2014 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actor

By Kim Hollis

February 13, 2014

Don't tell me I should have gone with the green eyeshadow.

For our Calvin Award for Best Supporting Actor, our staff agreed with all of the guilds and other awards organizations who have thus far made Jared Leto the front-runner for the Academy Award in a few weeks. In Dallas Buyers Club, he is a standout as a transgendered woman named Rayon. Leto gets all the best lines in the film and as such, becomes the cynical, observant voice of the viewer as both tragic and triumphant events play out on the screen. The interplay between Leto and McConaughey is effervescent, too, progressing from snarky and guarded early on to something close to siblings later in the movie. If this is what Leto’s going to be like after an extended hiatus, we certainly welcome his return.

Our runner up is a complete newcomer, someone who had never before acted in a film. In fact, prior to a casting call for Somalis in Minneapolis, he had worked variously as a disc jockey, a salesman in a retail store and a limousine driver. Somehow, with no experience, Barkhad Abdi was able to stand alongside A-lister Tom Hanks and deliver a performance that left an indomitable impression. As the Somali pirate Muse, Abdi was menacing and threatening, and yet through his performance he somehow carried a thread of humanity. There was always a sense that there were lines he would not cross, even if they adhered to a moral code that applied only to him.

Not far behind in third place is Michael Fassbender for his chilling performance as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave. A Louisiana plantation owner, Epps is a man who believes he has religious justification for punishing his slaves (and worse). Fassbender plays the character as erratic, irrational and tyrannical, reserving his most extreme mood swings for the long-suffering Patsey, a beautiful slave who is able to pick more cotton than anyone else. This character has almost no shades of gray, but Fassbender manages to make Epps’s deep internal struggles emerge to the surface, with indications of addiction and insecurity.


Next up is Daniel Brühl in Rush, who made a fairly dislikable individual in Niki Lauda fascinating character study. A Formula One racer who prioritized precision and perfection, he was the ideal nemesis for the hard-partying, fun-loving James Hall. Thanks to Brühl’s subtle interpretation of the role, the viewer became as invested in Lauda’s success as Hall’s, and in fact allowed for an intriguing juxtaposition between the two.

It’s bittersweet to announce our fifth place finisher. James Gandolfini passed away in June of 2013, but fortunately he left behind a lovely performance in the romantic comedy Enough Said so that we’d have a way to remember him in the best possible way. As Albert, the romantic interest in the film, he plays the character as gentle with a detectible air of sadness. He accepts his own foibles, but the people around him seem to see nothing else. What a delight that his softer side was revealed.

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