2014 Calvin Awards: Best Supporting Actress

By David Mumpower

February 13, 2014

You are getting very sleepy...

As has been the norm over the past decade, the category of Best Supporting Actress was once again tightly contested. Thirty-four different actresses were lauded in the category. The difference between 10th place, a nomination, and 20th place was a single ballot, a sure sign of the depth of the category. Our staff gravitated toward a quartet of performances, eventually choosing a pair of roles as worthy of victory. Forced to decide between a mistreated slave and a disembodied voice, we settled upon the newcomer playing the human rather than the former Best Actress winner doing her strongest Siri impression.

Lupita Nyong'o, our choice for Best Actress, has performed in exactly one movie thus far in her career. Argue beginner’s luck all you want. There is simply no disputing the fact that Nyong’o’s debut will be impossible for her to top. Then again, our staff probably would have offered the same statement about Jennifer Lawrence on multiple occasions over the past three years. We have witnessed a few historic cinematic debuts since the inception of The Calvins.

Nyong’o is being celebrated for her portrayal of Patsey in 12 Years a Slave. Patsey is the fastest cotton picker on her plantation, regularly exceeding the performance of much larger men. She also happens to be a gorgeous woman, something both the plantation owner and his jealous wife notice all too well. As such, Patsey receives brutality from both parties. The husband repeatedly rapes her while the wife beats her for being the object of her husband’s desire. Nyong’o creates a sympathetic figure as a hard worker whose only crime is comeliness. In a story focused upon the horrors of slavery, the most tragic figure is portrayed by Nyong’o. The overwhelming quality of the movie is a tribute to her staggering triumph in her movie debut. And the 30% margin of victory in the category indicates that our staff emphatically agrees that she was the Best Actress of the year.


In 2004, our site named Scarlett Johannson as Best Actress for her dazzling effort in Lost in Translation. Ten years later, Johansson narrowly missed accomplishing a rare feat. To date, only one actress, Anne Hathaway, has been chosen for a Best Actress as well as a Best Supporting Actress award. Johansson’s portrayal of Samantha, an interactive operating system, in Her was so superlative that she finished only a few votes shy of winning the category. In doing so, she would have matched Hathaway as the most decorated actress thus far at The Calvins.

While Johansson’s selection for voice work is a bit unusual for our staff, it is not unprecedented. Johansson’s fellow Actress winner in 2004 was none other than Ellen DeGeneres for her vocalizing of Dory in Finding Nemo. Ten years later, we were once again captivated by how much life can be articulated via annunciation. Johansson was not the original choice for the role of Samantha in Her. She was far and away the superior choice, though. Her breathy voice provided the perfect touch of sexual fantasy desired in a companion while her girlish laugh and whimsical perspective caused a bodiless entity to feel fully formed. Her is a magical movie, and the key to its triumph is the sultry voice work of Johansson.

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