Hm, this is perhaps my most "alternative" category, as almost none of my top five received as much mainstream praise as they perhaps deserved. I do think it was a very strong year though, with a really fantastic variety of performances from a whole group of fantastic ladies. So, my personal favorites!
5. Amy Adams - "The Fighter"
I honestly think Amy Adams can do no wrong, though playing against type seemed like a risky gamble for her. However, she totally pulls it off and then some. Charlene is such an interesting character, thanks heavily to Adams's complex and multilayered performance. She never takes the easy way out and even through her thick accent she has an irresistible heart and moxie that transcends the typical "supportive girlfriend" role that she was given.
4. Dale Dickey - "Winter's Bone"
Dickey's performance is simply frightening as Merab. She's a conflicted character - it's obvious that she cares about Ree, but her loyalty to her family comes first. Just watch as Dickey changes from protective matron to helpful friend from beginning to the end of the movie, it's a fantastic arc. Her haunting and expressive eyes seal the deal.
3. Naomi Watts - "Mother and Child"
"Mother and Child" is, as I mentioned before, full of fantastic performances. But Naomi Watts is particularly notable because of how much her performance simply should not have worked. On paper, her arc is borderline ridiculous. However, Watts makes her character powerfully real, human and believable. Her change from beginning to end is simply beautiful to watch and that elevator scene...perfection.
2. Ellen Wong - "Scott Pilgrim VS the World"
You can read my full thoughts on her here. Simply, Wong steals the movie from the rest of the uber-talented cast and creates an unbelievably loveable, beautifully sensitive and perfectly funny. I just can't get enough!
1. Jacki Weaver - "Animal Kingdom"
Oh my goodness, I can't even begin to describe this performance in words. Weaver is always in the background, always watching over her children, always an ever present force that drives the rest of her family. She's not perfect - she's manipulative, she's definitely a criminal, but she's no villain. Above all she loves her sons and will do anything for them. Weaver's Smurf is so effortlessly complex that her motives and actions can simply not be shaken from your mind. Weaver is truly a force of nature.
Okay, there will be a lot, so prepare yourselves. In "Black Swan", Mila Kunis slides effortlessly in and out of each of her scenes, with a natural ease that is unmatchable, while Barbara Hershey is a frighteningly powerful and even sympathetic force onscreen; Rebecca Hall is just the right amount of pathetic and loveable in "Please Give"; Kirsten Dunst single handedly saves "All Good Things" with a devastating and truly emotive performance (cast her NOW!). Dianne Wiest is fantastic as embodied grief in "Rabbit Hole"; Kerry Washington gives a wonderful, and perhaps the most interesting, performance in "Mother and Child", even when her character's being a total bitch; Marion Cotillard provides the complete heart and soul of "Inception" and her Mal is a fascinating force of primal emotion; Melanie Laurent's role in "The Concert" may be small but she does so much with it; I wasn't much a fan of "City Island" but Emily Mortimer is joyously cute and yet perfectly complicated; I thought Melissa Leo's performance in "The Fighter" was kind of all surface no substance but my oh my, what a surface it was.
Almost Made It:
Kristen Stewart in "The Runaways", Lucy Punch in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger", Tammy Blanchard in "Rabbit Hole", Helena Bonham Carter in "Alice in Wonderland", Anna Kendrick in "Scott Pilgrim VS The World", Ann Guilbert in "Please Give"
Wow, so many ladies to mention I just couldn't stop myself. In case I haven't covered someone, who were your favorites? You know the drill, comments below! :)