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The Best Supporting Actresses of 2010

Top 10 Performances by Actresses in Supporting Roles in 2010

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Over the past few years there just haven't been that many really juicy roles for women. I believe that changed this year, and my Best Supporting Actress list reflects the increase in memorable roles for actresses in 2010. Normally, I have a difficult time choosing five women who've stood out. This year, I expanded the list to 10 because it was too difficult to whittle it down to five outstanding performances.

Honorable Mentions: Helen Mirren in Red, Saoirse Ronan in The Way Back, Patricia Clarkson in Easy A, Mila Kunis in Black Swan, Rose Byrne in Get Him to the Greek and Michelle Williams in Shutter Island.

Hailee Steinfeld - 'True Grit'

True Grit
© Paramount Pictures
First off, Hailee Steinfeld wasn't on this list up until a few minutes before I finished putting it together. Why? Because I think she more appropriately deserves Best Actress honors rather than Best Supporting Actress recognition. However, at the last minute I caved in and placed her in the category every critics group and awards organization is considering her in. Sometimes I'm such a follower...

Steinfeld is perfection as the wise beyond her years 14 year old Mattie Ross, the catalyst who sets in motion the events in True Grit. Steinfeld is making her feature film debut opposite Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper, and she's so assured and committed to this role you'd never know she's the rookie of the group. The dialogue of True Grit was difficult for the seasoned veterans in the cast to wrap their tongues around, yet it feels natural when spoken by newcomer Steinfeld.

Chloe Moretz - 'Kick-Ass'

Kick-Ass
© Lionsgate Films
Kick-Ass, the R-rated comic book-inspired action film from director Matthew Vaughn, courted controversy by showing Chloe Moretz' character getting shot in the chest, engaging in gun fights and brutal hand-to-hand combat, and for the expletive-laden dialogue she spouts while kicking ass. Moretz delivers lines that would make a sailor blush and her ability to take down bad guys using all manner of weapons is equally as vicious. It's a character that offends many, which is understandable, but the way Moretz handles the part of an 11 year old who's more dangerous than anyone in Stallone's The Expendables is so much fun to watch. Moretz, who also delivered an outstanding performance in the vampire film Let Me In, is an emerging talent with an incredible amount of depth and who has a career in action films ahead of her - if she wants it.

Lesley Manville - 'Another Year'

Another Year
© Sony Pictures Classics
Lesley Manville's performance in Another Year is, just like Hailee Steinfeld's, one which could go either way. Nearly all critics group have placed her among the Best Actress contenders, but I'm considering this a supporting role (although it took two viewings of the film to confirm my decision). I believe the studio's still pushing Manville as Best Actress, however to me the core of the film is the married couple played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen with Manville's character flitting in and out of their lives.

Manville, reuniting with filmmaker Mike Leigh for their sixth feature film together, plays Mary, a middle-aged, boozy woman who's incredibly lonely. It's a poignant performance, bringing to life this frustrated woman whose dreams of a happy life in a steady relationship are always just out of her grasp. It's Manville and Leigh's finest collaboration and easily Manville's most touching performance to date.

Melissa Leo - 'The Figher'

The Fighter
© Paramount Pictures
So, a fellow critic who shall remain nameless dismisses Melissa Leo's performance in The Fighter as a Marge Simpson-hair wearing caricature of every horrid, pushy mother ever seen on film. And yes, the hair's a bit Simpson-esque, but Leo's performance is in no way a caricature of a character type. It could have been, but Leo's too talented to allow that to happen.

Leo plays the manipulative mother of boxers Irish Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund in this heart-wrenching drama based on true events. Directed by David O. Russell and starring Mark Wahlberg as Micky and Christian Bale as Dicky, The Fighter can lay claim to one of the best ensemble casts of 2010, and Leo plays a huge role in making the film's depiction of a dysfunctional family feel heartbreakingly authentic.

Jacki Weaver - 'Animal Kingdom'

Animal Kingdom
© Sony Pictures Classics
You've never heard of Animal Kingdom? That's a shame as it's a riveting indie crime drama from Australia that deserves to play to a wider audience than it did during its limited theatrical release. Loaded with outstanding performances - Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Guy Pearce - Animal Kingdom features Jacki Weaver as a twisted, borderline incestuous mother who rules over her three criminal sons with an iron hand. 'Smurf' is a creepy, possibly crazy woman and Weaver's positively riveting as the family matriarch who has no qualms about calling in a hit on one of her own family members.

The latter half of the film takes a few unpredictable turns, so if you're not immediately sold on the first act of Animal Kingdom, don't give up. Your patience will ultimately pay off big time.

Helena Bonham Carter - 'The King's Speech'

The King's Speech
© The Weinstein Company
The King's Speech is a historical drama about a stuttering king and the speech therapist who helped him work through his debilitating fear of public speaking. The fact it's one of the most award-worthy films of 2010 speaks volumes to the stellar performances by the entire cast, as when you read that synopsis, I'm going to assume a vast majority of moviegoers trying to select where to spend their $10 wouldn't immediately decide to spring for a ticket to The King's Speech.

In a cast that includes pitch-perfect performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Guy Pearce, Helena Bonham Carter absolutely shines as Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George (Firth) and the woman who pushed him toward greatness. The King's Speech allows Bonham Carter to stretch different muscles after spending so much time portraying bizarre characters in films with her partner, Tim Burton, and after playing the crazy Bellatrix LeStrange in the Harry Potter movies. This is a restrained Bonham Carter performance, but one that's just as entertaining to behold as anything Burton's recently put her through on film.

Amy Adams - 'The Fighter'

The Fighter
© Paramount Pictures
Amy Adams has become a familiar figure during awards season and she'll likely be hitting all the red carpets again for her performance in the critically acclaimed The Fighter. Adams plays the no-nonsense woman who helps persuade boxer Irish Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) into wrestling his career away from his mother's hands as his manager in order to pursue one last shot at greatness in the boxing ring. Adams plays the tough bar maid like she's been pouring beers all her adult life, and as Wahlberg's love interest the two have genuine chemistry.

Dale Dickey - 'Winter's Bone'

Winter's Bone
© Roadside Attractions
Truthfully, this spot on the Best Supporting Actress list could have been held by any number of actresses from Winter's Bone. But when push came to shove, Dale Dickey emerged as the standout in the crowd of noteworthy supporting players.

Writer/director Debra Granik's backwoods thriller is a menacing tale of a teenager girl forced to search for her missing crystal meth-brewing father in order to make sure he doesn't forfeit his bail thus forcing his family to be evicted from their home. Set in the Ozarks, Winter's Bone stars Jennifer Lawrence as the teen who undergoes one of the most traumatic journeys from youth to adulthood as she goes against her extended family and her father's drug associates in order to save her family. Dickey's chillingly realistic supporting performance as a menacing mountain woman is scarier than any of the men in the film combined.

Keira Knightley - 'Never Let Me Go'

Never Let Me Go
© Fox Searchlight
I had to watch Never Let Me Go twice to truly appreciate the effectiveness of Keira Knightley's performance in this strange yet mesmerizing sci-fi love story. The story about three friends raised in a private English boarding school in which the students' sole purpose for existence takes a twist that's both thought-provoking and disturbingly sad. No spoilers will be revealed here but be forewarned, if you haven't read the book go into Never Let Me Go knowing upfront it's not an uplifting story. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Knightley portray the students as the young adult participants of a doomed love triangle. All of cogs have to fit perfectly for Never Let Me Go to work, and these three are all simply fantastic.

Blake Lively - 'The Town'

The Town
© Warner Bros Pictures
Best known for her starring role on the TV series Gossip Girl, Blake Lively gives us something to gossip about with her stunning portrayal of a drug-addled and damaged young mother who's hopelessly in love with the leader of a gang of bank robbers who sees her only as a way to pass the time in bed. Lively's nearly unrecognizable, sleazing it up and delivering a stand-out performance - along with Jeremy Renner who plays her brother, Jem. Lively's take on this confused and pitiful woman bodes well for what the actress is capable of doing in the future.

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