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Top 5 Best Actresses: 2006

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No doubt Helen Mirren (The Queen) and Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada) are going to wind up on the majority of all 2006 Best Actresses lists, but the rest of my favorite performances by females aren't quite as obvious.

1. Helen Mirren - The Queen

Helen Mirren in The Queen
Helen Mirren is absolutely fantastic as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. The film focuses on the days immediately following the tragic death of Princess Diana, and Mirren does an incredible job making Queen Elizabeth's reluctance to appear in public to mourn Princess Di's death both understandable and sympathetic.

2. Shareeka Epps - Half Nelson

Remember her name. Shareeka Epps' breakthrough performance in Half Nelson catapults her to the top of her class. The film's disturbing subject matter - a junior high teacher addicted to drugs is discovered by one of his better students getting high in the gym - will mean the film's not for everyone. But for those up to the task, Epps and co-star Ryan Gosling's performances are worth checking out.

3. Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada

Meryl Streep's considerable ability to play an unsympathetic character matches the material to a T in The Devil Wears Prada. We've come to expect no less than perfection from Meryl Streep and as the boss from hell, Streep chews up the screen. In less capable hands, the role might have come off as too over-the-top, too utterly evil to embrace. But in Streep's care, the Devil in Prada is irresistible.

4. Penelope Cruz - Volver

Pedro Almodovar loves Penelope Cruz and Cruz loves him right back. Their mutual admiration is evident in the way Almodovar costumes, lights, and shoots Cruz in Volver, their third collaboration. Cruz (along with her female co-stars) picked up Best Actress honors at the Cannes Film Festival for her work in Volver and the idea of Cruz grabbing an Oscar for this Almodovar film isn't out of the question.

5. Kate Winslet - Little Children

Of the four movies Kate Winslet starred in in 2006 (All the King's Men, Flushed Away, Little Children, The Holiday) it was her performance as a woman torn between the responsibilities of being a wife and mother and the joys of an extramarital affair with a handsome neighbor in Little Children that earned her rave reviews. Winslet's multi-layered performance of a passionate, frustrated wife is one of the best of the critically acclaimed actress' career.

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