2013 Calvin Awards: Best Actor

By Reagen Sulewski

February 21, 2013

I hope the penny stays around forever.

In many respects, the voters of BOP have gone quite mainstream and traditional for Best Actor this year, as we agree with a lot of the critical consensus on the leading male performances this year. Or to put it another way, the critical consensus agrees with us, because we're taste makers like that. Oh yeah. Anyway, since this has been a year with several amazing performances, it isn't even really worth it to start disputing. We do get a few of our idiosyncratic favorites in there of course, but...

The runaway winner for Best Actor this year, even getting votes from Bradley Cooper's mom, is Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln as, let me check my notes here... Abraham Lincoln. While it's utterly unsurprising that Day-Lewis would turn in a great performance – it's much easier to count his poor performances than his good to great ones – his ability to amaze has not diminished in the slightest. Recall that this is the same person who played Bill the Butcher and Daniel Plainview, and in this film inhabited the role of Lincoln, whose soft-spoken (albeit fiercely determined) demeanor couldn't be further away from those characters.

Famous for going to extraordinary lengths to find authenticity in his characters, I would not be shocked to learn that he actually invented time travel in order to better inform himself about how to play this. Of course, mere mimicry would hardly be worth this kind of praise, and Day-Lewis also found the humanity in a deeply conflicted and principled man who was tested at perhaps the most crucial point in his life. In short, Day-Lewis remains perhaps the most versatile actor of our generation, and continues to prove it at every step.


If, during the course of the series Alias, you had asked when that guy who played Will Tappin was going to be nominated for an Oscar, you might have gotten a response ranging somewhere from “never” to “Hahahahahaha... wait, you're serious?” And yet here we are, with Bradley Cooper reaching what might be the pinnacle of his career with his role in Silver Linings Playbook, our second place finisher this year. As a divorced teacher struggling with bipolar disorder, Cooper found a way to bury his smirking fratboy persona in layers of depth and pain and that illuminates the obsessions and darkness that underlie those characters. It's an amazing performance from an unlikely source.

Third place goes to Denzel Washington for Flight. While Washington could make reading the phone book compelling, when handed a character as complex as the tortured alcoholic pilot who happens to save the day while drunk, he takes the ball and runs with it. While the idea of a man struggling with the bottle is a bit of a cliche at this point, Washington invests these particular demons with a tremendous sense of gravitas and urgency. Through just looks and gestures, he's able to bring us into his world, one that has a particular kind of twisted logic to it. Washington's character may live his life on the edge, but it's what makes him the person that he is. And how many people can give that idea up?

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