Each year I set aside time to examine and spotlight what I think are the best performances of the past movie year. In keeping with the upcoming Oscars I have adopted their format and for the next few days I’ll be highlighting the very best performances for each of the four acting categories. Today the ladies get to go first and we will look at Supporting Actresses. This was a toughie. So many names came to mind and limiting it to five was no easy chore. But such is the nature of these things so here we go – the Best Supporting Actress Performances of 2015:
#5 – Zoe Saldana (“Infinitely Polar Bear”)
Compared to Mark Ruffalo’s attention-getting lead, Zoe Saldana has a pretty thankless role. But in “Infinitely Polar Bear” it’s also a pivotal role that Saldana handles with such sincerity and emotional detail. She delivers an impressively earnest performance which revealed a skillful dramatic precision I never knew she had. For me this was a true eye-opening performance from 2015.
#4 – Nina Kunzendorf (“Phoenix”)
“Phoenix” was one of the more haunting films of 2015. A key reason for its success lies with its trio of performances including that of Nina Kunzendorf. She gives a quiet yet powerful performance playing a woman scarred by her Holocaust experience and frustrated by the willingness of others to so quickly forgive. In a way she is the conscious of the film as well as the voice of reason. But Kunzendorf never lets us forget the pain her character is trying to suppress.
#3 – Elizabeth Banks (“Love & Mercy”)
There were a handful of biopics to come out in 2015. One of the better ones was Bill Pohlad’s “Love & Mercy”, the story of Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson that was completely against the normal biopic formula. Elizabeth Banks plays a woman who has developed a relationship with Wilson and played an important part in getting his life on track. Banks is great and she gives us a clear outside perspective on Wilson’s troubling circumstances.
#2 – Joan Allen (“Room”)
Unquestionably one of my favorite supporting performances came from Joan Allen in the powerfully moving “Room”. Allen plays a mother juggling so many heavy emotions. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say she has battled guilt and grief for seven years. Those feelings and emotions take an unexpected turn and are mixed with several others as the film goes along and Allen has no trouble conveying them to us in the most genuine way. It’s a fabulously complex performance.
#1 – Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation”)
Some may scoff at this pick being tops on my list because “Mission: Impossible” isn’t the normal Awards-type picture. Too bad. Rebecca Ferguson was one of the great surprises in 2015. She was a showstealer and gave us a mysterious female character every part equal to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Ferguson has a strong grasp on her role and plays it confidently and fearlessly. It’s such a great performance and it’s hard to imagine her career not getting a boost after such strong work.
So what did you think of the list? Please take time to share your thoughts and look out for the next category coming soon.