I enter into this category with one major regret: that I never got a chance to see Jacki Weaver’s work in the movie Animal Kingdom. I didn’t have the time to go out to the one theater in my area that was playing the movie and seeing it on DVD hasn’t worked out either (it’s been sitting on “very long wait” at the top of my Netflix queue for a while). Outside of that, I still think I was able to put together a fairly solid roster of nominees.
- Mellissa Leo- The Fighter: Mellissa Leo is an old pro, and I loved her work in the 90s on the show “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Recently she seems to have made a rise to prominence, largely because of some good work she did in the movie Frozen River. Here she plays the larger than life blue collar mother from hell. You could say she’s just chewing scenery, but her character is supposed to be larger than life, and I’d say it was an appropriate choice.
- Mia Wasikowska- The Kids Are All Right: Sitting pretty in the “best newcomer” corner is Mia Wasikowska, who followed up a noticeable role on HBO’s “In Treatment” with roles in the high grossing “Alice in Wonderland” and this critical darling. These kind of teenage roles can often become grating, but Wasikowska is able to turn her character into a “nice girl” without coming off saccharine or precocious. She makes the audience care about the character as much as the mothers do.
- Keira Knightley- Never Let Me Go: A lot of people like to make fun of Keira Knightley, but she finds a way to keep surprising me. In this film she’s in the background, playing a foil to Carey Mulligan’s lead role. In doing so she also greatly de-glamorizes herself, especially towards the end of the film where she turns into an almost unrecognizable sickly character who needs to seem old while still being young. Disturbing stuff.
- Delphine Chanéac- Splice: This is the kind of performance that’s easy to overlook, firstly because it’s different from what we usually look for in a performance and secondly because it’s from an actress who is completely unknown. Playing a genetically spliced monster, Chanéac needs to straddle the line between human and inhuman, generating sympathy for an entity that’s completely foreign to humanity. That she does this under heavy makeup and without spoken lines adds to the achievement.
- Blake Lively- The Town: Blake Lively is one of those actresses who I hear the name of all the time, but who manages to never make a single movie that catches my interest. I have no interest in seeing any of those movies, but her work here as the main character’s baby-mama certainly impressed me. She does the Boston thing well in a year where everyone was doing it and was still able to stand out while doing it.