You could go for Kirsten Dunst's brave turn in the Mad Dane's Melancholia, or Carey Mulligan (in either Shame or Drive). Kristen Wiig scored a few votes for her scene-stealing in the very enjoyable Bridesmaids (THAT'S how you do comedy without racism or homophobia, Todd Phillips). She might be an almost nailed-on cert for the Oscars, but Meryl Streep didn't get a lot of love from our writers - could it be that the equation Good Impersonation + Historical Interest = Awards Nom is beginning to wear a bit thin? Maybe. Our top three actresses put in dedicated, heartfelt shifts and I'd be disappointed if our winner doesn't end up with something tangible as the fancy frocks are put away for another year. She certainly deserves it.
So then - in third place, stepping to the stage, Natalie Portman for Black Swan. Yes, it seems like it was longer than a year ago, but it was a 2011 flick and is eligible. Portman's superb performance puts the hideous spectre of Queen Amidala in her rearview mirror once and for all - why did she have to blot her copybook with No Strings Attached (No Laughs Included)?
Second place is Olivia Coleman for her role in Paddy Considine's brutal-as-hell Tyrannosaur. I've never met Coleman, but she comes across
as completely and utterly grounded and almost dismissive of her talent - which, on this basis, is pretty immense. She nabbed an award at Sundance this year for her role as Hannah, the respectable and wholesome Christian woman who does her best to redeem the drunken and violent Joseph. Her work as Carol Thatcher was strong in The Iron Lady and we will see her next - on the big screen, at least - with Bill Murray in Hyde Park on Hudson, where she will be playing the Queen. Versatile!
First place, by less than a single percentage point, is Tilda Swinton for her role in We Need To Talk About Kevin. Acting doesn't get much better than the subtly brilliant display put by Swinton here. My wife recently gave birth to our first child, and this is not a film I would easily put on for a quiet
evening viewing. Not now. This is a mother living a mother's worst nightmare - everyone else thinks that Kevin is a normal little boy, but Swinton's Eva is not deceived. She sees the evil in him. And what do you do when you find yourself in a situation like that? How responsible is a parent for how a child turns out. Nature or nurture - does it matter? Swinton inhabits this role completely and describes this most horrible of maternal nightmares so precisely that it left me feeling sick. Yep, brilliant. Can't argue with this pick. A very well-deserving winner.