2012 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actor
By David Mumpower
February 16, 2012
The Best Supporting Actor category is ordinarily a dogfight wherein the winner is not known until well after the voting has ended and the scores have been tabulated. That was not the case this year as one performance stood out so much that it effectively led from the start to the finish of the competition. There are innumerable great performances in the category this year, but BOP had a clear idea of who was the best of these long before the polls were closed.
Jonah Hill is our choice for Best Supporting Actor of the year for his role in Moneyball. In the Michael Lewis novel, we learn that Ivy League graduate Paul DePodesta presents strange new ideas to his immediate superior, Billy Beane. In the movie adaptation of Moneyball, Hill is not portraying DePodesta per se but instead an amalgam of several numbers crunchers who suddenly came into vogue after the release of the novel. Old school scouting based upon irrational, mercurial opinions fell out of favor as more and more general managers in baseball learned to love the calculator and the spreadsheet. In this movie, Hill is Peter Brand, a graduate of the Yale school of Economics. Brand has been given his first job out of college as an underling in the Cleveland Indians organization.
Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane immediately perceives that this young man is undervalued in his own building, exactly the sort of oversight Beane seeks to attack in assembling the best possible baseball team against the constraints of fiscal woes. The two men meet and have a pair of awkward conversations, first in the cubicle farm at Cleveland then later in the parking lot. At this point, Beane makes an offer Brand cannot refuse and the two become enjoined in a battle against the failings of the current baseball economic system.
Hill as an actor has become an inflammatory subject in that he has been typecast as quickly and finitely as any thespian in recent memory. In Moneyball, however, Brad Pitt is asked to portray the comic relief, which liberates Hill to portray a sounding board, a kid who knows he is in over his head but hopes nobody notices. After all, the instant someone does, he expects to wake up in his bedroom and be told it is time to go to school. In learning how to build a team through esoteric calculations, Hill’s character must also learn to deal with the human element, the aspect of baseball that is impossible to anticipate from a spreadsheet. He learns the awkward nature of trading a player, the difficulty that comes from navigating the political climate of a clubhouse and the haphazard manner through which roster moves are made. Throughout the entirety of the proceedings, Hill never loses his wide-eyed wonder about how much his life has changed in a few short months. In these moments, Hill reminds us that even after a series of missteps in terms of career roles, he is still among the most talented actors of his generation. Playing against type here is a career resurgence for Hill and the staff’s clear favorite as the Best Supporting Actor performance of the year.