The Alternative Awards is a weekly column that highlights actors, actresses and films that are flying way under the awards radar, but still deserve a second glance. It will run on Tuesdays throughout awards season.
We have tackled the Supporting Actors and now it is time to look at the ladies. In what might be the most wide open category in the entire race, a couple of handy reminders might actually do some good for voters. Helena Bonham Carter ('The King's Speech') may be the one and only lock at this point. The only one-time Oscar nominee may even be the favorite to win as part of a potential sweep for Tom Hooper's great film. Her closest competition could be either Melissa Leo or Amy Adams, depending on which actress from 'The Fighter' voters can make up their mind upon. Adams may have the edge, but both can easily be nominated.
After that it is a virtual pick 'em of possibilities starting with Dianne Wiest ('Rabbit Hole') and Marion Cotillard ('Inception'). There appears to be some heat building for Miranda Richardson ('Made In Dagenham'). If Michelle Williams gets shut out for 'Blue Valentine,' she could still get in for 'Shutter Island' here. We have yet to see if the discovery of Hailee Steinfeld ('True Grit') will be worth a nomination or just some consolation into the Breakthrough Performance categories. And finally it might take some acknowledgement from the critics' awards to secure nods for Jacki Weaver ('Animal Kingdom') and Ruth Sheen ('Another Year').
Rose Byrne ('Get Him To The Greek')
If comedy ever has a chance at the Oscars, it is usually in the supporting categories. 2010 was not a great year in the laughter department, but after 'The Other Guys' the best comedy of the bunch was easily Nicholas Stoller's follow-up to 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall.' And the last thing we anticipated was to see the usually very stoic co-star of sci-fi's 'Sunshine,' '28 Weeks Later' and 'Knowing' to give such a full-bodied comic performance as the profane pop star ex-lover of Russell Brand's Aldous Snow.
Yes, that is Ellen Parsons from TV's 'Damages' singing about tight holes and throwing drunken tantrums. Maybe it is the contrast from her previous work that makes Byrne's performance stand out, but it is also what makes it so hysterical. She had the benefit of some wonderfully explicit lyrics and it could not have been more fun to play. But comedy still requires a delicate touch and Byrne was fearless in a way where, say, Jessica Alba or Megan Fox would have failed. Byrne was sexy in a way that made a goof of vapid sexuality, and in essence, made her even sexier. If she is not even on the radar of voters, then let us hope that one of Jackie Q's songs gets nominated. Just to see Byrne perform in character and tell the audience precisely what she is talking about when singing about her "rosey."
Milla Jovovich ('Stone')
If you had asked me after seeing 'The Messenger: Joan of Arc', arguably the worst lead female performance I have ever seen, that I would ever see a good performance out of this model-turned-actress let alone one I would recommend for awards consideration, I would have checked you into rehab personally. Then I saw Miss Jovovich in a little seen festival gem called 'Dummy.' And I saw a side never seen before. A talented side. Four 'Resident Evils' and an 'Ultraviolet' later and 'Dummy' seemed like a distant memory.
Then Milla found herself cast alongside heavyweights Robert De Niro and Edward Norton. In a film that had a hard time finding a consistent tone for its viewers, it was easy to then get caught up in the performances and I'll be damned if Jovovich was not going toe-to-toe as the loyal girlfriend unaware of the moral lines she is crossing. Featuring a phone seduction scene of great, subtle power, Jovovich's performance was certainly the most interesting of her career and any flaws it may have only add to the mystery of the character's authenticity. Stone was a film about the sins of the past and of redemption, so it was only appropriate that Jovovich was a part of it and came out the other side looking good.
Juliette Lewis ('Conviction')
While Tony Goldwyn's true-life crime tale of redemption seem tailor-made for a Sam Rockwell Oscar run, the great character actor was left hanging with little more than scenes of getting good or bad news from his sister. Instead you saw Juliette Lewis who ended up stealing the show. As long as you didn't get up to go to the bathroom or get a refill. It was easy to forget that Lewis was one of the three Oscar nominees touted in the film's trailer once her brief courtroom appearance ended early on. At that moment she had more screen time answering the door in 'Due Date.' But when she reappeared years later (literally and facetiously) as a toothless trailer dweller without a care in the world anymore, it was Lewis' film. She gave a throwaway character the best scene in the film at a time when it really needed it. Funny and pathetic, Lewis had us enveloped in a woman that in real life we would look away from but on screen could not keep our eyes away.
Chloe Moretz ('Kick-Ass')
Speaking of breakout years, did anyone get more respect from fanboys and critics alike than this 13 year-old star? Very few people saw her do justice to the role of the young vampire in 'Let Me In', the American remake of the masterful 'Let the Right One In,' but she got all the press and kudos as the limb-chomping, bullet-stopping, punch-taking Hit Girl. No one can mount a defense that the film's idiot titular character was more interesting than the trained-from-birth assassin that swore and killed with the best of 'em. She was the best thing about 'Kick-Ass' bar none and thanks to her climactic bit of confident ass-kicking, she may have even sent enough people off on a high to recommend a vastly flawed film. In 2011, she will be headlining Martin Scorsese's 3-D 'Hugo Cabret,' but nobody leapt off the screen and onto our radar as much as Miss Moretz did in 2010.
Imogen Poots ('Solitary Man')
Fanboys might recognize her from small roles in 'V for Vendetta,' '28 Weeks Later' and 'Centurion', but it was her going toe-to-toe, step-for-step with Michael Douglas as his lover's wise-acre daughter that should have them in love with her. For all the flaws of Douglas' character in the film, his greatest may have been driving Miss Poots' character out of the film after their flirtatious back-and-forth takes a wrong turn. Until then, she was a standout - wise and sexy and a character we wanted around. While the film certainly stayed afloat as a kind of menial 'Roger Dodger' thanks to Douglas' performance, you could not help feel that something was now missing once Miss Poots was gone.