2015 Calvin Awards: Best Actor

By David Mumpower

February 12, 2015

No, I'm not an attorney at law!

The past year presented innumerable tremendous performances, but BOP still had an easy time picking our top 10 selections. After a historically close race in Best Actor last year, our staff was quite decisive on the best of the best during 2014. To wit, the winner in the category earned more first place votes than the second and third place finishers in combination.

What’s a washed up comic book hero to do after their journey ends? No, I’m not posing a question about Andrew Garfield’s future now that he’s been fired from Spider-Man. Instead, I am describing the premise of Birdman, which explores the all too real history of former Batman Michael Keaton in a fictional manner. As former A-List actor Riggan Thomson, Keaton draws upon his time as the top movie draw in the world - Batman and Batman Returns both set all-time records for opening weekend performance back in the day – to reveal the inner monologue of a man in denial regarding his fate.

Thomson may or may not be crazy, and his sanity may or may not be attached to his belief that he has developed some of the same supernatural abilities as the titular character he portrays in the film. Birdman is as existential as any Best Picture nominee in recent memory, and the key to the audience’s acceptance of the absurdity of it all is Keaton.

Best known as a comedic actor thanks to his work in blockbusters like Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice, Keaton has quietly built a tremendous resume as a serious actor. Starting with Clean and Sober in 1988, he has gravitated toward dramatic roles such as Clean and Sober, Pacific Heights, Jackie Brown and The Paper, all of which earned him praise for demonstrating his range.


Despite all the lauded performances, Keaton had never received a major nomination prior to his work in Birdman, which is fairly shocking for a liked and respected industry veteran of 30 years. Keaton’s role is a prototypical demonstration of the perfect role at the perfect time for a gifted thespian. He has felt like a mortal lock for Best Actor ever since members of our staff raved about Birdman over opening weekend, and the dominant voting reflects the fact that our opinion never wavered in this regard.

Finishing in a distant second place is the leader of the also-rans, David Oyelowo. The British actor was asked to portray an icon of American history, and he did so with aplomb. Mastering the mannerisms as well as the vocal machinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Oyelowo inspires much of the same devotion and emotional gravitational pull. In the process, he demonstrates a presence that commands attention even as the events of Selma, especially Bloody Sunday, unfold around him. It’s a heartfelt portrayal of one of the gloomiest days for American civilization.

Jake Gyllenhaal is arguably the most employable and famous actor never to have broken through as an A-list performer. Our staff has loved him ever since Bubble Boy, yet even we have been conflicted about many of his performances. He has received votes in the category in most of the years that The Calvins have existed, but his only prior selection was in 2008 for Zodiac. Seven years later, Gyllenhaal has finally delivered on his promise with his portrayal of an unethical opportunist in Nightcrawler. His third place finish in Best Actor is not only his highest placement to date but also reflective of his earning the second largest number of first place votes in the category. Hopefully, Gyllenhaal is finally ready to become the actor we always believed that he could be.

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