Penelope Cruz – “Nine”
Carla arrives in Venice and phones her lover Guido. She wants to see him immediately, and Cruz certainly makes a persuasive case in the number “A Call From the Vatican” as to why Guido should drop everything and attend to her immediately. Sliding down ropes, wearing high heels and little else, Cruz sizzles, purring that “I need you to kiss me here … and here … and here …” And it’s easy to guess why poor procrastinating Guido never gets any work done.
Vera Farmiga – “Up in the Air”
Frequent flier Alex meets Ryan Bingham in a hotel bar and immediately spots a kindred soul. They pile their loyalty cards on the table, and Alex asks Ryan how many air miles he has accumulated. “C’mon impress me,” she says. “I bet it’s huge.” The banter is sexy and impeccably delivered. But watch Farmiga’s brief hesitation when Bingham tells her, “There’s nothing cheap about loyalty.” It’s a small hint that things are more complicated than they seem.
Maggie Gyllenhaal – “Crazy Heart”
Jean opens the door to find a sobered-up and clear-thinking Bad Blake on her front porch. She hasn’t seen him since the day he lost her son. Now he’s telling her that he’s changed. “You woke me up,” he tells her. He wants forgiveness. He wants her back. Gyllenhaal smiles, as Jean remembers how much she loved Blake. But Gyllenhaal also shows us how he hurt her, too. She’s glad he’s better, not only for for the sake of herself and her son, but she can’t be a fool for love again.
Anna Kendrick – “Up in the Air”
Natalie has been trying to convince Ryan that human companionship can be a fine and necessary thing. As they reach the hotel lobby, she crumbles and begins sobbing. Her boyfriend has broken up with her by text message. As Natalie commiserates with Ryan and Alex afterward, Kendrick expertly shows the strength and fears of this 23-year-old career woman who wants both a corner office and a golden-Lab loving man with a single-syllable name and a great smile.
Mo’Nique – “Precious”
Mary Johnston sits with her daughter, Precious, in a social worker’s office, avoiding the question of how she allowed her daughter to be sexually abused by Precious’ father. Mo’Nique shows the woman’s defiance and then makes us understand — but in no way condone — Mary’s monstrous behavior. The logic behind her actions is twisted, to be sure, but it comes from a very human need for love, making this family’s horror story all the more devastating.