2017 Calvin Awards Best Picture

By David Mumpower

February 24, 2017

I failed the Rorschach test.

All 16 categories at The Calvins are important to our staff. Whether we’re discussing the unique ones that are exclusive to our site, the conventional ones that everyone does, or a retired one that won’t be coming back (RIP, Best DVD!), they all matter to us. Still, the reality is that the grand champion of the categories is Best Picture.

Over the first 15 years of The Calvins, here are the films we’ve previously honored as the best of the best: About a Boy, The Artist, The Bourne Ultimatum, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Gravity, Lost in Translation, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Queen, The Royal Tenenbaums, Serenity, Silver Linings Playbook, The Social Network, Up, WALL-E, and Whiplash. Obviously, we have eclectic tastes in cinema, and it’s difficult to anticipate the type of film that will capture our fancy each year. So, what’s the 16th entrant? Well, the picture above is a strong hint…

Arrival is the overwhelming choice as the Best Picture of the year. It almost earned as many points as the second and third films combined, and it also claimed easily the most first place votes. While this result wasn’t the runaway that, say, Gravity was a few years ago, it’s still one of the most dominant outcomes in the history of the category.

What did we like about Arrival? Judging by this year’s results, the answers are the screenplay, the direction, and the performance of Amy Adams, all of which we lauded with category wins. The Calvins aren’t designed for the same film to win several awards, so when a single title wins four major categories, the results speak for themselves.

BOP loved the dutiful point by point storytelling required to relay such a complex idea in easily understandable parcels. We admired the sacrifice required by one of the characters to save the human race. And we were blown away by the subtle way that Arrival subverted expectations by inverting standard movie conventions to hide the film’s secret in plain sight.


Arrival is a heavyweight in the realm of science fiction, an instant classic that we’ll admire for years to come. Over the past 16 years, it’s only the fourth science fiction film we’ve felt was worthy of the title of Best Picture, joining Gravity, Serenity, and WALL-E in the pantheon of epic storytelling. Our staff especially admires that it doesn’t offer a finite answer to the thoughtful question Dr. Louise Banks asks. “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?”

At the time of publication, La La Land is only a few days away from its expected coronation as Best Picture at the Academy Awards. At The Calvins, however, it’ll have to settle for second place. Our staff felt like we were in a hypnotic trance as we watched this stylish recreation of the Hollywood dream. Director Damien Chazelle distilled the premise into two forms, with Ryan Gosling as the wannabe musician too principled to take easy, high-paying gigs, and Emma Stone as the unmistakably talented actress that the studio system is too blind to notice.

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