2020 Calvin Awards: Best Actor

By David Mumpower

February 14, 2020

You used up all the glue on purpose!

In Best Supporting Actor, I explained how three actors all staked a claim to two awards. With Kim Ki-taek slotted in Parasite, a lead actor discovered a clear path to victory. Our results were unexpectedly top-heavy, though. Nine selections garnered at least 50 points, indicating that our staff acted decisively in voting for this category.

The winner for Best Actor this year is Adam Driver. While the (presumably) final outing as Kylo Ren may have disappointed some, Driver still garnered much acclaim for his work in Marriage Story. The actor portrays a driven playwright and theater director in New York City. For many years now, his wife has acted as his star and muse in these works.

Alas, the marriage has fallen apart, which is something of a surprise to the auteur. He spends much of the film confused about his role as a newly single parent in a combative divorce proceeding. Driver’s masterful turn displays the right notes of confusion, understated rage, and frustration. In the hands of a lesser actor, this character might have seemed too aloof. Driver provides the humanity that saves the story.

Leonardo DiCaprio finishes in second place for his work in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. One of the world’s most accomplished actors, DiCaprio draws on life experience for his role as Rick Dalton, a faded 1950s television actor trying to restore his reputation in the 1960s.

Once too proud for spaghetti westerns, Dalton has discovered that he only has one purpose in Hollywood. Other television shows bring him in as a villain to prove that their hero is better than this famous face from a decade ago.

DiCaprio somehow wears a mask of false pride during a series of humiliating events. Eventually, he’s so defeated that he takes acting advice from a grade school student and child actor. Only DiCaprio could make this role so believable.

Third place goes to the most recent Joker, Joaquin Phoenix. When the actor’s not delivering incomprehensible awards speeches, he’s reminding the world that the Phoenix family is freakishly talented. This time, the former Commodus has evolved from villain into antihero as Arthur Fleck, the titular Joker. It’s a mesmerizing performance that raises interesting questions about societal responsibility.

Our other top-five nominees this year are Antonio Banderas and Daniel Craig. Banderas had a spectacular year thanks to The Laundromat and (especially) Pain and Glory. We laud the latter film, wherein the actor portrays a creatively stifled director reflecting on his youth. In Knives Out, Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a baffled private detective who doesn’t know who hired him, only that he must solve a murder. Craig’s funnier in this role than he ever has been at anything in his life…and I include Logan Lucky in that.

The unlikely combo of Christian Bale and Eddie Murphy earns our next two nominations. We were deeply impressed by Bale’s turn as Kent Miles, the mercurial driver who somewhat emerged victorious in Ford v. Ferrari. And we adored that Murphy delivered his latest comeback as the main character in Dolemite Is My Name. He’s pitch-perfect for this brash, over-the-top role.


The final three selections this year include a virtual unknown, a heralded thespian, and a winner from a different category. Like the rest of the free world, BOP had no idea who George MacKay was before 1917’s release. Now, we’re fans and can’t wait to watch whatever he does next.

Jonathan Pryce leveraged his research as the High Sparrow on Game of Thrones into another examination of a conflicted clergyman in The Two Popes. Nobody dies in a building-destroying explosion in this one. Anyone who watches it will come out loving Pope Francis, though.

Finally, Brad Pitt does something unusual this year. After winning Best Supporting Actor – I really hope you read these in order; otherwise, I just spoiled something – Pitt also earns a nomination for Best Actor for his work in Ad Astra. We loved him as a laconic, conflicted explorer desperately in search of some theological explanations and a bit of parental closure.

The lead actor category is always among the most competitive, as Hollywood's still pretty sexist, giving the overwhelming majority of the best roles to men. Keeping that in mind, we had no trouble finding worthy parts in 2020.

A few of our favorites are Robert Downey Jr. (Avengers: Endgame), Robert De Niro (The Irishman), Ian McShane (Deadwood), Mena Massoud (Aladdin), Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Taron Egerton (Rocketman), Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell), Himesh Patel (Yesterday), and Keanu Reeves (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum).

2020 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 Actor Film Total Points
1 Adam Driver Marriage Story 105
2 Leonardo DiCaprio Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood 89
3 Joaquin Phoenix Joker 81
4 Antonio Banderas Pain and Glory 68
5 Daniel Craig Knives Out 64
6 Christian Bale Ford v Ferrari 60
7 Eddie Murphy Dolemite Is My Name 57
8 George MacKay 1917 54
9 Jonathan Pryce Two Popes 53
10 Brad Pitt Ad Astra 36



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