The top 10 contenders for Best Supporting Actress.
1. KATE WINSLET
Roles rarely come along that are as challenging to an actor as Hanna Schmitz, and Winslet embraces this character fearlessly, with all the contradictions and confusions that consume her. Hanna is hardly a likeable character but Winslet at least makes her human, even if she can never be redeemed for her crimes.
2. PENELOPE CRUZ
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Giving the standout comic performance in Woody Allen’s freshest film in years, Cruz shows unexpected timing and gleeful comic abandon as Maria Elena, the “genius” ex-wife of Javier Bardem’s artist who is passionate to the point of being unhinged. A second Oscar nomination beckons.
3. ROSEMARIE DEWITT
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
A theatre actress who has been gaining steam in TV series such as Mad Men and Sex And The City, DeWitt burst onto the big screen this year as Rachel herself in Rachel Getting Married. DeWitt took a role that could have been secondary and made it just as vital and simmering with rage as Rachel’s dysfunctional sister Kym.
4. VIOLA DAVIS
Essentially appearing in just one long scene with Meryl Streep in Doubt, Davis makes a deep impression as Mrs Miller, the mother of the boy at the centre of the conflict. A busy actress, with credits including Antwone Fisher, Syriana, Nights In Rodanthe and three films by Steven Soderbergh, Davis gives Streep a run for her money as a mother trying to protect her troubled son.
5. ELSA ZYLBERSTEIN
I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG
Superb Zylberstein, who exploded onto French screens with Van Gogh and Mina Tannenbaum in the early 1990s, is the perfect foil to Kristin Scott Thomas’ hard and closed-off character in I’ve Loved You So Long. As the much younger sister yearning to rekindle her relationship with her sibling who has just been released from prison, she brings warmth and heart to the disturbing drama.
6. TARAJI P HENSON
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
Henson has been busy for years in films such as Four Brothers, Hustle & Flow and Talk To Me, but she is likely to receive her widest recognition as Benjamin Button’s adoptive mother Queenie, a role in which she ages more than 50 years. Henson is the life and soul of the movie’s first third, representing a youthful spark of which her decrepit child can only dream.
7. MARISA TOMEI
Tomei bared body and soul to play lap dancer Cassidy, who may or may not fall into a relationship with her client Randy Robinson as played by Mickey Rourke. The talented actress, who won an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny and was nominated again for In The Bedroom, manages to create a well-rounded character even in the face of the Rourke comeback juggernaut.
8. BEYONCE KNOWLES
The singing superstar shows real acting spark as Etta James in Darnell Martin’s movie about the rise of Chess Records. The daughter of a prostitute and a white father whose identity she only suspected, James was haunted by her fractured background. Knowles captures her rage and fragility as she descends into drug and alcohol abuse, while belting out James standards such as At Last and I’d Rather Go Blind.
9. DEBRA WINGER
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
Winger gives a small but enormously precise performance as the super-chilly mother of Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt in Jonathan Demme’s acidic family ensemble. She only appears in a handful of scenes but her emotional distance and internal anguish are hard to forget.
10. VERA FARMIGA
The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
The excellent Farmiga (pictured below) donned a flawless English accent to play the wife of a concentration camp commander here and was a focal point in the film; her mounting disgust at the mass murders next door mirroring her disintegrating marriage and mental health.
Hiam Abbass, The Visitor
Amy Adams, Doubt
Kathy Bates, Revolutionary Road
Summer Bishil, Towelhead
Karina Fernandez, Happy-Go-Lucky
Danai Gurira, The Visitor
Ahney Her, Gran Torino
Samantha Morton, Synecdoche, New York
Tilda Swinton, Burn After Reading
Emma Thompson, Brideshead Revisited
Misty Upham, Frozen River.