2007: Best Supporting Actress

1. Cate Blanchett – I’M NOT THERE
I read a humorous article on how to air an Oscar telecast if the Writers' Strike prevents the use of clips. One suggestion was to have Cate Blanchett perform all the acting nominees, both male and female. That one sticks with me not so much because it’s funny, but because I’d really like to see it. I think she’d be up to the challenge…and she’d probably be amazing at all of them.

While everyone else who attempted a Dylan impression in I’M NOT THERE lost their character somewhere in the cadence and gestures, Blanchett took the look, the tics, the attitude and used it. She wore the part, the part didn’t wear her. Like Jamie Foxx in RAY, the performance is both an uncanny impression and a rich piece of acting.

2. Saoirse Ronan – ATONEMENT

3. Romola Garai – ATONEMENT
There are three great performances in ATONEMENT’S key role of Briony Tallis. Vanessa Redgrave fell just outside my list mainly because her performance consists more of great storytelling than great acting. Romola Garai is receiving the least attention, but I liked the way her performance carries the guilt for the events that happened in her youth. Her climactic scene at the sister’s flat is masterful.

However, the grandest performance in the entire movie belongs to then 12-year-old Saoirse Ronan. The events she goes through on that long opening day and night, how they affect her and how different she is by the end of it outshine anything else in the film. What Briony does is evil and she can be seen as a villain, but Ronan displays a child’s confusion and remains sympathetic. You want to see her punished, but you also hope she finds redemption.

4. Jennifer Garner – JUNO
I saw through the action and costumes of “Alias” to believe Jennifer Garner was one of the best actresses in the business. On the big screen, she was getting pigeonholed into tough-chick roles, and fem-dreck. (CATCH & RELEASE…one of the year’s worst.)

JUNO marks the first time, others have seen what I’ve always known, Garner can be an intuitively emotional actress who can connect with the subtlest line delivery. It can all be boiled down to 3 scenes…her introduction, the mall scene, and her last scene. The mall scene in particular is key, since it marks the shift in both her character and our feelings towards her.

5. Michelle Pfeiffer – STARDUST
I watched this again to make sure I wasn’t throwing away my credibility. While Pfeiffer was merely okay in HAIRSPRAY, she brought her 'A' game to STARDUST. This isn’t a rich, subtle or thoroughly researched performance, just one where you can see the actor is having one hell of a fun time.

6. Amber Tamblyn – SEPHANIE DALEY
This performance is a good argument against Top 10 lists. Tamblyn is a decent actress who is still working hard at becoming much better. Her scenes here are at the right emotional pitch and feel very honest, nothing bad but nothing too exceptional. In DALEY, she plays a teenager who suffers a miscarriage, even though she didn’t know she was pregnant. For the climactic scene the camera stays on her face. Difficult to watch, seemingly impossible to perform, nobody on this list had a more difficult task. Tamblyn was anguished without ever going too big like many actors tend to do.

7. Amy Ryan – GONE BABY, GONE
Ryan’s character prefers being a barfly to being a good mom. When her child is kidnapped, she becomes hardened with anger and grief. As the hunt goes on, her hardness cracks to reveal moments of real pain, but Ryan makes her character impossible to like and you question whether this woman could ever be a fit mother. Not just a performance, but a transformation. Watching the film, I was certain she was a local discovery.

8. Martina Gedeck – THE LIVES OF OTHERS

When discussing the screenplay I talked about the choices the men in the film make, but those choices center around the woman played by Martina Gedeck. Won’t say much here because it’s Gedeck’s character who holds most of the film’s secrets. I’ll just say that as her deception unravels, she shows the pressure of a master juggler trying to keep too many balls in the air. All the while, her outward appearance is strong and in control.

9. Kelly MacDonald – NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
MacDonald is one of our most underappreciated talents, and she isn’t on screen much in NO COUNTRY. However, she gets a great scene towards the end of the film…which is all I can safely say.

In spite of her pink wardrobe and childish giggle, this is not a cartoonish villain like we’ve seen in previous Potter films. There’s real fire and menace as Staunton fearlessly takes on and takes down characters we care about. Her torture is somewhat unpleasant, but the moment when she slaps Harry is downright shocking.


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