So, over the weekend I binge watched the first two seasons of Broadchurch (more on that on a later date) and it reminded me of something I am constantly going back to...Olivia Colman's tremendous performance in Tyrannosaur. It was this reminder that inspired my Fistful of Thoughts today. Now I've already posted my personal awards for 2011, but there is one category that I continually revisit in my mind and reshuffle and desire to completely revamp, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Of any year this decade so far, 2011 boasts the strongest array of Lead Actresses and presents me with the hardest time narrowing it all down. That isn't to discredit other years, and I'm usually always resting on a #6 and #7 place contender that I wish I could also nominate, but 2011 leaves me with a top twelve that I completely, wholeheartedly, ADORE.
What is so weird is that, of those 12...only one of them is an Oscar nominee, and the other 4 Oscar nominated performances, only one of them is really all that wonderful, and she's arguably in the wrong category. The winner is messy and undeserving to the hilt, but in that ballot it almost makes sense.
Oscar dropped the ball SO HARD this year.
So today, I want to pay much respect to all actresses/performances in my Top 12.
As a reminder, here is my current ballot:
I love all five of these performances for different reasons, and on most days I stand by this lineup, but on other days I'm conflicted. I want to nominate Olivia Colman and Kirsten Dunst and Zoe Heran so badly, but who do I take out when there is no way I can snub these tremendous performances?
So here is my personal ranking of my dozen favorite female performances. Read this with the full understanding that #1 - #12 are pretty much interchangeable. Yes, on any given day I could justify any of these twelve actresses winning the Fisti. Binoche is incredible here, but she's not so undeniable that she can't be dethroned. In fact, mere seconds before I posted these way back when, I almost swapped out the win and gave it to Theron.
If I had nominated Colman, I may have given it to her.
Adepero Oduye in Pariah
Oduye's performance in Pariah was one that went completely under the radar by most. In fact, I didn't even see the film until last year because I couldn't find it anywhere. Talk about the distribution of diverse issues being effed ("Oh, a gay black female protagonist? No one wants to see that!"). When I finally did see it though, I was floored. This is what a true 'star is born' moment looks like. Full of life behind the eyes, a performance that embodies what it means to BE. You feel the dismay, the pain, the complete confliction in who she is and who she feels the need to be, and it's 100% honest.
Jeong-hie Yun in Poetry
The juxtaposition between the 'discovery' and the 'loss' here is so magically delivered by Yun that I'm left speechless in the wake of her honesty here. Both layers of her inner character are such polar opposites (she's losing her mind yet she's discovering something new) but the balancing act Yun engages in here is so subtly purposeful. It is so sharp, so focused, so believable.
Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids
Wiig is a comedic gem. Her ability to shamelessly exploit herself on SNL made her one of my favorite cast members in any season. What she does in Bridesmaids is something so different, so much fuller, so much more remarkable. She's hilarious, true, but she's also entirely human and her delivery is so richly layered with the drama of real life that it makes her comedy almost...sad...but never in a way that feels manipulative. You can see the crushing realism of her personal plight raging behind every joke. You look at her and you see yourself. It's a brutally honest dramatic turn that happens to be funny.
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Back when I posted my personal awards, I got some flack for not nominating this performance (similar to the flack I got for not nominating Pike in 2014). I understand the flack. This is a killer role/performance by a rising star that, unfortunately, happened to come in a year where there was so much to chose from. Mara tears this role apart, and the more I reflect the more I'm astounding with what she did. The ONLY thing that holds me back from bumping her closer to the top of this pack is the fact that I still feel like Noomi Rapace did it better.
Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia
Kirsten Dunst is one of the best actresses to not get enough credit for being the best. Like, people look at her and they see Bring it On and they think, 'fun teen actress' and they forget that she's BRILLIANT and that she's delivered time and time again some of the most richly textured comedic and dramatic performances of any actress in her generation. Her Cannes winning turn while in the hands of Lars von Trier is such a brutal look at depression and inner agony. Her line deliveries alone are worthy of awards.
Zoe Heran in Tomboy
We get child performances every year. We get child performances like this once in a blue moon. The way that Heran internalizes her every thought is so effortlessly captured here. You can feel the comfort in who she knows she is...but you can also feel the fear of others not understanding, and when she's faced with her outing you can sense it all starting to unravel within her. BUT, what makes this such a refreshing and unforgettable turn is the way she rebounds within the comfort of knowing who she is...and the way she handles her final moment is brilliant. I can't wait to see more from this girl!
Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur
Everything that Colman does up until her tragic breakdown is extremely solid work. But that breakdown, much like Hanks' final twenty moments in Captain Phillips, is the best bit of acting I saw by anyone this entire year. It is in that moment that this woman BLEEDS onto the screen, unearthing such raw, raw, RAW honesty from the depths of this woman's soul. Watching Broadchurch only further cemented the fact that Olivia Colman is a treasure.
Anna Paquin in Margaret
Anna Paquin is a mess in Margaret. She delivers one of those performances that, out of context, feels like a joke. In fact, while watching it I found myself teetering on being completely mesmerized and completely baffled at all the praise. When it ended though, I felt this total understanding. She plays this character to the core, delivering a performance that is full-stop ALL..THE...TIME, but it speaks volumes to the root of the film's themes, taking on everything that Margaret is saying as a character piece and making it feel entrenched in her. She IS this movie.
Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene
Mary Kate and Ashley who? Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister to the twin-royals who stole our hearts all those years ago, completely blew my mind. The way she was able to play two lives, two separate entities in such a united fashion is remarkably collected here. She allows the two halves of this whole to blend ever so intricately together in order to always remain at a slight distance, a mystery of sorts. We lean into her performance, hoping to hear the whispers of who she really is, what she's really thinking...and we are rewarded deeply.
Sibel Kekilli in When We Leave
I was completely unfamiliar with Sibel Kekilli before seeing When We Leave. I still haven't seen anything but this performance, but I hear she's pretty awful in other things (including Game of Thrones). I don't care. All I care about is that her internal breaking in this film leaves me with so many emotions. This is a very quiet performance, but it is one that shatters me with the intense honesty of character. The convictions she possesses, the inability to lay down, roll over and admit defeat even when she's broken by the ones she loves most...it's all so beautifully rendered in a performance that defies what we think a performance like this should be. She haunts.
Charlize Theron in Young Adult
This is where it gets really hard because, Charlize Theron gives the greatest performance of her career in Young Adult, and on many days she gives the greatest performance of this year. But so does Binoche. It's a toss up, but second place, in this year, in this category, is pretty much first place and so I can rest easy knowing that Theron's tremendous performance as a woman disguising her pain though a snark so biting and so real and so painful is well loved by me and everyone else I know. This is life. This is what it means to hit that moment when you only appear to be what you want to be. Charlize taps into something so rarely seen on film.
Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy
Every time I think about taking this win away from Binoche, I'm reminded of how incredible it really is. The air of mystery within the film's story itself are woven so deeply into Binoche's performance, and she handles every single layer with such divine execution. The way that Binoche bares her soul with such soft undertones is remarkable. She says so much with the slightest glance, turn, twitch...it's flawless. Her eyes constantly reflect her inner mood, and they change with such effortless insight into this woman's soul. Natural. She's a natural talent, and this performance isn't acting...it's living.
So that's all for me...
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