2017 Calvin Awards: Best Actress
By Kim Hollis
February 23, 2017
A competitive Best Actress race this year led to our Calvin Award winner taking the prize by nine points, despite the fact that more voters selected the second place winner for first place. The magic of a preferential voting system means that a person with more overall votes higher on the ballot can squeak by for the win.
Yes, the Calvin Award for Best Actress goes to Amy Adams for her stirring work in Arrival. As linguist Louise Banks, Adams’ character is tasked with interpreting the language of some extraterrestrials that have arrived on Earth with the purpose of understanding their purpose. There’s a lot more to her performance than simply convincing us that she’s a brilliant scholar of language. Arrival is a story that is introspective and existential, and we experience those moods and themes through Adams as she makes an impossible decision that will impact her every moment of her life. We empathize with her, for Louise is truly a proxy for all of us.
Although she had more first place votes, Emma Stone finished just nine points behind Adams in this category. The frontrunner for the Oscars, Stone dazzled us in La La Land as Mia, a young woman trying to capture her dreams of being an actress and writing screenplays in Hollywood. We see Mia’s irritation with a seemingly entitled L.A. denizen on the freeway, her liveliness when she’s heading out for a night on the town, her devastation when she’s not chosen for a role, and her deep hurt when tough realities in her relationship are exposed. Stone is an utter delight in this film, the kind of young person you can imagine taking on the world and ultimately succeeding.
Third place goes to Loving’s Ruth Negga. For her portrayal of Mildred Jeter Loving, who along with her husband Richard Loving was the plaintiff in a Supreme Court decision that overturned state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, Negga turned in a subtle and quiet performance that is multi-layered and compelling. Thanks to her restrained performance, Loving is a film that gives the viewer genuine compassion for Mildred Loving and the ordeal she and her husband must face.
Just one point behind Negga is Natalie Portman, who absolutely embodied a young Jacqueline Kennedy in the biopic Jackie. As the film shifts between her early days as First Lady and the aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination, we see different sides of Jackie. She’s unsure of herself in her early days but brave nonetheless, taking a camera and reporter with her on a tour of the White House. After JFK is killed, she’s at turns stoic and a wreck, which is easy to imagine being the case in that situation.
The incomparable Taraji P. Henson is our fifth place selection. In Hidden Figures, her Katherine Johnson is the central figure amongst several African-American women mathematicians who worked for NASA as the space program was in its early stages of development. By now, we know that Henson is terrific in every film or show in which she appears, but her measured performance here is laudable and memorable.
Our selections in the sixth through ninth position are a virtual who’s who of the Grande Dames of the movie industry. The first of these talented women is Isabelle Huppert, who plays business owner Michele Leblanc. After Michele is raped, she begins to try to track down the man who did it. Somehow, this revenge tale because a lighthearted thriller in her (and director Paul Verhoeven’s) hands.
If Huppert is France’s greatest treasure, perhaps her American counterpart is Meryl Streep, who placed seventh in our Best Actress voting for her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins. At this point, what more is there really to say about Streep? She can do it all, really, and she proves it here as well as the New York heiress who becomes an opera singer famed only for her lack of skill. She plays the role with a quirky oddity that is endearing, even if the singing may make you need to press mute.
Eighth place goes to Annette Bening for playing Dorothea Fields in 20th Century Women. As a well-intended mother who wants to do the right thing but can’t quite get there, she’s both genial and yet also flawed. Next up after Bening is Helen Mirren, once a winner in this category for her performance in The Queen. This year, we recognize her for a tough role in Eye in the Sky, where she plays an unflinching colonel in the British Army who must collaborate with a team on making the tough call whether to bomb the home of a potential terrorist. Finally, we loved Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship, as she is magnetic and charming in her portrayal of Lady Susan Vernon, a heroine of a little-known Jane Austen novel.
A few names who just missed inclusion in our top ten are Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane).
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
|| Amy Adams
|| Emma Stone
||La La Land
|| Ruth Negga
|| Natalie Portman
|| Taraji P. Henson
|| Isabelle Huppert
|| Meryl Streep
||Florence Foster Jenkins
|| Annette Bening
||20th Century Women
|| Helen Mirren
||Eye in the Sky
|| Kate Beckinsale
||Love & Friendship