TIME charts the highs and lows of the past year in 50 wide-ranging, lists including a top 10 movie performances ( 5 females and 5 males) . Marion Cotillard as Luisa Contini is included as one of the best performance of the year.
5. Marion Cotillard as Luisa Contini in Nine
The actresses in Nine, Rob Marshall's musical drama based on Federico Fellini's 8½, come alive when they sing. Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren and (wow) Fergie all lend their solo turns knowing eroticism and high snazz. But Cotillard, as the wife of a desperate filmmaker (Daniel Day-Lewis) is in command of her character whether she's singing, speaking or just staring darts at her philandering mate. Pain rarely seemed so proud, or hurt so regal, as in Cotillard's rendition of the ballad "My Husband Makes Movies."The actress's showy turn as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose earned her an Oscar. Here, she's simpler, deeper, better.
1. Mo'nique as Mary Jones in Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
In this virtually all-female saga of an illiterate, abused, grossly fat teenager who finds salvation through schooling, many actresses stand out. Applause, please, for Gabourey Sidibe in the title role; for Mariah Carey as a skeptical social worker; and for Paula Patton as the idealization of all teachers who give their time, their passion and above all their hope to poor kids. But all must bow, or cringe, before the explosion of malice, cunning and finally self-pity that Mo'nique triggers as Precious's brutal mom. A stand-up comedian by trade, Mo'nique commands the screen even in those infrequent moments when her character's not doing something awful. In the court of movie opinion, a judge might wonder what sentence such a deplorable, obscene, eye-magnetizing monster deserves? Maybe "And the Oscar goes to... Mo'nique."
2. Carey Mulligan as Jenny in An Education
It's 1961 in pre-swinging London, and Jenny is already a local star: the smartest, most popular and self-possessed 16-year-old at her elite girls' school. In the acting class of 2009, Mulligan, 24, has been widely acclaimed Most Likely to Succeed, and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress seems assured. A pop symphony of womanly poise (her rich cello voice) and girlish exuberance (the dimples), Mulligan worked her way up through supporting roles in films, TV series and stage work, including an indelible Nina in a London and Broadway revival of The Seagull. As Jenny in Nick Hornby's adaptation of the Lynn Barber memoir, she's a precocious virgin ripe for plucking by a worldly fellow twice her age. The roue is smitten and seduced, and why not? Everyone in the audience is too.
3. Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones
Trying to cast the central role in his film of the Alice Sebold novel narrated by a murdered teen, and set in 1970s Pennsylvania, director Peter Jackson thought he'd find his girl in the U.S. But the young actresses he auditioned were too modern, and too schooled in the wiles of Disney Channel cuteness. Then he received a homemade screen test of Ronan, fresh off her role as the lying child in Atonement. Jackson, who had struck gold with teens before (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in Heavenly Creatures), knew he'd found his Susie. Not adorable but endlessly watchable, not calculating but super-smart about burrowing into a character, Ronan, now 15, transports Susie from innocent, ordinary life into a post-mortem dream world where she hovers over her grieving family like a guardian angel. Dakota Fanning, you have competition as the wisest child-woman in movies. The name's prononced SIR-sha.
4. Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia
In Streep's long and laureled career, this has been her parody decade. After playing stately or turbulent dramatic heroines for ages, she went camp. She binged on imperious harridans, some icily comic (The Manchurian Candidate, The Devil Wears Prada), some so stridently manic (Mamma Mia!, Doubt) they became camp sights. Playing the grand, flutey Julia Child in Nora Ephron's charming double-bio-pic might have stranded Streep in grotesque impersonation. Quelle surprise! she mixed the ingredients of comedy and character to cook up... Ahh, enough with the food metaphors. Under the fun was a warm human being, Count on her to win another Best Actress Oscar nomination — or, as it's called at the Academy, the Meryl Streep Award.