It came with a great shock and awe when Nicole Kidman's trashy Southern belle performance in The Paperboy netted the Academy Award winner nominations from both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. The road to the Oscar for the critically reviled Lee Daniels' gothic nor is tremulous at best, even for an actress with the refinement and temperament of someone like Kidman shepherding away. While I, personally, couldn't really go on board with The Paperboy, I strongly admire the dedication and craft and deft hidden skill of Kidman's performance and greatly applaud the out-of-left-field choice, even if perhaps its a bit smeared by the fact the Hollywood Foreign Press likely nominated her more so that she would attend the fancy show versus the strength and magnitude of her performance. Cynicism aside, it's great when choices like this are made by merit, instead of all-encompassing, often sadly confining choices typically made by what's been pre-selected as an "awards film." Here are 5 other performances that shouldn't have been overlooked:
Emily Blunt in Looper
Blunt has had a pretty impressive 2012, with nicely modulated turns in The Five-Year Engagement, Your Sister's Sister, Looper and Salmon Fishing on the Yemen. She received a random Golden Globe nomination for the latter, but it was her performance in Rian Johnson's dazzling science fiction feature that was the most fascinating. At first nearly unrecognizable, exhibiting a raw toughness she has never really showcased before, she paints a vivid performance as young woman who would do anything to protect her child. As introduced as a rifle-toting alpha, Blunt carefully and exquisitely unveils hidden vulnerabilities and maternal good-naturedness, while casually transgressing the archetypes of the noir vixen at the same time. In a fairly weak Best Supporting Actress line-up, her's was one of the strongest, and is worthy of a nod alongside the locks of the category-- a French prostitute, bio-polar First Lady, and sex surrogate.
Michael Fassbender in Prometheus
Shamelessly snubbed last year for his incomparable work in the tough indie Shame, Fassbender went another direction in 2012 as the mysterious humanoid David in Ridley Scott's massively hyped and slightly underwhelming Alien origin story. However, Fassbender, with his magnetic charisma and always intoxicating intensity bridged a few of the thematic boggles with an ingenuity and mystery and even an elegance. We were never quite sure what was triggering David, aside from his obsession with Peter O'Toole and Lawrence of Arabia, but he bestowed such a credulous interest that he's work feels as deserving of trophies and plaudits just as much as those in the more "prestige" films.
Eva Green in Dark Shadows
Mere best in show honors seems like too small a praise for Green's remarkably agile performance in Tim Burton's massive dud- a retooling of the popular? soap opera. I honestly believe that if the film, a shaky rehashing and dumping ground of past Burton forays, had been on line with the way that Green portrays the slinky, funny, dangerous, sexy villain Angelique, it would have been a ghoulishly fun ride. As is, it's mostly a mess, but like Kidman in The Paperboy, Green's choices, line readings and allure cast a wider net than the sum of her films drifting parts. Charismatic, fetching and adroitly playing to room, as her co-stars are slumping for pay day, Green was the best thing in a bad thing all year long.
Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street
It was the year of Channing, like it or not, and even ones not quite wise to the charms that led 2012's sexiest man alive to churn out three films to grosses north of $100, one would be hard pressed to not be charmed, amused and elated by his masterfully on the nose supporting performance in 21 Jump Street. Playing half of a team of cops sent back to high school, Tatum's sweet dim bulb showcases a versatility, grand sense of play, and a knack for comic timing, that counts as one of the biggest cinematic surprises of the year. That he imbues an honest sensitivity to the broadly stretched raunchiness is a small miracle.
Charlize Theron in Snow White & the Huntsman
Unjustly ignored in 2011 for her bravura turn in the dark comedy Young Adult, Theron further found her grove in bitchiness as the Evil Queen in one of the thousand or so takes on Grimm classic this year. Playing up the vanity and clearly having a ball, she merely saves Snow White & the Huntsman from the eternal doldrums of self-seriousness, but underlies her evilness with a grand connection with the scope, tremor and insecurity of her most powerful weapon-- her beauty. Theron continued to be fairest of them all, but awards season probably won't pay much attention-- they usual prefer they're beautiful to de-glam for their art.