2016 Calvin Awards: Best Director

By Kim Hollis

February 26, 2016

I like making movies about pigs, penguins and post-apocalyptic wastelands!

Another film that entertains even as it covers disturbing subject matter is Spotlight, from director Tom McCarthy. We’ve long enjoyed McCarthy’s work, going back to the delightful Station Agent and followed by The Visitor and Win Win. With Spotlight, McCarthy takes what could effectively be a simple procedural and turns it into a compelling depiction of a newsroom and their in-depth investigation of child sexual abuse by priests. As someone who has spent nearly two decades in the newspaper industry, I was deeply appreciative of the realistic portrayal of the business. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a film that got it so right. There’s not a false note in the film - performances are perfect, the writing is crisp, and the pacing is spot on. Spotlight may not employ fancy special effects or employ crafty nods to the camera, but that doesn’t mean that a straightforward story told flawlessly is undeserving of notice.

Closing out the top five is the venerable Ridley Scott for his marvelous work on the sci-fi story of human ingenuity known as The Martian. It could have been so tempting for Scott to focus solely on Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and his experiences on Mars as he waited to be released. After all, the blueprint had been successful for Gravity only a few years ago. Instead, The Martian spends time both with Watney and his compatriots on Earth and on a spaceship flying back to their home planet. The film celebrates people working together, and along the way, it manages to be pretty funny, too.


Sixth and seventh go to a couple of directors of 2015 indie darlings. Alex Garland, who had previously written screenplays for 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go, makes his directorial debut with Ex Machina, a science fiction film about a programmer who is selected to perform a Turing test on a humanoid robot. It’s big on ideas and appeals to our cerebral side. The independent film in seventh place is Room, a novel adaptation that was brought to life by Lenny Abrahamson. He does a spectacular job of conveying both the claustrophobia of room and the overwhelming nature of the wide world. Also, when children deliver fantastic performances, I always like to think that the director has a lot to do with that happening.

We close out our list of favorite directors of 2015 with Creed’s Ryan Coogler, Steven Spielberg for Bridge of Spies, and Carol’s Todd Haynes. Coogler is responsible for our Best Overlooked Film from two years ago, Fruitvale Station, and he reunites with that film’s star (Michael B. Jordan) to bring Creed to life. It’s a nice passing of the torch from Rocky Balboa to Apollo Creed’s son, and we’re excited to hear that Coogler plans to take some risks with the impending sequel. Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a restrained, subtle film that is compelling and sharp. It’s an engaging story with strong performances at its center. And finally, Todd Haynes returns to explore sexuality and identity with Carol, a movie that takes advantage of its 1950s setting to evoke colors and images that juxtapose intriguingly with its themes.

Directors who just missed our top 10 include Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation), J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight), and F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton).

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
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture
Top 10
Position Director Film Total Points
1 George Miller Mad Max: Fury Road 142
2 Alejandro González Iñárritu The Revenant 133
3 Adam McKay The Big Short 104
4 Tom McCarthy Spotlight 97
5 Ridley Scott The Martian 74
6 Alex Garland Ex Machina 70
7 Lenny Abrahamson Room 55
8 Ryan Coogler Creed 49
9 Steven Spielberg Bridge of Spies 42
10 Todd Haynes Carol 41

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