With many of the major critics’ groups nominees and winners landing, and with a Best Actress Oscar race that’s virtually locked-and-loaded at this point, there is little hope for any of the year’s fine yet overlooked female to squeeze in.
But the following eight actresses — which you can see in films now available to stream — deserve kudos even if their films were relegated to the festival circuit or played too early in the year to be remembered now. Clips after the jump.
And check out Anne Thompson’s feature on eight other best actress underdogs who deserve awards attention.
While Ms. Watson freed herself from the shackles of Hogwarts last year in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” she rules the screen as coquettish teen queen Nicki Moore in Sofia Coppola’s underrated “The Bling Ring” — which you’ll see high on my top 10 very soon. All valley girl bemusement and waspy entitlement, Watson steals every scene she’s in as a flippant fame-mongerer who becomes the center of the Hollywood Hills burglary scandal covered closely by Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales. Droll delivery of lines like “I wanna rob” should secure her status as an inimitable icon in what will likely go down as a cult movie. Nicki Moore forever.
Olga Kurylenko, “To the Wonder” (Netflix)
Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko’s performance in Terrence Malick’s unsung “To the Wonder” is a thing of gossamer — and like this unfairly spat-upon film, otherworldly — beauty. Malick’s lollygagging lens focuses most of its time on Kurylenko’s haunted Marina, a divorced emigre living in Paris who’s swept up by a dapper American (Ben Affleck) who brings her back to America and to the desolate plains of a small Oklahoma town. As her quixotic idea of love fizzles and their relationship disintegrates, so does Marina, tumbling into random acts of deceit and betrayal. The graceful Kurylenko becomes the heart of this problematic movie, and is way too good for all that twirling she is asked to do.
Onata Aprile, “What Maisie Knew” (Netflix)
Millennium should have pushed this season for seven-year-old Onata Aprile’s miraculous performance as Maisie in the summer release “What Maisie Knew.” Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s modern-day Henry James adaptation is shot almost entirely from her POV as she tries to make sense of the mixed-up world of selfish adults around her. Caught in the eye of a marital storm between Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, Aprile conveys sweet, untouched innocence but also a wise sense of knowing.
Suzanne Clement, “Laurence Anyways” (iTunes)
Best Supporting Actress
In Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s “Laurence Anyways,” Suzanne Clement — who won an Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes 2012 — anchors the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype in a constant state of believable emotional flitter as a larger-than-life personality whose lover slips out of her grasp and into transsexuality. Her frizzy, fire-engine red hair only adds to the chaos as she tumbles through meltdown after meltdown. And while she is mostly a supporting player to Melvil Poupaud’s devastating, handsome Laurence, the almost insufferably talented young Dolan’s camera falls in love with Clement above all, as magnetized by her screen presence as we are.
Kristin Scott Thomas, “Only God Forgives” (Netflix)
Best Supporting Actress
Kristin Scott Thomas’ bitchy nightmare-of-a-mother Crystal would eat Cate Blanchett’s Stoli-loving Jasmine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Clad in a Donatella-inspired wig and a spray tan, Scott Thomas leaps far out of her comfort zone — going so far as to utter the word “cumdumpster” — to play a modern day Lady Macbeth, but one who is unmoored from guilt. While the scene-chewing role is mostly her spewing vitriol at dopey son Julian (Ryan Gosling), Scott Thomas has never been better. Had more critics and audiences appreciated Nicholas Winding Refn’s unfairly trashed blood ballet, she may have stood a chance in the awards race.
Gaby Hoffmann, “Crystal Fairy” (Netflix)
Best Supporting Actress
Gaby Hoffmann’s manic, hallucinogen-addled turn as the radical Crystal Fairy in Chilean director Sebastian Silva’s druggy travelogue apparently got some love this weekend among LA Film Critics in the best supporting actress vote. And it’s a shame more voters didn’t sing her sweetly neurotic tune in favor of this offbeat indie where she leads a bunch of backpackers (Michael Cera, also good, among them) astray in search of the holy grail of psychotropic substances. Naked in many senses of the word, her frazzled, uninhibited performance is reason alone to see this quirky little movie.
Margarete Tiesel, “Paradise: Love” (Netflix)
In “Paradise: Love,” low-profile Austrian actress Margarete Tiesel inhabits an adorably clueless, overweight tourist of a sex resort in Kenya. A love-it-or-hate-it Cannes competition film in 2012, Ulrich Seidl’s dark comedy devotes every frame to her dowdy character, who Tiesel is bravely up to the task of playing in the nude or in unflattering positions. She has this affable, sweet-old-lady charm that she reveals to be a mere husk for a carnal sexuality begging to get out. And by the time she realizes she’s been duped by the seductive Kenyan beach bums — who trick horny, desperate women out of their cash to feed their village-dwelling families — Tiesel’s despair and disbelief will break your heart.
Olivia Wilde,” Drinking Buddies” (iTunes)
Brainy beauty Olivia Wilde delivered the goods this year with her tiny yet winning role in Spike Jonze’s “Her,” and as Kate, a romantically confused craft brewery worker in Joe Swanberg’s career-best “Drinking Buddies.” In that film, you simply fall in love with her as she pratfalls from one awkward moment to the next, considering maybe being more than just friends with Luke (a lovable Jake Johnson). It benefits her greatly that Swanberg loses all that Gen-Y angst in this sweet slice-of-life where Wilde plays a real adult with believable human impulses and tousled charm.