2020 Calvin Awards: Best Character
By David Mumpower
February 13, 2020
One of our quirkiest, most unique categories at The Calvins is Best Character. The rules for this one are pretty simple. Any character that hasn’t appeared in any film previously can win the category.
So, you won’t see anyone from the Marvel Cinematic Universe here in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame (although one character from Captain Marvel did receive votes). Similarly, the Joker is out, even though Arthur Fleck is arguably different than prior versions of the comic book villain.
Keeping these rules in mind, this year’s Best Character voting provided the most eclectic set of candidates ever. Only three characters received multiple first-place votes, and one of them, a plastic utensil, didn’t even earn a spot in the top ten. You can deduce who I mean, although I’ll spell it out at the end.
The winner this year is Cliff Booth from Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, a role portrayed by Brad Pitt. However, I’ll go ahead and discuss our fifth nominee as well, since the two of them are an inseparable duo in the film.
Booth works as a stunt double for Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), making the former man wholly dependent on the other. Sadly, Dalton’s career has seen better days, as the action star’s television series has ended. So, Booth and Dalton embark on a series of misadventures as they’re mutually interested in reinvigorating Dalton’s career.
Along the way, Booth stumbles into several awkward situations, one of which is a possibly delusional flashback involving Bruce Lee. Another is an all-too-real encounter with a group of cultists. The stuntman never flinches in the face of danger in either situation, providing the affable charm that would befit a leading man like Dalton.
The characters seem to enjoy this inconsistency in their lives, and their buddy comedy moments thoroughly entertained our staff. However, by this point, everyone knows that Pitt, who won an Oscar for this role, is the scene-stealer, while DiCaprio’s just along for the ride. Even so, we loved both characters, just the stuntman a bit more than his counterpart…or any other character this year.
Did you know that there’s a medical condition that causes a person to vomit any time they’re dishonest? Well, the creators of Knives Out sure did, and they constructed a brilliant murder mystery around this idea.
None of the ideas would work without the presence of Marta, whom several members of our staff believed to be the Best Character of the year. Her forced nausea segments are laugh-out-loud funny, while her secrets and heritage make her the perfect foil for a family full of xenophobic snobs.
Frankly, Marta should have won this category, but Knives Out suffered a worse fate than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In the latter film, Booth clearly outshines Dalton. In Knives Out, a different character earned the second-largest number of first-place votes. So, the appeal of Detective Benoit Blanc worked against Marta. The two characters finish second and third in the voting due to this split opinion about which one was superior.
I will continue to muddy the waters on the ordering on this list due to the voting results. In this case, I must discuss the fourth and eighth selections, both of whom are accurately described as Little Women. Our staff adored all of the March sisters, giving each one at least some attention in the category.
In fact, the situation led to an existential crisis. I just told you the rules about Best Character, but there HAVE been previous versions of this film. None of them has come in the past quarter-century, though. So we decided to make an exception here due to the overall passion our voters have the subject matter.
Their favorite characters are Amy, the most mercurial of the March sisters, and Jo, the introvert writer of the bunch. The women finish fourth and eighth, respectively. But we’d vote the entire family onto the list if we could. This adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic somehow finds the perfect tone for a challenging story.
I know that I’ve skipped around quite a bit since three films received a total of six selections. I wanted to keep them in pairs, leaving us with four nominees that we’ve yet to discuss.
Ken Miles finishes in sixth place, as Christian Bale provides yet another masterful performance as an intolerant racer driven to excel. Miles has remained famous decades after his death due to his combustible personality and undeniable excellence at his craft. Ford vs. Ferrari highlights both aspects of the man in a respectful, endearing way.
Ninth place goes to Amy Antsler, the dedicated student in Booksmart. After learning that she could have had a bit more fun in high school but still gotten into a great college, Amy dedicates her weekend to having the best time ever. It…doesn’t go well, but that’s the charm of teen comedies about unforgettable parties and drunken hijinks. Amy’s ferocious, independent, and self-respecting, traits that we haven’t seen often enough in teenage women in movies like this. She’s inspiring.
Our final selections are actually seventh and tenth nominees, both of whom come from Parasite. Kim Ki-woo is a loyal son and brother who simply wants to help his family get out of their rut. They’re poor but enterprising, and he stumbles on a solution to their struggles. His father, Kim Ki-taek, tends to screw up, an issue that crops up several times during the movie.
The father/son tandem receives the most screen time, but our staff voted for six different characters. Since four of them were women, I have regrets that the men became our only nominees. Still, Parasite’s exploration of characters rivals anything released over the past calendar year…or ever, really.
A boatload of characters nearly earned a nomination. Our staff also adored Molly Davidson (Booksmart), Dolemite (Dolemite Is My Name), Billi (The Farewell), Forky (Toy Story 4), Ramona (Hustlers), Red (Us), and Jorge Bergoglio (The Two Popes).
2020 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
|| Cliff Booth
||Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
|| Detective Benoit Blanc
|| Amy March
|| Rick Dalton
||Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
|| Ken Miles
||Ford v Ferrari
|| Kim Ki-woo
|| Jo March
|| Amy Antsler
|| Kim Ki-taek