This category is often one of the hardest to come up with for some reason and this year’s roster seems uniquely eclectic. A couple of notes, I’ve heard that Helen Hunt is great in The Sessions but I didn’t get a chance to see it, secondly I’ve left Anne Hathaway’s work in Les Misérables out of this because her role is almost small enough to be a cameo and I already gave her that Best Musical Performance award and that seems like enough.
- Isabelle Huppert – Amour: A ton of well deserved attention has been lavished upon the two lead actors in Amour, so much that I didn’t even know going in that great French actress Isabelle Huppert was even in the film. Playing the distraught daughter who’s trying to makes sense of her parents’ health woes. While her father is facing the situation with a degree of stoicism, Huppert’s character is devastated and noticeably sorrowful.
- Shirley MacLaine – Bernie: After a long career, Shirley MacLaine has become one of the finer older actresses around today. In Bernie she plays a town pariah, a woman who becomes absolutely hated less because of any overtly horrible behavior and more out of an abundance of extremely rude behavior. MacLaine needs to be make the audience believe that the character could truly be that hated without seeming like a bizarre caricature and she defiantly pulls it off.
- Anne Hathaway – The Dark Knight Rises: Let’s be frank: most female superheroes have been lame (don’t kill the messenger). Aside from a couple of the lady X-Men there’s hardly been a single decent costumed vigilante on the silver screen worth a damn. Given that, I really appreciated how well Hathaway was able to create a truly feminine anti-hero out of Catwoman who could also legitimately kick ass. Hathaway has had a hell of a year and I don’t for the life of me understand why anyone ever doubted her.
- Amy Adams – The Master: Amy Adams used to be the go-to actress when you needed to cast someone to be a adorable sweetheart and she brings a little bit of that to her role in The Master, but she’s grown a lot and is now bringing a lot more dimension to her roles. Her character in The Master is something of an enigma, is she just a doting wife or something more? Hint: There are theories I’ve read that the film’s title refers to her character.
- Jennifer Ehle – Zero Dark Thirty: The “other” heroine from Zero Dark Thirty is this more experienced agent who serves as something of a blueprint for what Jessica Chastain’s character could be like when she chills out a little bit and gets more comfortable in the world of espionage. Veteran character actress Jennifer Ehle didn’t have a whole lot to work with in creating this character, but she manages to create a memorable character and you’re sad when she dramatically exits the film.