2021 Calvins: Best Cast
By David Mumpower
April 3, 2021
When you think about your favorite film casts, what are your criteria?
Do you pick the ones that come from the best movies you’ve seen? Or are you more discriminating?
For example, a 2006 release you’ve long forgotten somehow starred Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, James Gandolfini, and Patricia Clarkson, among others.
That’s undeniably a sublime cast, but the movie sucked and bombed.
Our staff contemplates situations like this throughout the year so that we’ll have a more informed vote right now.
Here are our choices for Best Cast. This year, we leaned toward great movies, which isn’t always the case.
Have you ever watched a show called The 100? There’s an actor in that pilot who is so bad that he made me want to gouge my eyes out.
I voted him in the top 10 for Lead Actor this year. That’s what happens when you place someone in a position to succeed rather than in an underwritten role.
I mention this because the performance comes from One Night in Miami, our runaway choice as the winner in Best Cast.
Honestly, if you read Best Supporting Actor, this won’t come as a surprise. Our top two performers in that category come from the film.
The story involves several of the most famous African American celebrities of the 1960s meeting at a Miami hotel.
Ostensibly, they’re there to hang out, but the famous men discover that they have much to discuss…and it’s mesmerizing!
There’s zero intrigue at the top of our list, but the second through fourth selections finish in a virtual tie.
The silver medal goes to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which features an acting category winner and a runner-up. Obviously, we’re pretty impressed with the cast.
Viola Davis portrays the titular character, but we all know it’s Chadwick Boseman’s movie, the final lasting impression of a supremely talented man.
Speaking of which, Da Five Bloods finishes in third, which tells you how much we’ll miss Boseman.
Of course, Da Five Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom are both ensemble pieces with talent that goes deeper than Boseman and Davis.
Veteran performers like Delroy Lindo and Lance Reddick join rising talents like Jonathan Majors and Leslie Odom Jr. in the two movies, demonstrating that Hollywood has learned from recent mistakes.
We’re getting exceptional casts that look more like American society now.
Speaking of which, the other titles in our top five are Trial of the Chicago 7 and Minari.
The former film explores the ludicrous show trial that saw Yippies and Black Panthers threatened with jail time, primarily for being Yippies and Black Panthers.
The cast of Trial of the Chicago 7 is so deep that six different performers received votes in our acting categories this year.
Minari cannot claim that kind of depth, but it featured three roles that we adored.
Remarkably, we only knew one of the actors, Steven Yeun, before the film. Then, a young boy and an older woman stole our hearts.
This turn of events reinforces the fact that BOP’s staff usually leans toward a cast that exceeds our expectations over one that coasts off name recognition.
The trend of films with impressive minority casts continues in sixth and seventh place.
Judas and the Black Messiah costars two BOP faves, Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuyah, both of whom have performed well in previous editions of The Calvins. Oh, and it’s got Jesse Plemons, too!
Our next selection, Hamilton, broke the brains of voters. If we judged it solely on the merits of the movie, Hamilton might have won the category.
Alas, many of us cannot get past the fact that it’s a Broadway play filmed for theatrical release. Like, there’s nothing different about the performance.
Also, the cast we see in the movie hasn’t worked on Hamilton for years…unless viral videos count. So, its selection feels like a cheat, even in seventh place.
Two awards contenders and an instant BOP fave round out the top ten.
The first contender is Promising Young Woman, which tells the story of a woman who dropped out of medical school.
I guess she had to do so because she wanted to violate the Hippocratic Oath over and over again. The perception of this film is that it’s a star vehicle, but the overall cast excels.
The other potential Oscars winner is Sound of Metal, the brutal story of a musician who starts to go deaf.
Since his livelihood and even his living accommodations depend on his ability to hear, it’s a devastating, life-changing turn of events.
The three featured players in the film – Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, and Paul Raci – are absolutely fantastic.
Our tenth and final selection is a personal favorite of mine from 2020, The High Note.
This film's primary quintet consists of Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Roth, newcomer Kelvin Harrison, Ice Cube, and Bill Pullman.
I mean, Eddie Izzard even makes a scene-stealing appearance! It’s a feel-good story that the cast clearly relishes.
We were all over the place with our Best Cast voting this year. A few other titles that made a strong run at a nomination include Soul, Mank, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The Gentlemen, Sylvie’s Love, and News of the World.
||One Night in Miami
||Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
||Da 5 Bloods
||Trial of the Chicago 7, The
||Judas and the Black Messiah
||Promising Young Woman
||Sound of Metal
||The High Note