I recently shared my Top 20 films of the year, but while 2015 is still young and its great films are months away, there’s still time to look back at 2015. In this post I’ll name my favorite lead and supporting performances, along with my favorite scenes of the year “The Year in Miscellaneous Superlatives.”

Happily, this year featured tons of fantastic performances from women! I had a tough time coming up with even five lead actors, but there were a wealth of great lead actresses to choose from. So this year, I couldn’t help it: I’ve named ten.

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Best Actress:

  • Juliette Binoche – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Anne Dorval – Mommy
  • Greta Gerwig – Mistress America
  • Nina Hoss – Phoenix
  • Sidse Babett Knudsen – Duke of Burgundy
  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Elisabeth Moss – Queen of Earth
  • Carey Mulligan – Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s beyond me why Rooney Mara was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar, when she has more screen time than her (equally great) costar Cate Blanchett, and when her character represents the central dramatic arc of the film. Either way, Mara is a revelation, expanding her talents for this subtle and humane performance.

Best Actor:

  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hanks – Bridge of Spies
  • Samuel L. Jackson – The Hateful Eight
  • Viggo Mortensen – Jauja
  • Adam Scott – The Overnight

While Jennifer Jason Leigh got the most love from The Hateful Eight, it’s Jackson’s strength and “saddle smarts” that made the biggest impression on me. Watch, for example, the way he thoughtful scans the room when he enters Minnie’s Haberdashery. And it helps that Jackson has the most familiarity and facility with Tarantino’s wordy dialogue.

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Suzanne Clement – Mommy
  • Julianne Moore – Maps to the Stars
  • Alia Shawkat – Wild Canaries
  • Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Katherine Waterston – Queen of Earth

Kristen Stewart shocked a lot of people with her layered turn as a young assistant in Clouds of Sils Maria, even picking up the French equivalent of the Oscar for her role. She’s not only able to perform admirably against the legendary Juliette Binoche, she creates her own sympathetic pull in the film that plays marvelously against the other performers.

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Kyle Chandler – Carol
  • Keir Gilchrist – It Follows
  • Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Liev Schreiber – Spotlight

The venerable stage actor Mark Rylance made a late-career Hollywood splash in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, not only sparking the espionage plot, but anchoring the film morally. Rylance’s is a quiet, understated performance, but an expertly technical one that adds depth, more than simple mystery, to the unflappable spy.

MVP of the Year: Kurt Russell – The Hateful EightBone TomahawkFurious 7
(Past winners: John C. Reilly, Matthew McConaughey, James Franco, Tilda Swinton)


Best Scenes of the Year:

Phoenix – The ending.
Mommy – Format change.
Mission: Impossible – Opera house action sequence.
Carol – First car ride together.
Bridge of Spies – East Germany bureaucracy.
Jurassic World – Demise of Indominous Rex.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Jakku escape.
Junun – Ballad performance / Musical intimacy.
Sicario – Nightvision.
Duke of Burgundy – The Saleswoman.

Worst Performances:

Giovanni Ribisi – Results
Karl Glusman – Love
Tang Wei – Blackhat
Jesse Plemons – Black Mass
Richard Jenkins – Bone Tomahawk

Best Small Performance:

Nina Kunzendorf – Phoenix
Fatma Mohamed – Duke of Burgundy
Michael Chernus – Mistress America
Joan Allen – The End of the Tour
James Badge Dale – The Walk

Most Overrated:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Love & Mercy

Most Underrated:

Blackhat
Chappie

Most Overlooked:

The Overnight
The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Far from the Madding Crowd

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