2012 Best Actress Nominees

Hollywood has been typically stingy in its willingness to give quality roles to women this year, and because of it there’s really only one Hollywood film represented in this bunch of nominees (The Silver Linings Playbook).  Three of the remaining nominees are for European films and one of them is for a true independent film.  To be fair to Hollywood, there have been a handful of female led blockbusters (The Hunger Games, Brave, Snow White and the Huntsman) but they still seem to want to leave the really challenging stuff for the men (don’t kill the messenger).

  •  Emmanuelle Riva – Amour: Emmanuelle Riva began her career by staring in Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon Amour and now, over fifty years later, she may have sung her swan song in another more understated film with the word “amour” in its title.  She’ll break your heart I this film by creating a very realistic character and then slowly forcing you to watch her descend into the depths of sickness both physical and mental.
  • Ann Dowd – Compliance: Ann Dowd was campaigned as a supporting actress throughout the award season, but I think the role is very clearly a lead.  Playing the real life manager of a fast food restaurant that finds itself embroiled in a bizarre incident sparked by a strange prank phone call, the veteran character actress creates a middle-aged heartland woman who comes to do terrible things while thinking that she’s completely justified the whole time.  Dowd does a good job of portraying the character’s bizarre self-justifications.
  • Nadezhda Markina – Elena: I didn’t necessarily love this Russian film from Andrey Zvyagintsev, but it did have a very strong performance at its center by this fine actress whose name I cannot pronounce.  Playing a woman put in the difficult position of having to choose between her new husband and her grandchild and you aren’t entirely sure where she’s going to go with her choice until something shocking happens midway into the film’s runtime.
  • Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone: Though most of her best work is done in foreign language cinema, Marion Cotillard is a movie star if ever there was one.  In Rust and Bone she plays a young woman who loses her legs in an accident and has to try to rebuild her life from there.  Cotillard does a good job of making her disability seem real, but I also like how she never forgets that she’s supposed to be playing a really cool character in spite of the injury.
  • Jennifer Lawrence – The Silver Linings Playbook: What can I say about Jennifer Lawrence except that she’s obviously had a hell of a year.  While Winter’s Bone was her critical debut and The Hunger Games proved that she could head a major commercial production, I think that The Silver Linings Playbook may mark her true ascendance to stardom.  Playing a character who could have easily fallen into goth girl or manic pixie dreamgirl clichés she manages to really create a genuine character that can’t be so easily labeled of dismissed.

 And the Golden Stake goes to…

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