Best Leading Actress:
ABBIE CORNISH in Bright Star
The subdued, chaste love Fannie Brawne expresses for John Keats is what makes this film so romantic and sensitive. It's thanks to Cornish we can feel the passion the burns within her. Her poem recitation at the very end is utterly heartbreaking.
CAREY MULLIGAN in An Education
Even when Jenny is acting all sophisticated and lady-like, we need to remember that she's just a little girl, and Mulligan's performance helps maintain that perspective throughout the movie. Her character arc is clear but not blatantly obvious.
GABOUREY SIDIBE in Precious
A very powerful, very emotionally naked turn from an unknown actor is at the heart of this memorable movie. We root so strongly for Precious because we can feel the hurt she feels with every closeup of her face and every line she utters.
MERYL STREEP in Julie & Julia
The ease with which Meryl Streep can slip into any role is nothing short of remarkable. She makes playing Julia Child look so effortless, when in fact it takes a great deal of concentration to bring such joy to a character. Streep makes it seem so natural.
TILDA SWINTON in Julia
One of the most tragically under-seen performances of the year, but easily one of the best. Swinton's bold depiction of alcoholism, desperation, and motherhood is confident and daring, and it's too her credit that we don't always know where her character is going.
Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist, Zoe Saldana in Avatar.