2007 Calvin Awards: Best Cast

February 14, 2007

Dude, they're all getting Dells.

In the history of our awards, the Best Cast category has never been more competitive than in 2006. For whatever reason, almost all of the talent-laden awards season contenders delivered upon the promise of their combined talent. The result is a category that is arguably the toughest to win as well as the most impressive out of all this year's awards. In the end, Occam's Razor carried the day. The movie that appeared to be the clear cut choice to win the category heading into the year held off all comers. The Departed is BOP's choice as Best Cast of 2006.

While there is probably no need to explain why, let's explore the situation anyway. The Departed features outstanding lead acting performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, two of our choices for Best Supporting Actor in Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, and one of our choices for Best Supporting Actress, Vera Farmiga. And this group does not even include other stalwarts such as Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen. Not bad, eh? This is a film that effectively blends in a relatively unknown actress, some television actors, a historically bland actor/recovering pop singer, and some of the greatest talents ruling over Hollywood today. The result is a special, once in a generation type of production not unlike The Godfather franchise in the 1970s or The Untouchables in the 1980s. BOP has The Departed currently rated as the likely winner in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards, and we believe it to be the easily defined choice for Best Cast of 2006.

Finishing a not-too-distant second is Little Miss Sunshine, a surprisingly strong contender in all our major categories this year. Whereas many of our top ten selections feature big name talent, this overachiever is an ensemble piece featuring quirkier choices. Toni Collette has received her share of Oscar acclaim, and Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin have had their moments in the sun as well. Steve Carell is better known for his television work, but he proved he could be a hilarious yet understated leading man with The 40-Year Old Virgin. And Paul Dano received a ton of critical acclaim for his brave performance in L.I.E. All of these actors suppressed their egos in order to work in a subversive family comedy/drama about an ill-fated trip to a children's beauty pageant. But what is most impressive for all involved is the way that they individually interact with a sweet little girl named Abigail Breslin, allowing her to be a focused, happy kid living out her dream. All of the industry veterans are made better by their interactions with the proverbial, titular Little Miss Sunshine. The understated, egoless performances comprise the second best cast of 2006.

The third place selection is The Queen, a fictional recreation of the events surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Much has been made of the performance of Helen Mirren in the title role, and rightfully so. What has not been stressed as much is that Michael Sheen, best known to North American audiences as Lucian in Underworld, is equally impressive as Tony Blair. In point of fact, you should already know by now that he won our Best Supporting Actor vote by the largest margin of any category winner this year. Everyone on our staff left the theater, jumped on the Internet and tried to figure out who this man was. He was just that impressive. And they are not the only noteworthy actors here. Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother, Helen McCrory as Mrs. Blair, James Cromwell as Prince Philip and particularly Alex Jennings as the bumbling Prince Charles all offered tour de force performances. The end result is a movie that could have easily been our choice for Best Cast in an average year. In 2006, The Queen will have to settle for third place.

United 93 is an unexpected choice for fourth place this year. Given the high level of competition in the category, this cast of virtual unknowns is the de facto Gonzaga in our little tournament of champions. The "best known" actor in the recreation of events from the ill-fated plane's crash on 9/11 is Christian Clemenson. You -might- know him from his work as Socrates on The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. or as Hands, a recurring character on Boston Legal. And if you don't know him, the next best known actors were the title character from the short-lived 1986 comedy, Sledge Hammer, Faye from Wings, and the bad guys from Ecks Vs. Sever, respectively. Obviously, big name actors are not what United 93 is about. Instead, it's an intentionally minimalist, character-driven exploration of how unprepared air traffic controllers as well as the military were in handling such a twisted form of terrorism. And there is a reason it has been a major contender/winner in almost every end-of-year awards vote. United 93 is a gripping, heroic interpretation of the events documented by the black box recovered from the flight. This cast might not be storied in their accomplishments, but their performances are as good as it gets.

Rounding out the top five is A Prairie Home Companion, the movie that proved to be legendary auteur Robert Altman's final production. The explanation of why we rate it so high simply involves a role call of the cast. Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, Lindsay Lohan, Tommy Lee Jones, Lily Tomlin, Virginia Madsen, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, and Garrison Keillor himself are all heavily featured in this layered, engrossing story.

Finishing in sixth and seventh place are The Devil Wears Prada and Children of Men. Prada's presence was always a foregone conclusion from the moment the trailer debuted. Even a snapshot view of the movie demonstrated that Meryl Streep owned the role. The reason why the movie is a nominee, however, is that others such as Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, and Stanley Tucci offered equally impressive performances. Children of Men is a movie in which we expected Clive Owen to be great. The same could be said of Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julianne Moore. We didn't even know who Claire-Hope Ashitey was yet you already know she finished in our top five for Best Supporting Actress. When the virtual unknowns are offering sublime performances, it's readily apparent that a cast has the midas touch.

The rest of our top ten includes a couple of unheralded choices plus an underrated comic book adaptation. Brick is an ambitious teen noir, a darker Veronica Mars if you will. Television stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emilie de Ravin and Nora Zehetner frontline a cast whose only known stars are the man formerly known as Shaft, Richard Roundtree, and Stomp the Yard/You Got Served/Roll Bounce's Meagan Good. The latter is finally not typecast as the pretty girl in a dance movie for a change, and she clearly relishes the opportunity as well as the innumerable fashion opportunities. This group of unknowns manage to offer a worthy 2006 answer to Bugsy Malone.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story's stars are also relative unknowns in the United States unless people have access to BBC: America. Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Dylan Moran, Shirley Henderson, and Jeremy Northam are all talented actors whose joint effort is exactly the sort of boisterous, witty British comedy that our staff eats up. V for Vendetta's central selling points are Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving but as far as supporting casts go, Steven Fry, Stephen Rea, John Hurt and BOP fave/Coupling scene stealer Ben Miles are as good as it gets.

Near misses in this category are The Descent, A Scanner Darkly, Lucky Number Slevin, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, The Good Shepherd, Inside Man, Cars, Shortbus, Quinceanera, and Night at the Museum. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Top 10
Position Film Total Points
1 The Departed 81
2 Little Miss Sunshine 64
3 The Queen 51
4 United 93 42
5 A Prairie Home Companion 34
6 The Devil Wears Prada 22
7 Children of Men 17
8 Brick 16
9 Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story 13
10 V for Vendetta 12

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