2021 Calvins: Best Actor

By David Mumpower

April 2, 2021

Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Let's face facts. Hollywood's incredibly sexist. Even though the situation is thankfully improving, most of the best parts go to dudes.

As such, the category of Lead Actor is always a brutal battle among some of the industry’s most famous celebrities.

This year’s voting didn’t play out like that, though. Perhaps tragedy impacted our thought process, but that’s impossible to say for sure.

We also simply may have loved the latest star turn from one of the world's most outstanding performers.

Whatever the reason, this result was a blowout. In fact, it exists in two phases. There's a massive gap between first and second and then another to third.

Afterward, the bunching continues through the sixth pick. Then, the rest of the top ten is relatively close.

You've already guessed the winner, though. We're happy-sad to confirm that Chadwick Boseman is our choice for Best Actor this year.

The role in question comes from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a film where Boseman plays an ambitious musician unhappy to play second fiddle to the main attraction.

This story provides challenges, as Ma Rainey was real, but the other characters in the film are more along the lines of amalgams.

As Levee Green, Boseman acts like a confident man with something of a shoe fetish. Later, his insecurities trickle out, leading to a tragic conclusion.

Of course, there’s no way to separate this discussion from the real-life events of 2020. Boseman died after a protracted illness, one he hid from all but a handful of people.

As such, this award is posthumous, a final tribute from our staff to the illustrious leader of the Wakanda in our hearts.

In any other year, Riz Ahmed might have proven more competitive for the title. His mesmerizing turn in Sound of Metal is definitely deserving of such acclaim.

Ahmed's work involves a hard rock drummer who tours the country in an RV with his girlfriend/music partner.

Unbeknownst to her, he’s suffered from hearing loss that suddenly progresses until he’s nearly deaf. And that’s just the first act.

Everything that happens after that is just... stunning. Everything else in the story nearly fades away as Ahmed’s brilliance outshines everything.

Dead for half a century, Malcolm X continues to provide star-making opportunities for those who retell his story.

The latest example involves One Night in Miami. Kingsley Ben-Adir portrays the Muslim leader on a night just before his death.

The actor provides just the right combination of gravitas and a bit of nerdish insecurity to a man who found his calling by walking out on his own.

The rest of our top five pays tribute to the 1950s. No, I don’t mean the era. I mean two thespians born early in that decade.

68-year-old Delroy Lindo won my heart forever for his role in Get Shorty and then has spent 25 years proving that he is, if anything, even better than that.

With Da Five Bloods, Lindo somehow turns an African American MAGA supporter into a compelling, credible character. He’s just that good as an actor.

The other BOP fave who receives another nod is Bill Murray. He won one of the earliest iterations of the award for Lost in Translation.

This year, we lauded his reunion with Sofia Coppola in On the Rocks, a spiritual successor of sorts that presumes Murray is a horny cad.

You can judge for yourself how much acting Murray performs with this particular role.

Sixth and seventh place go to Steven Yeun and Leslie Odom, Jr. While Yeun will forever live as Glenn in our hearts, he’s found lofty heights with Minari.

In this movie, Yeun’s character sexes chickens while plotting farming techniques to secure his family's future.

His determination shines through, especially at the end of Minari, when he finds... a minari. If that’s a spoiler, blame the title!

Before you say that Odom Jr. had a supporting role in One Night in Miami, know that we agree. We're crediting him as the lead in Hamilton, which is a supportable conclusion.

Here’s a question. Who is the lead in One Night in Miami? Our staff was all over the place with our voting on this particular topic.

Ultimately, we decided that Eli Goree earns a claim for his work as Cassius Clay. Well, that’s the character’s name at the start of the film.

Our other two entrants this year are BOP faves Gary Oldman and Jesse Plemons.

Oldman has rightfully received plenty of his attention as the titular screenwriter in Mank.

As for Plemons, he’s Landry forever for our Friday Night Lights devotees. For the rest, he’s creepy Todd from Breaking Bad.

Either way, he’s having a remarkable acting career, with I’m Thinking of Ending Things as the latest example of his mad genius.

Many other worthy performances narrowly missed nominations this year.

Sacha Baron Cohen's return as Borat pleased fans and somehow impacted the 2020 election, which is somewhat difficult to reconcile.

We also loved Lakeith Stanfield for Judas and the Black Messiah, Nnamdi Asomugha for Sylvie’s Love, Dev Patel for the Personal History of David Copperfield, Matthew McConaughey for The Gentlemen, Tom Hanks for News of the World, Anthony Hopkins for The Father, and Adarsh Gouravi for The White Tiger.

Top 10
Position Actor Film Total Points
1 Chadwick Boseman Ma Rainey's Black Bottom 213
2 Riz Ahmed The Sound of Metal 132
3 Kingsley Ben-Adir One Night in Miami 96
4 Delroy Lindo Da 5 Bloods 93
5 Bill Murray On the Rocks 87
6 Steven Yeun Minari 81
7 Leslie Odom Jr. Hamilton 57
8 Eli Goree One Night in Miami 51
9 Gary Oldman Mank 45
10 Jesse Plemons I'm Thinking of Ending Things 42



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