Oscars 2017: 11 female performances too good to be overlooked

In a year overflowing with exceptional performances, many are bound to fall by the wayside this awards season. Here are some worthy of a closer inspection

Even with months to go before next years Academy Awards, and loads of vying films still to be unveiled, one thing about the race is certain: the pool of female actors is stacked. While Tom Hanks and Casey Affleck were arguably the only male actors to receive major awards momentum from the recent slate of fall film festivals (for their performances in Sully and Manchester by the Sea, respectively), a glut of their female colleagues have emerged as surefire contenders.

La La Lands Emma Stone and Jackies Natalie Portman lead the charge for their career-best work in the two ecstatically received films. The pair are closely followed by Amy Adams, who earned major plaudits for Denis Villeneuves brainy sci-fi Arrival, and Annette Bening for her work in 20th Century Women.

On the supporting end of the spectrum, Viola Davis has become the hot favorite after reviews hit for Fences, a drama that sees her reprise her Tony award-winning role opposite Denzel Washington. She faces stiff competition from perennial Academy favorite Michelle Williams, whos out to break hearts as Afflecks grieving ex-wife in Manchester by the Sea.

All the aforementioned women are sure to have busy few months ahead, as is Meryl Streep, whose latest bid for gold, Florence Foster Jenkins, opened this summer.

With such a bounty of exceptional female performances, many are bound to fall by the wayside. Were here to course correct that. After all, whats a proper awards season without a few curveballs?

Rebecca Hall, Christine

Rebecca Hall has been working steadily for 20 years, impressing audiences in The Town, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Prestige. Still, it took until now for her to land a role as complex and demanding as the one she undertakes in Christine, Antonio Camposs dark character study about Christine Chubbuck, the news anchor who achieved notoriety in the 70s for killing herself on live TV. Hall is astonishing in the role, fearlessly digging into Chubbucks deep-set insecurities to yield a deeply empathetic portrait of a woman on the verge.

Snia Braga, Aquarius

Snia
Snia Braga is commanding in Aquarius. Photograph: PR Company Handout
Fernanda Montenegro was the last Brazilian actor to be nominated for a best actress Oscar for 1998s Central Station. Snia Braga deserves to be the second. Shes commanding in Kleber Mendona Filhos riveting character study as Clara, a widowed and retired music critic being driven out of her home. Braga, best known to English-speaking audiences for her Golden Globe-nominated turn in Kiss of the Spider Woman, has worked steadily since, but it took over three decades for Mendona to give her a role fiery enough to showcase her formidable power.

Sally Hawkins, Maudie

Sally Hawkins delivers a performance to rival her Golden Globe-winning breakthrough in Mike Leighs Happy-Go-Lucky in Maudie, a biopic of the Canadian folk artist Maudie Dowley Lewis. Aisling Walshs small period drama premiered at the Telluride film festival to a modicum of buzz and failed to generate much more in Toronto, but Hawkins is too good to ignore. She expertly conveys the effects Lewiss juvenile rheumatoid arthritis took on her body, without letting the affliction take over her portrait. Its thoroughly grounded and heartfelt work.

Kate McKinnon, Ghostbusters

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Kate McKinnon lets her freak flag fly in Ghostbusters. Photograph: Allstar/Sony Pictures

Whatever your take on Paul Feigs much-contested reboot of Ghostbusters, theres no denying it got one thing right: it let Kate McKinnon fly her freak flag as the groups wacky engineer. Of the formidable ensemble, the Saturday Night Live favorite proves the most compulsively watchable, marshaling a bevy of endearing quirks into a star-making, supremely confident turn. Her scene-stealing allure mirrors the effect Melissa McCarthy had in Feigs 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, which resulted in an Oscar nomination for the comedian. McKinnon deserves to follow in her footsteps.

Allison Janney, Tallulah

Its easy to take Allison Janney for granted shes superlative in everything she appears in and Janney works a lot. The prolific actor has long been recognized on the small screen, dating back to her four-Emmy tally for The West Wing but strangely, the film world has yet to catch up in rewarding her with any type of major recognition. Janney is stellar in Tallulah, an overlooked indie offering that premiered at Sundance, only to land on Netflix with a bit of a thud. No matter. As an academic mother forced to befriend a stranger who claims to be her estranged sons pregnant girlfriend (played by Ellen Page), Janney once again proves to be among todays most beguiling talents.

Paulina Garcia, Little Men

Ira Sachss Little Men is anchored by a number of remarkable performances, but none feel as authentic as Paulina Garcias portrayal of Leonor, a single mother, fighting to keep her quaint clothing store afloat and her boy fed. In her first English-language project, Garcia (so strong in the 2013 arthouse hit Gloria) isnt afraid to explore her characters unsympathetic tendencies, resulting in a work thats deeply humane and hard to shake.

Jennifer Garner, Miracles From Heaven

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Jennifer Garner gives Miracles From Heaven her all. Photograph: Chuck Zlotnick/AP

Miracles From Heaven, a faith-based family drama about a family grappling with the seemingly impossible, is not a good film. Its crass Christian propaganda that preaches to the choir and no one else. Jennifer Garner, who leads the drama as a churchgoing southern belle whose daughter is diagnosed with a potentially fatal disorder, however, is excellent. Throwing herself into the project as if its an awards pony, and not the Lifetime film it in fact is, Garner gives the role her all, imbuing her mama lion with a fierce resiliency that slowly crumbles as her daughters health worsens. Shes tremendously effective; the picture surrounding her is nothing but manipulative.

Anna Gunn, Equity

In Equity, Anna Gunn embodies a ruthless senior investment banker who bears no resemblance to Skyler White, the long-suffering matriarch she played to perfection on five seasons of Breaking Bad. She manages the difficult feat of owning her characters Wall Street lingo while bringing real urgency to the part of a woman facing an uphill battle in her profession solely because of her sex. Shes a powerhouse.

Kate Beckinsale, Love and Friendship

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Kate Beckinsale is a hoot in Love and Friendship. Photograph: PR

Kate Beckinsale rids herself of her Underworld pleather catsuits to don a corset for Love and Friendship, and emerges with the most wry and surprising performance of her career. Shes a hoot to watch as Lady Susan Vernon, a widow with the cunning ability to get what she wants using her wit, smarts and looks. Beckinsale takes such evident joy in playing someone so duplicitous her energy is infectious.

Molly Shannon, Other People

Saturday Night Live veteran Molly Shannon is a proven comedic dynamo so to watch her nail the nuances of a mother suffering from terminal cancer in Other People comes as a sort of revelation. In Chris Kellys semi-autobiographical dark comedy about a struggling gay writer who moves back in with his family to help his sick mother, Shannon is quietly devastating, while retaining her signature humor. Its a tricky balancing act that only someone of Shannons caliber could pull off.

Blake Lively, The Shallows

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Blake Lively in The Shallows. Photograph: Courtesy/Rex/Shutterstock

Blake Lively channels her inner Ripley in The Shallows to deliver the most arresting performance of her career. The actor has always been an appealing presence, even managing to emerge from Green Lantern relatively unscathed, but in The Shallows she shows a formidable mettle few probably knew she had. Playing a young surfer forced to battle a great white shark, Lively is a mix of brawn and brain. Most impressively, she keeps The Shallows from devolving into B-movie fluff by making her characters peril feel all too real.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/25/oscars-2017-best-actress-rebecca-hall-kate-mckinnon

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