2013 Calvin Awards: Breakthrough Performance

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

February 20, 2013

In a world without phones, chickens are our only means of communication.

BOP's staff finds joy in being able to laud the performances of those actors who are either brand new to the industry or who are truly becoming noticed for the first time in their careers. Past winners in the category have included Rooney Mara, Hailee Steinfeld, Christoph Waltz, Dev Patel, Ellen Page, Michael Sheen,Terrence Howard, Zach Braff and Keisha Castle-Hughes. What you can probably discern from that list of individuals is that a large number of them are youthful actors on the rise. We stay true to that tradition once again this year by giving the Calvin Award for Breakthrough Performance to a fresh face - our youngest ever to receive the honor.

Yes, Quvenzhané Wallis (currently nine-years-old) is our Calvin winner this year thanks to a preternaturally wise performance as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Only six-years-old at the time of filming, this amazing young actress carries the film on her tiny shoulders, wandering through heartache and elements of magical realism in a world that is metaphor for New Orleans after Katrina. She's angry, powerful and sensitive at turns, a true individual who is absolutely unforgettable. The movie itself may have been one of the most divisive of 2012, but there can be absolutely no doubting that Wallis was so good that most older performers should be trembling with envy. It's certain that the film could never have been what it was without her.

Our runner-up in this category is Rebel Wilson, whose brash, over-the-top hilarious take on the character of Fat Amy is a very significant reason that Pitch Perfect succeeds on the level it does. She's an obese, loud-mouthed, in-your-face person who is utterly comfortable in her own skin. Her self-confidence ultimately extends to her other teammates on the Barden Bellas, who slowly come together as a group as they realize that they must evolve if they're going to be able to compete. While Fat Amy is not the central character in the film, she is singularly unique and Wilson brings her to life in full color.

Proving once again that age is just a number to BOP’s staff in this year’s voting, 14-year-old Kara Hayward finishes third in Breakthrough Performance. Hayward is the kind of bird who not only dresses like a raven but acts like one as well. Her role in Moonrise Kingdom asks too much of such a young actress yet Hayward dazzles. She is a clinically depressed girl who knows this because she found a book her mother was reading about the subject. Hayward’s character somehow manages to find the love of her life during a church play. They run away together and live a carefree existence, if only for a time. Both child actors are exemplary, but we slightly prefer Hayward. Her character is more damaged yet somehow still adorable.


Suraj Sharma and Dwight Henry are our final two selections in the top five. Sharma plays the younger version of Pi Patel in Life of Pi. Sharma gets the short end of the stick, because he is the one who has to interact with a tiger for most of the film. The fact that he exited the production with all of his major limbs and digits intact is reason enough to give him our acclaim. Henry’s trajectory as an actor is even odder. During the pre-production of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Henry operated a popular bakery in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans. As the film’s producers developed a relationship with him, they struggled to cast role of Wink, the father of Hushpuppy. The curator of the finest baked goods in New Orleans (according to Yelp users) was given the role and became our fifth favorite Breakthrough Performer of the year.

Sixth and seventh place go to actors portraying a pair of smitten, misguided teens. Samantha Barks reprises Éponine, her role from the West End performance of Les Miserables in the movie adaptation. Her familiarity with the character is unmistakable as Barks captivates as Éponine, breaking our hearts as she joins the French Revolution and suffers for her courage. In seventh is Jared Gilman, the teen male lead in Moonrise Kingdom. Our hearts have been captivated since the first time he uttered the memorable dialogue in the trailer: “No, what kind of bird are YOU?” Gilman demonstrates prodigious maturity in this role, which is requisite since Moonrise Kingdom is effectively a romantic drama about struggling adults with the catch being that they are played by children.

Cast members of Parks and Recreation claim two of the remaining three spots on our list. Aubrey Plaza delivers a winning performance in Safety Not Guaranteed. As a journalist, she tries to keep her focus on the novel story she is tracking but her heart leads her down a different path. Meanwhile, Chris Pratt does not have a great deal of screen time in Zero Dark Thirty, but he is memorable nonetheless. Pratt plays a Navy SEAL who is dubious about the intel his troop is given regarding the location of Osama bin Laden. And seven-year-old Pierce Gagnon earns our praise for his role in Looper. The boy who was born four years to the day after we started BOP is quite good as a nice boy who throws much worse tantrums than the average kid.

There were of course other performers that we loved more than ever before. Here are the ones that that narrowly missed nomination: Scoot McNairy in Argo, Gina Carano in Haywire, Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed, Scott McNairy in Killing Them Softly, Kristen Connolly in The Cabin in the Woods, Jason Clark in Zero Dark Thirty, Ari Graynor in For a Good Time, Call… and Doona Bae in Cloud Atlas.

View other awards
Calvins Intro
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 Person Film Total Points
1 Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild 68
2 Rebel Wilson Pitch Perfect 64
3 Kara Hayward Moonrise Kingdom 42
4 Suraj Sharma Life of Pi 35
5 Dwight Henry Beasts of the Southern Wild 34
6 Samantha Barks Les Miserables 33
7 Jared Gilman Moonrise Kingdom 30
8 Aubrey Plaza Safety Not Guaranteed 23
9 Chris Pratt Zero Dark Thirty 22
10 Pierce Gagnon Looper 21



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