The Oscar nominees for best actress were Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhane Wallis and Naomi Watts. I was a fan of Lawrence and am ecstatic that voters had the courage to vote for Wallis. Seeing Zero Dark Thirty tomorrow finally, so will finally be able to talk about Chastain and Bigelow's newest movie. So here are my picks for Best Actress Not Nominated for an Academy Award:
Elizabeth Banks, People Like Us
We take Elizabeth Banks for granted. We are so used to her as a dependable character actress that we forget her leading actress potential. Banks is an actress that will give a good performance no matter the quality of the production or the size of the role that when she finally gets a substantial character in a good movie she does not squander a second of screen time. Elizabeth Banks plays the role of struggling, frustrated mother trying to get by perfectly. She is able to be in terrible circumstances without losing the audiences respect. Her likability and intelligence are showcased really well here. She has great chemistry with Chris Pine and helps to bring a great performance out of him. I am very happy that they took a chance on Banks in this movie. They easily could have casted someone more popular or younger (not that she is old by any stretch of the imagination), but this movie would not have worked as well without her. I am sad to see this movie bomb so hard, because I really want to see more of her.
Kristen Connolly, Cabin in the Woods
How do you make the scream queen role seem fresh? Kristen Connolly really carries Cabin in the Woods on her shoulders as the viewpoint character. She balances naive and innocent along with intelligent and respectable. Her transition into action star is also natural and believable. She was clearly cast for her acting ability and the movie is better for it. I am surprised that she does not have any movies coming up. Seems like people would want to cast her and her enviable range.
Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect
After being a reliable supporting player in Up in the Air, Scott Pilgrim and End of Watch this is Kendrick's transition to leading roles. Her maturity and likability help to elevate Pitch Perfect above the average coming of age movie. She puts her own personality into the role of troubled college student and makes the ideal stand-in for the audience. She is a terrific singer and plays off of her enviable cast well. This is not a role with a lot of meat to it, but she gives it her all. She is also able to have fun and it shows and the fun bleeds into the audience.
Jennifer Lawrence, Hunger Games
I can't imagine Hunger Games without Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, they really lucked out in getting a proper actress for this teen action movie. Lawrence has a youthful enough look to be believable in this setting, but has the necessary maturity. Despite being voted several times as one of the most beautiful people alive she looks fairly toned down and is able to look like a normal person instead of a movie star. Jennifer Lawrence carries this movie with the physicality of an action star, but her more personal scenes are what keep you invested. I actually cared about this character and will be returning to see more of her, can't say that about most leads in these types of movies. Also in comparing this role to her Oscar nominated adult role in Silver Linings Playbook she demonstrates a range that not many actresses are allowed to utilize.
Aubrey Plaza, Safety Not Guaranteed
Aubrey Plaza in Safety Not Guaranteed delivers one of the best performances I have ever seen in a very specific scene. There is so much honesty and vulnerability in the scenes when she is talking to Mark Duplass about her mother. The scene begins with her clearly lying to him and it naturally transitions to her opening up to him in a way that she has obviously never opened up to anyone else before. It is one of the most heartbreaking things I've seen on screen all year.
As for the rest of the movie, she makes a great anchor for the movie. She is able to be the more normal character without losing the tragedy that is unique to her. I have heard a lot of criticism of Plaza for always playing the same character. And yes you can certainly draw similarities to April Ludgate, but she reaches depths I have seen few other actors reach. It is definitely one of my favorite performances of the year.
Other Great Leading Performances:
Emily Blunt (Five-Year Engagement), Anna Faris (The Dictator), Noomi Rapace (Prometheus), Leslie Mann (This is 40), Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust), Razzie Nominated Barbara Streisand (The Guilt Trip)