“Albert Nobbs”

Albert’s bewilderment when his intended is affronted at any offer of marriage preceded by not so much as a kiss. He busses her cheek with an utter absence of carnality, and we suddenly realize his hopes are up — “maybe now she’ll agree,” he’s thinking. The sequence crystallizes this vivid portrait of a one-of-a-kind innocent.

“The Help”

The climactic confrontation with Bryce Dallas Howard’s spiteful Southern virago. Davis keeps Aibileen on a solid simmer throughout until she’s accused of theft, but instead of the expected explosion we get only a quiet goring: “You a godless woman. Ain’t you tired, Miss Hilly? Ain’t you tired?” The kind of line, once heard, you know you won’t forget.

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

Her implacable revenge on her snivelling rapist/parole officer. Mara’s matter-of-fact execution of her scheme to turn the tables establishes, early on, a protagonist who will effortlessly strike without qualm or mercy. The resulting dread envelops the rest of the movie.

“The Iron Lady”

Thatcher’s Cabinet meeting meltdown, when she scolds her (in her mind) incompetent and disloyal ministers and works herself up to a fury. Then abruptly, she shockingly realizes she may have gone too far this time, with her government on the brink. A Shakespearean moment.

“My Week With Marilyn”

Her surprise appearance in the limo’s back seat to effect an escape from the studio with her cooperative handlers. It’s not the tee-hee glee of a successful prank, but the ecstasy of a caged creature finally experiencing liberation. We’ve observed Marilyn’s demons, and here she joyously throws them off, but alas, only temporarily.

Eye on the Oscars: Talent Roundup 2012
Does career achievement matter?
And the nominees are:
Lead Actor | Lead Actress | Supporting Actor | Supporting Actress