2021 Calvins: Best Supporting Actress

By David Mumpower

April 2, 2021

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-jung Youn for Minari

If you couldn't tell from our Best Television Performances category, this past year provided an unprecedented number of opportunities for actresses.

The lingering ramifications of the #MeToo movement in Hollywood have forced executives to re-evaluate how the industry produces films.

Along the way, somebody finally noticed that more than half the population is female and started writing movies that they wanted to watch.

During this long-overdue epiphany, movie executives started noticing that there are more than the three accepted types of women in acting roles: Every Man's Fantasy, Prostitute, and Quirky Best Friend.

For this reason, Best Supporting Actress came with a great deal of intrigue. We actually had more quality candidates than slots available!

As such, first and second place in this category ran away with the voting, but third through tenth place proved exciting until the final vote was cast.

The winner in Best Supporting Actress is Yuh-Jung Youn for her role in Minari. I’m thrilled with this result because it reminds me of my family.

My mother and my niece are extremely close despite a 60-year age gap. However, once we met them for dinner after they’d vacationed together.

That entire meal, they picked at each other, revealing that they’d squabbled the whole return trip.

In Minari, the “sweet old lady” grandmother stereotype dies screaming, as “the Meryl Streep of South Korea” plays a cantankerous, mischievous older woman.

Her relationship with her young grandson gets off on the wrong foot, leading to a drinking incident that borders on unforgivable… and it’s not granny at fault.

Yuh-Jung Youn turns a stubbornly unsympathetic career into an endearing one. For that reason, she deserves the title of Best Supporting Actress.

Alas, the silver medalist didn’t go down without a fight. In fact, she didn’t…you know what, I’m going to stop there.

Suffice to say that 24-year-old Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova suffered through a tumultuous shoot for the Borat sequel.

Some things happened and almost happened that would scar any person’s soul. Bakalova’s willingness to throw herself into the role didn’t just earn critical acclaim.

This virtual unknown somehow impacted the presidential election! An incident involving her and a presidential advisor went viral because…well, it was gross.

Bakalova demonstrated the type of bravado that even screen legends couldn’t have managed. She went for it, even at legitimate personal risk.

I suspect the only reason the actress didn’t win is that there’s an argument to be made about how much she “acted” in the movie. It’s improv comedy with teeth. But she nailed every second of it.

Sadness pervades the movies that spawned our third and fourth nominations this year.

In Sound of Metal, Olivia Cooke plays a gifted musician from a wealthy family who has chosen life on the road with her boyfriend.

The two of them tour the country in an RV and play music gigs as a couple. Then, the man starts to lose his hearing, which leads to her finding her own voice as an artist.

As little as ten years ago, Cooke’s character would have been the selfish villain of the piece. Even then, Cooke’s humanity in this role would have disproved that notion.

Her palpable torture over the pain her boyfriend is enduring lingers in the memory as she finds contentment in a new stage of her career.

Our fourth selection is Dominique Fishback, who plays a real person in Judas and the Black Messiah.

As Akua Njeri nee Deborah Johnson, Fishback suffers mightily when she falls in love with Fred Hampton, the Chairman of the Black Panther Party.

No, Hampton doesn’t do anything to her. Instead, he falls victim to a vengeful government seeking to bring down the Black Panthers.

The end of the film requires Fishback to watch in horror as the worst thing imaginable occurs to the father of her soon-to-be-born child.

The dying man protects her, only to…well, you know. Fishback’s face provides the only insight for the audience to process this tragic display of police violence. Her horror is ours, and we won’t forget it.

Musical performances take the next three spots. Two of them come from Hamilton, the Broadway play turned into a film.

Our staff slightly favored Renee Elise Goldsberry over Phillipa Soo, an opinion with which I sorely disagree.

One portrays the woman in love with Alexander Hamilton, while the other portrays her sister, his wife. That's some Dynasty shit right there.

The seventh selection goes to Ariana DeBose for her coming out party in The Prom.

While more recognizable names received the attention in this film, DeBose carries the story with her frustration, admiration, and confusion.

The next two actresses on our list have been winning awards for decades now, and we love that they're getting significant roles again.

We lauded Candice Bergen for her work in Let Them All Talk. Finishing just beneath her in the voting is Gong Li as the villain in Mulan.

Finally, a newcomer to most (but not me as someone who watched Hit the Floor!), Taylour Paige earns a nomination for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Paige plays a bisexual musician in the delightful position of choosing between Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis.

As I said, this year’s category proved deep. Other strong candidates included Toni Colette (I’m Thinking of Ending Things), Amanda Seyfriend (Mank), Cristin Milioti (Palm Springs), Talia Ryder Never Rarely Sometimes Always), and Michelle Dockery (The Gentlemen).

Top 10
Position Actress Film Total Points
1 Yuh-Jung Youn Minari 156
2 Maria Bakalova Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 120
3 Olivia Cooke Sound of Metal 66
4 Dominique Fishback Judas and the Black Messiah 63
5 Renee Elise Goldsberry Hamilton 57
6 Phillipa Soo Hamilton 54
7 Ariana DeBose The Prom 51
8 Candice Bergen Let Them All Talk 48
9 Gong Li Mulan 39
10 Taylour Paige Ma Rainey's Black Bottom 36



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