The Oscar Warrior: 10 Female Performances That Deserve Oscars

A couple days ago, we listed ten male acting performances we thought deserved more attention as we go further into Oscar season and now we’re looking at ten women who have also impressed us with performances that aren’t getting nearly as much attention as others.

1. and 2. Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt in Your Sister’s Sister (IFC Films) – Not to take anything away from the amazing performances done by either of these actresses in other movies this year–Blunt with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and Looper, DeWitt in Nobody Walks and Promised Land–but the talents of both actresses were fully on display in Lynn Shelton’s relationship comedy that had them playing estranged sisters reuniting at their family’s remote cabin with Mark Duplass playing the third wheel in an awkward love triangle. Shelton’s ability of getting amazing performances out of her casts through improvisation was fully on display, but we don’t think it would have worked quite as well with any actresses.

3. Lynn Collins in 10 Years – Jaime Linden’s high school reunion dramedy had a really impressive and diverse ensemble of actors including the likes of Anthony Mackie and Oscar Isaac and dozens of others, but few had the impact as Collins’ “party girl with a secret” that reveals itself in a very dramatic sequence. We’ve really been impressed with Collins in recent years, including what she brings to big studio epics like John Carter, but her performance in indies like this and last year’s Angel Crest shows there’s more to this actress than a pretty face.

4. Emayatzy Corinealdi in Middle of Nowhere (AFFRM) – I’ll be honest that it took me two viewings to get into Ava DuVernay’s drama about a woman whose husband is in prison, but it became really clear to me on second viewing that this young actress with a difficult to pronounce name, who has had small roles in other movies, is an actress to watch that could one day reach the heights of a Kerry Washington or Viola Davis. DuVernay’s film is not an easy movie nor is playing Ruby an easy role and Corinealdi really has to carry it from start to finish.

5. Ann Dowd in Compliance (Magnolia) – Having already received an award from the National Board of Review, veteran character actress Ann Dowd may seem like a bit of a ringer in this, but there’s still a lot of people who haven’t watched Craig Zobel’s intense thriller in which Dowd plays a fast food manager who has an evil prank played on her by a mysterious caller who convinces her that one of her employees (Dreama Walker) has stolen from a customer. Over the next few hours, Dowd’s character puts Walker through the wringer, forcing her to disrobe and performing invasive searches. Most of the movie is focused on Dowd’s face as she’s being told what to do about the would-be thief and in that way, Dowd really carries the film… which makes it odd that anyone might consider her a “supporting character.”

6. Keira Knightley in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (Focus Features) – While Knightley is getting so much attention for reuniting with Joe Wright in Anna Karenina, it’s her earlier character and performance in Lorene Scafaria’s apocalyptic rom-com opposite Steve Carell what impressed us, because Knightley is able to be very funny playing a flakier character than what we’ve normally seen from her, plus it also broke her out of the period costume dramas we’ve seen her doing way too many times. This may be one of the most underrated films of the year and a lot of that comes down to Knightley leaving her comfort zone and shining.

7. Freida Pinto in Trishna (IFC) – This beautiful Indian actress has only done a few truly substantial roles since being introduced in Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, so Michael Winterbottom casting her in his modern update of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” was quite a stroke of genius. The complex role had Pinto’s character living in different parts of India working at hotels and dancing in Bollywood films and Winterbottom really created something quite amazing with the film that might never have worked if not for Pinto’s versatility.

8. Noomi Rapace in Prometheus (20th Century Fox) – We could go either way on this one between her or Charlize Theron as the cold corporate executive Meredith Vickers, because both of them were great in Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi, but Rapace’s performance as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist who has gone to the ends of the universe to find answers, created an incredibly well-rounded character unlike what we normally see in summer blockbusters.

9. Kelly Reilly in Flight (Paramount) – While Denzel Washington is getting all of the attention in Robert Zemeckis’ drama (and maybe rightfully so), we were just blown away by how this British actress, who has been appearing in smaller roles for years, disappeared into the role of an Atlanta junkie who helps Denzel’s alcoholic pilot Whip Whitaker. She was able to hold her own against Denzel’s Whip Whitaker in some really tough and heavy dramatic sequences involving their mutual addiction.

10. Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz (Magnolia) – Williams has received three Oscar nominations before the age of 32 and we think that her performance in Sarah Polley’s marriage drama is up there with her work in Blue Valentine and Brokeback Mountain except that this one gives her a lot more to do and shows off how daring she is as an actress, taking on humor, tough as nails drama and even full frontal nudity. It’s pretty obvious to us that Williams can make any role better and seeing how she’s matured since her teen years has also impressed us.

That’s it for now. We probably will still write something about the director’s race and then our actual Oscar picks for the 84th Annual Academy Awards won’t be too far away.