Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
One critic's view: this is a weak list, the only acting category that needed to be padded, rather than reduced, to get five names. Aside from Kidman's creepily accurate portrayal of a grieving mother in Rabbit Hole, and, arguably, Portman's gaudy turn as the troubled ballerina in Black Swan, the performances are second best, at best. Lawrence's nomination is no shame, but it's really a recognition of her character's strength as the preternaturally competent and composed member of an otherwise loony, criminal brood. The much-liked Bening, a winner in the New York Film Critics Circle and Golden Globe voting, got extra points for playing a lesbian and for her no-makeup makeup look. And Williams threw herself headlong into the role of a woman slipping in and out of a fraught marriage. But the field probably doesn't matter. Portman is the front runner, and unless she makes a public declaration of support for al-Qaeda or Sarah Palin, she'll be the winner.
Snubbed: Noomi Rapace, an indelible Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels, all released in 2010; Tilda Swinton as a Russo-Italian lady finding adulterous passion in I Am Love; and Halle Berry in Frankie and Alice. This was the first year in a decade when no African Americans were nominated in the acting categories.
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