2018 Calvin Awards: Best Actress

By Kim Hollis

March 1, 2018

The billboards of rage!

It’s an embarrassment of riches in the Best Actress category, as four different women received more than 100 points, while 11 women received first place roles for varying roles.

Only one woman received six first place votes (out of 22), though. Frances McDormand finished well ahead of her competition, more than 20 points higher than the second place actress. In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, she plays the furious, hurting Mildred, a woman who has bought billboards to shame the police department for failing to investigate her daughter’s rape and murder.

The pain and tension are present on McDormand’s face every moment of the film. She carries guilt with her, and it feels like if you were to reach out and touch her, the tension might make her explode with anger. No, Mildred is not a likable character. She does terrible things (but also some good things). She hurts others in her quest for justice at all costs. But McDormand IS this character. Her heartbreak and rage are total.

Second place belongs to Saoirse Ronan for her portrayal of Lady Bird McPherson, a teenage girl with designs on leaving her hometown. Even though her family is struggling financially, Lady Bird wants to leave Sacramento and go to the East Coast for college.

Like McDormand’s Mildred, Lady Bird can be off-putting, but she also has those moments of charm and delight. In essence, she’s an awful lot like a real teenager. We experience Lady Bird’s highs and lows through Ronan’s eyes; she’s getting better as an actress with every performance.

Margot Robbie takes third place for her absolutely vicious portrayal of the complex real-life character Tonya Harding. She is at turns vulnerable, mean, trashy, and ebullient, all traits that likely are true of the actual Tonya. Robbie takes the charge of being an unreliable narrator, making us question Harding’s role in the assault on Nancy Kerrigan and believing her to perhaps have been a product of a less than nurturing environment. You’ll hate her. You probably won’t quite love her. But you’ll certainly be fascinated by her.

Most of our actress winners aren’t working with a deficit. Sally Hawkins plays a mute woman in The Shape of Water, making it necessary to communicate through signing and the expressiveness of her face. She absolutely succeeds, as her Elisa is charming, sweet, loyal and also determined. The wonder and excitement she experiences shine through in her eyes.


There’s always a danger in playing a beloved, iconic character from books or comics. We briefly got to see what Gal Gadot could do with the character of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman during her appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She was the high point of that film, quite frankly. She’s a treasure in Wonder Woman, both innocent and powerful, kind and tough. It’s rare that you find a performer so perfectly suited for their role, but Gadot truly does embody Wonder Woman.

Sixth, seventh and eighth place go to three women all portraying real-life characters whose stories are being brought to the big screen. The first of them is Jessica Chastain, whose portrayal of Molly Bloom in Molly’s Game turned a lot of heads this awards season (although she wouldn’t be nominated for Best Actress). She’s tough as nails when she needs to be, but also vulnerable. Chastain continues to be one of our greatest acting talents.

Next is Emma Stone as Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. If you’ve watched tennis, you know King well, and Stone was able to adopt some of her vocal inflections and tendencies in her portrayal of the woman who would be such a major influence in establishing women as a major force in tennis and other sports. Next, Meryl Streep is… well, she’s Meryl Streep. Of course she was going to be fantastic as Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post back in the 1970s. The thing about Streep is that she always throws herself into her character, and this one is no exception. She’s a woman learning her way in a man’s world, and she plays nicely off her male counterparts to get the emotions one would feel in that situation across.

Finally, in ninth and tenth we have a relative unknown and an actress who has won a Calvin Award from us previously. Vicky Krieps is a revelation in Phantom Thread. Her evanescent quality helps us to easily understand why Reynolds would fall for her, but varying shades of darkness begin to emerge as we get deeper into the film. And finally, Anne Hathaway wraps up tenth spot for her role in Colossal, where she makes us believe she could control a giant monster as her avatar.

Just missing the top ten were Elizabeth Olsen for Wind River, Victoria and Abdul’s Judi Dench, and Michelle Williams for All the Money in the World.

2018 Calvin Awards
Calvins Intro
Best Actor
Best Actress
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 Actress Film Total Points
1 Frances McDormand Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 135
2 Saoirse Ronan Lady Bird 113
3 Margot Robbie I, Tonya 111
4 Sally Hawkins The Shape of Water 103
5 Gal Gadot Wonder Woman 79
6 Jessica Chastain Molly's Game 69
7 Meryl Streep The Post 62
8 Emma Stone Battle of the Sexes 61
9 Vicky Krieps Phantom Thread 46
10 Anne Hathaway Colossal 38



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