2007 Calvin Awards: Best Actor

February 16, 2007

I'm sorry, but I was deemed a lead actor, too!

Our Best Actor category produced an unusual result this year. Two different movies have two actors who received enough votes to place in our top ten. Overall, the category is well-represented a variety of both popular and up-and-coming performers. It's a fairly youthful group, too, with the oldest of them being 46 years of age.

Our top spot goes to Leonardo DiCaprio for his portrayal of the deep, deep undercover cop Billy Costigan in The Departed. DiCaprio was a double-whammy threat this year for lead performances in both The Departed and The Blood Diamond. Whereas the Academy chose to nominate him for his role as a South African diamond smuggler, the BOP staff felt that his nuanced work in The Departed was far more worthy of recognition. His character's struggles to keep his secret even as multiple forces are working against him allowed DiCaprio to show his range in a way that previously shone strongly through in The Aviator. It was enough to win him the category by nine votes.

Next up is Forest Whitaker, who gives an absolutely unforgettable performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. A follower of the method acting school, Whitaker immersed himself in the role as he prepared to portray the notorious dictator. He did a prodigious amount of research into the life of Amin, and even went so far as to have personal conversations with the man's friends and family. The result was that Whitaker was able to present a character who was ridiculously charismatic to the point that it's perfectly understandable that people would adore him in the beginning. He was able to effortlessly slip from manic and infuriated to placating and smiling in a moment's time. It's a tribute to him that in a story that should have been quite difficult to watch, it was impossible to tear one's eyes from the screen.

Clive Owen finishes in third place for his superb performance as Theo Faron, a worker in a simple cube farm whose 'talents' become critical for the future of the entire planet. We see all of the action through his character's eyes, and it is this interpretation that shows us the mistakes the British government is making as well as the horror of the beliefs of certain splinter groups. Throughout the film, it's as easy to imagine him coming up with a clever, covert solution to a problem as it is to see him picking up a weapon and fighting his way through. If he wasn't going to be chosen to play James Bond, we're thrilled to see him in amazing films like this one.

Fourth place belongs to Aaron Eckhart, whose smarmy Nick Naylor is note-perfect. Eckhart's character is the lead spokesman for Big Tobacco, and he is able to present a man whose personal ethics have little to do with the job he is paid for. We see the movie unfold as Naylor's relationship with his son becomes challenging in the light of how he makes his living. Eckhart is charismatic and glib even as we can see how the North American public would find Naylor to be an appalling human being.

Taking the final top five spot is Matt Damon, who was almost-but-not-quite-as-awesome as Leo in The Departed. Damon plays the yang to DiCaprio's yin as he is the cop who has been groomed as a mole by an Irish mob boss. This performance hearkens back a bit to Damon's earlier portrayal of Tom Ripley, the amoral wannabe with aspirations to greatness. As Colin Sullivan, he has to react much the same way as he must betray coworkers whom he has known for years as well as attempt to undo the efforts of good men.

2006 was Sacha Baron Cohen's year, and who is BOP to deny him that? Cohen finishes in sixth place for his ludicrously over-the-top portrayal of the Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev in the lengthily titled Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Say what you will about the unevenness of the film, it still manages to be one of the more original and brave theatrical productions of the last several years. All that is really due to Cohen's willingness to totally go for it with the character of Borat. He's so good in the role that producers for news programs were totally willing to accept that he was exactly who he was claiming to be - not to mention any number of other people who fell into the trap and were forced to reveal faults and foibles. He's probably not ever going to catch anyone off guard ever again, but it sure was fun while it lasted.

Seventh and eighth place go to Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson and The Last King of Scotland's James McAvoy. Gosling's name was a pleasant surprise when the Best Actor nominees were announced for the Academy Awards. He plays a drug-addicted teacher who does a fine job of illustrating the frailty of humanity. As for McAvoy, he attracted our notice as the man who agrees to become both friend and personal physician to someone who turns out to be a monster. It is a credit to McAvoy that we believe his performance to be so noteworthy when he's playing alongside someone who is taking so many kudos this year.

We close out the top ten with new James Bond Daniel Craig and V for Vendetta's Hugo Weaving. Craig did exactly what was asked of him in Casino Royale. He recreated James Bond as the more cultured brute that author Ian Fleming had imagined when he wrote the character. The result was a fantastic reboot for the series and new life for a character that many people had outgrown. Hugo weaving is included for being able to convey irony, emotion, intelligence and pain all while performing behind a Guy Fawkes mask.

Other actors who we loved this year (but not quite enough to make our top ten) were Matt Damon (again) for his performance in The Good Shepherd, Josh Hartnett in Lucky Number Slevin, A Scanner Darkly's Keanu Reeves, Edward Norton in The Illusionist and Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story's Steve Coogan. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Top 10
Position Actor Film Total Points
1 Leonardo DiCaprio The Departed 72
2 Forest Whitaker The Last King of Scotland 63
3 Clive Owen Children of Men 50
4 Aaron Eckhart Thank You for Smoking 41
5 Matt Damon The Departed 39
6 Sacha Baron Cohen Borat 29
7 Ryan Gosling Half Nelson 22
8 James McAvoy The Last King of Scotland 20
9 Daniel Craig Casino Royale 18
10 Hugo Weaving V for Vendetta 15

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