – and a dedicated mother and friend. Spencer was the perfect embodiment of this character as she was translated from book to film. Interestingly enough, novelist Kathryn Stockett had Spencer in mind as she was writing the book. The two have been friends since 2003, and when she was developing Minny, she incorporated Spencer’s mannerisms and personality. Thus, when the book was picked up for adaptation, one of Stockett’s conditions to sell it was that Spencer play the role of Minny, even though she was relatively unknown. The rest is history, even if it perhaps gave Spencer a slightly unfair advantage. It’s what you do with what you’re given that matters, after all.

The runner-up spot goes to an actress that a number of our staff members have loved since her days on Gilmore Girls (we’re just going to ignore her current sitcom, though). Melissa McCarthy has so far had a career that has mostly seen her play the sweet friend to some other lead performer, whether it be Lauren Graham in Gilmore Girls or Samantha Who?’s Christina Applegate. Yes, she finally got a true lead role in 2010 when she was cast in Mike & Molly, but her real breakthrough role came this year, when she took the role of Megan in Bridesmaids and turned it up a notch. Like some of her other roles, Megan could easily have been a caricature or simple stereotypical comic relief, but McCarthy turned her into someone who the audience could love as a sweet soul even as she was being wholly annoying.

Dame Helen Mirren is our third place selection, as we appreciated her interpretation of a retired Mossad secret agent who has a dark secret that must be kept close to the vest. Honestly, Mirren is always wonderful, but here we found her melancholy Rachel to be intriguing and nuanced. Since she was playing an older version of a character whose youthful presence is portrayed by Jessica Chastain in the film, it was important that the two performances be consistent, and both actresses did a fine job of achieving this feat.


Speaking of Chastain, she happens to be our choice for fourth place, though it was for her role in The Help rather than in The Debt (where we placed her as Best Actress). In The Help, Chastain plays the ditzy “white trash” Celia Foote, who is scorned by the society women of Jackson, Mississippi and actually has the audacity to befriend and defend her maid. Chastain is the embodiment of the character as she is written in the novel, vulnerable but proud, lacking in confidence but full of va-va-voom nonetheless.

Fifth place goes to Carey Mulligan, who had a tough role to play in Drive. This was an especially challenging part, as she was the love interest to Ryan Gosling’s stoic, mostly silent Driver. Mulligan had to show all the conflict that a woman in her situation would, as her developing feelings for the Driver are strongly in conflict with her loyalty and love for her husband, who is in jail, and her son.

Janet McTeer and Shailene Woodley are in our sixth and seventh spots. McTeer gets her nod for her work in Albert Nobbs, where she plays Hubert Page, a painter who discovers Albert’s secret, and who Albert then realizes has the same secret. If that sounds complicated, it sort of is and it sort of isn’t, but if you’ve seen the film, you know that McTeer’s performance is extremely powerful and worthy of notice. As for Woodley, she’s been appearing on The Secret Life of the American Teenager since 2008, but her role in The Descendants allows her to truly blossom as an actress. She’s a difficult teenager who is forced to grow up in fairly short order when her family dynamic changes, and her ability to play against George Clooney is damned impressive.

Our final three Best Supporting Actresses are Jessica Chastain (again) for The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris’s Marion Cotillard and Carey Mulligan (again) for her role in Shame. Obviously, we really, really liked Chastain this year, as she got top ten recognition for her work in three movies. She played the family matriarch, and her ability to bring grace to the role of loving mother was remarkable. Cotillard is quickly becoming a favorite of ours here at BOP, and she was a fabulous love interest for Owen Wilson in the great Woody Allen film. When we find that she harbors similar dreams to that of Gil, it’s eye-opening, but even more importantly, it’s heart-rending. And after selecting Mulligan as our third favorite performance in 2010, she shows up twice in 2012. In Shame, she bears…well, she bears a lot but that’s not important. Her aimless, haunted Sissy is full of subtext, especially next to Michael Fassbender’s Brandon, and it’s a troublesome sort of thing we don’t want to consider. It’s a fearless display and we laud her for it.

A few actresses fell just short of making our top ten in this category, and they include Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help), Jennifer Aniston (Horrible Bosses), Cate Blanchett (Hanna) and Kate Winslet (Contagion).

The Calvins: An 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 Octavia Spencer The Help 86
2 Melissa McCarthy Bridesmaids 71
3 Helen Mirren The Debt 57
4 Jessica Chastain The Help 49
5 Cary Mulligan Drive 48
6 Janet McTeer Albert Nobbs 45
7 Shailene Woodley The Descendants 44
8 Jessica Chastain The Tree of Life 43
9 (tie) Marion Cotillard Midnight in Paris 24
9 (tie) Carey Mulligan Shame 24



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