In a year marking flashy, buzzed about yet strong performances, we take a look at some of the great ones that might have flown under the radar:
Kerry Washington in Mother and Child Washington is capping off a year filled with three amazing performances in Mother in Child, For Colored Girls, and Night Catches Us. But it was her gut-wrenching performance in Mother in Child that had us all aching with compassion for her portrayal as Lucy, the expectant mother cradling a desire to have a child. Her spot-on delivery, her virtual immersion into Lucy's soul will be one we can't forget.
Kirsten Dunst in All Good Things Before taking a break from acting, some of Dunst's most notable roles were in Interview with the Vampire, Spiderman, and The Virgin Suicides. Upon her return to the big screen this year, she starred opposite Ryan Gosling in the mystery biopic All Good Things. While the movie itself wasn't flattering, Dunst's portrayal of a terrified housewife caught in the middle of her husband's madness was stunning to watch.
Rebecca Hall in Please Give While the indie gem Please Give flew under the radar for many audiences, Hall's trademark mousy yet poignant performance of a clinician whose only fault was her natural desire to be a good person is the heartbeat of the movie.
Anthony Mackie in Night Catches Us It's hard to believe that before his performance in last year's The Hurt Locker, few were on the Anthony Mackie bandwagon. But his performance in this year's Independent Spirit-nominated film Night Catches Us raises the bar in his repertoire of great film performances. His portrayal as Marcus is vulnerable, angst ridden, muted, and poignant when it needs to be. And, perhaps most importantly, it seemed so effortless.
Anika Noni Rose in For Colored Girls In the midst of the tragically adapted film version of Ntozake Shange's stage play comes several breathtaking female lead performances. But it was the stark performance by Tony award winner Anika Noni Rose that stood above the rest. Her transformation from an optimistic, vibrant dancer to a wilted, jaded, and wounded young woman was not to be missed. Her performance may not have been as flashy as some others, but it certainly commanded your attention.
Yaya DaCosta in The Kids Are All Right Many folks have been buzzing about Mark Ruffalo's candid performance in the critically-hailed family drama The Kids Are All Right, but few are noting that his character is most illuminated by the spot-on portrayal by Yaya DaCosta. Her ability to point out Ruffalo's true nature serves as a symbol to his actions and his aggressive, however frivolous, attempt to do better. Her performance as Tanya was the compass of the film and, the personification of what Ruffalo's Paul was trying to break away from.
Ethan Hawke in Brooklyn's Finest We've all seen Hawke play a dejected cop before in the fantastic cop thriller Training Day. But when he reunited with director Antoine Fuqua for this year's ode to the crooked men in blue from the BK, gone was his doe-eyed, rookie cop performance. His portayal as the fed up, down-on-his luck Detective Sal sharpened his already remarkable career filled with characters you want to shrug off, but can't.
Marion Cotillard in Inception Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard's (La Vie En Rose) heartbreaking performance as Leonardo DiCaprio's wife trapped in their own crumbling minds is show-stopping. While the rest of the movie is lavished with special effects, a mind-bending story and fine performances through, it's Cotillard's tragic and critical performance that gives it the edge it needed.
Mark Ruffalo in Shutter Island Sometimes when the characters in a film know something that the audience doesn't, the performances almost seem like they're laughing in our faces, taunting us about it. But Ruffalo's subtle performance as DiCaprio's partner-in-crime Chuck stopped us dead in our tracks. He cleverly tried to give us hints the whole entire film but we were so focused on DiCaprio's Teddy character that we didn't know that Chuck was playing us too the whole time. And we couldn't even be mad at that.