All too often the actress category is harder to fill up than the actor category as a result of the differences in the opportunities for the two genders, but that definitely wasn’t the case this year. The actress category was extremely competitive and I needed to leave some strong contenders out of the nominees this year.
- Charlotte Rampling- 45 Years: Charlotte Rampling is something of a legend of British film but has never really gotten the career honors that the Judi Denches, Helen Mirrans, Maggie Smiths have. Her work in 45 Years was an excellent reminder of just how skilled and important she is as an actress. This is the kind of movie where very little is spoken and the movie is highly dependent on its star being able to convey her character’s emotional tumult in order for the film to make sense and Rampling knocks it out of the park.
- Saoirse Ronan- Brooklyn: Saoirse Ronan began her career as a child actor in some fairly high profile films like Atonement and The Lovely Bones and even still seemed pretty young in last year’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, but in Brooklyn she really seems like she’s finally entered into the realm of adult roles and more than stakes her claim to a certain sort of prestige stardom. She does a great job of subtly giving her character an increase in confidence over the course of the film to the point where she really seems different by the end.
- Cate Blanchett- Carol: At the Oscars Cate Blanchett was considered to be the lead of Carol while Rooney Mara was considered to be the supporting actress, but I think the two actresses are clearly co-leads… but that only one was ultimately award worthy in this commutative year. Mara certainly does good work in the film, but her part really forces her to hold back while Blanchett is allowed to show a wider range of emotion beyond “repressed longing.” Her character is a lot more passionate and also a bit more ambiguous given that you’re never quite sure how noble her overtures are.
- Juliette Binoche- Clouds of Sils Maria: Juliette Binoche has been one of the “big three” of French actresses (along with Julie Delpy and Marion Cotillard) for years now to the point where it’s easy to take her for granted. In Clouds of Sils Maria she plays an actress who’s going through something of a crisis after the death of the playwright she owes her career to has died. There’s no major hook that Binoche hangs her performance on but she does a great job of making the character feel real and subtly express her emotional undercurrent.
- Brie Larson- Room: Brie Larson showed a lot of promise two years ago in the film Short Term 12 but I’m not sure anyone really expected that this promise would evolve so quickly into something this great. In Room Larson is required to portray a character who is beaten down by her predicament but also able to convey a lot of motherly love and at the same time show the relative immaturity of a young woman who was cut off from society right in her teen years.