It’s a tough call when there are so many great female performers on tv these days, but these are the stars that made the cut. With so much to choose from, here was my top 10 from 2011:
#1: Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation – It’s tough to beat a Leslie Knope. The plucky, good-hearted, endlessly positive deputy director of the Pawnee Parks Department has kept her love of local government while growing immensely in the past four seasons. She’s truly one of the all-time best characters on television, and Amy Poehler infuses such real light into the character.
#2: Laura Dern, Enlightened – She seems to rarely work in these past few years, which is a true shame. A great talent in film in the ’90s, she’s returned with a vengeance in a the wonderfully fleshed-out character of Amy Jellicoe, the crazed working stiff turned mellow do-gooder who can’t quite figure out where to place her anger or her love. Dern is wonderfully neurotic and infuriating, as well as strangely endearing.
#3: Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights – Sure, she’s moved on to F/X territory, but the superior Ms. Britton will always be her long-suffering coach’s wife Tami Taylor. She’s a great mother, a great wife, a smart cookie, and a major bull deflector. For five seasons Britton has been the backbone of the FNL crew, and with such an understated character, the actress works wonders in the final, entirely satisfying season, even with just a handful of 2011 episodes to contend.
#4: Laura Linney, The Big C – Like Dern, Linney’s another who’s turned to the recently creative space that has been television, and she hasn’t disappointed. Though The Big C‘s second season might not’ve lived up to its spectacular first season, Linney kept anchoring the show with good humor, well-chosen emotional moments, and the energy she never ceases to bring in any of her great performances.
#5: Lisa Kudrow, Web Therapy – She’s come a long way since Phoebe Buffay. Kudrow continues her uncanny abilities in comedy with a polar opposite character based on the popular web series. Fiona is snarky, self-serving, and incredibly funny. And in this limited format – the entire series takes place via her web therapy desktop – she is clearly having a great time with her many guest stars. And Kudrow doesn’t falter for a second.
#6: Toni Collette, United States of Tara – It pained me so to eliminate Toni from the top 5, particularly on the amazing Tara‘s final season, but it’s one competitive category. Then again, Collette’s performance in the sadly canceled gem of a show this year was a return to the form she had in the early episodes of season one. Now can we all agree this woman needs to get another stab at an Oscar? Clearly she’s got some newfound time on her hands, so get cracking writers!
#7: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Big Love – The show has had its ups and downs, namely the erratic fourth season, but it wasn’t until this final one that Barb, the first wife and the level-headed lady of the bunch, got her chance to shine. She was relegated to the background throughout the series, but this past year, Tripplehorn was finally given some meaty material, as she began to question her place as a subservient within the church.
#8: Claire Danes, Homeland – It could’ve been just another crime drama or just another military drama. But instead the expertly written Showtime series gave its star Claire Danes an incredibly layered character in the unbalanced, driven Carrie – a female character unlike any other on television, really. Coming off of a big year thanks to Temple Grandin, Danes has found a possibly superior place to play in Homeland.
#9: Jenna Fischer, The Office – Though The Office has undergone some major changes in this past year, it’s important to note that its core cast, namely Fischer, has kept the series honest. Pam’s gone through plenty of changes since her mumsy, innocent beginnings, and this new Pam – the one with a little bit of an edge and a new position within the office hierarchy – is better than ever. Fischer is a quiet talent, but it’s important not to forget that she’s a talent nonetheless.
#10: Madeleine Stowe, Revenge – The show is a delicious sudser that is endlessly entertaining. Sure, it has its flaws, but you’re completely forgetting about them thanks in large part to the fantastic actors involved. And the ship’s captain is clearly veteran Stowe, who makes a startlingly ice queen performance as the vindictive Victoria Grayson, the yin to Emily Thorne’s yang. The Count of Monte Christo is back, ladies and gentlemen, and Ms. Stowe is playing it with claws.
Yep, I’m running behind. The Oscars have come and gone, and I’m just getting started on my year-end wrap-up. Oh well – something to keep me entertained through to mid-March, I suspect. Here are my favorites for the year in supporting actors…
#1: Chris Pratt, Parks and Recreation – He’s come a long way since simple Andy Dwyer who fell in the pit and treated his nurse girlfriend like his personal nanny. Now he’s the shoeshine guy, he’s a married fella, and he’s never been funnier than he has in these past few seasons. What was once a “guest appearance by…” situation has bloomed into a full-fledged vital member of the cast of characters in Pawnee, Indiana. If you don’t find Andy Dwyer one of the most endearing gents on air, you’re missing out.
#2: Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation – My choice for “best of” last year, Ron Swanson has proven to be an integral and surprisingly layered character for the best show on TV. Not only is he the sounding board for our hero, Leslie Knope, but he’s become a sort of father figure to virtually everyone in the Parks Department. Plus, his relationships with the varied Tammys this year has certainly made for compelling television.
#3: Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live – He’s quickly become the MVP of the sometimes wavering cast of SNL, and it’s frankly amazing that he hasn’t been able to build a more prominent filmography in movie theaters. Then again, as long as that doesn’t happen, we’ll get more Stefon, more James Carville, and more smarmy game show hosts (it’s incredible how reminiscent he is of every ’70s TV contest host you can think of). With Kristen Wiig exiting this season, NBC best hang onto this one.
#4: Ty Burrell, Modern Family – Phil Dunphy is a hopeless dope, not unlike our #1 choice, but a lovable one at that. He can’t seem to do anything right, but his relationship with his kids, particularly little Luke, is one of the most entertaining and believable father-child relationships in TV comedy. And of course there’s always the spousal dynamic between he and Julie Bowen that never disappoints.
#5: Jim O’Heir, Parks and Recreation – Poor Jerry Gergich. Poor, doltish Jerry Gergich. Jim O’Heir plays the schlemiel who remains the butt of every joke and every jab in Pawnee with such fine form, you almost forget how greatly he inhabits the character. Thanks to some additional fleshing out of his character (daughter Milicent, he and wife Gail’s affinity for Muncie’s grand vacation destinations) he’s more of an enjoyable presence than ever.
#6: Garret Dillahunt, Raising Hope – A nominee for me last year, he fell victim this year to the behemoth that is Parks and Rec, but I am no less impressed with his dunderheaded (hmmm… trend I’m sensing?), landscaping dad Bert this year versus the last. Banking mostly on his incredible chemistry with on-screen wife Martha Plimpton and hopeless grocery clerk son Lucas Neff, he’s another great example of sitcom dad, an archetype that seems to be making a comeback.
#7: Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family – My winner in this category in 2009, season two may’ve downplayed Cam’s part a bit in favor of bigger storylines for the rest of the crew, but Stonestreet has managed to maintain the show’s MVP whatever’s thrown at him. The addition of the new plot-point of a second child in the Pritchett-Tucker household has made him all-the-more fun to watch. Let’s hope the writers can keep up with his high-energy performing.
#8: Joel Kinnaman, The Killing – The subtle backbone to what I find to be an intriguing and nerve-wrecking show (despite what the naysayers my think about its supposed “slow-moving plot”), Kinnaman’s bad boy, 8 Mile act makes for great interplay with the straight-laced Linden (Mirielle Enos). His questionable detective methods and his possible ties to the crime at hand make him a pivotal part of the AMC drama.
#9: Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation – The Pawneeans just keep popping up. Boasting the best supporting male cast since Arrested Development, Scott’s Ben Wyatt, the once-prickly former mayor of Patridge, Minnesota, has swiftly become the dorky soul mate to Amy Poehler’s neurotic Leslie. From his bumbling interactions with the local cops to his questionable roleplay (Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, huh?), Scott’s found a great home post-Party Down.
#10: Michael B. Jordan, Friday Night Lights – When FNL decided to change courses and send the Taylors over to the other side of the tracks, little did my nervous self know that the show would only get better at East Dillon. And the key player on the Lions squad, Vince Howard, is the soul of the team. It’d be easy to write off Jordan’s performance as just another troubled teen who makes good. But he’s incredibly believable and you couldn’t help but root for him.
I know my blogging has been virtually non-existent this Oscar season, but that doesn’t mean I’m devoid of excitement for the big day today. So in the spirit of getting it officially on paper, here are my predictions for tonight’s big contest:
Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin
Best Actress: Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer
Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Best Costume Design: Hugo
Best Film Editing: The Artist
Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Art Direction: Hugo
Best Makeup: Albert Nobbs
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: A Separation
Best Foreign Film: A Separation
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Original Score: The Artist
Best Original Song: “Man or Muppet”
Best Sound Mixing: Moneyball
Best Sound Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Documentary Feature: Paradise Lost 3
Best Live Action Short: Tuba Atlantic
Best Animated Short: La Luna
Best Documentary Short: Incident in New Baghdad
Now that my nominees have been announced in music, tv, and film, I figured I’d dole out the winners through a top 10 list extravaganza! So we begin – we’ll start with Best Supporting Actress, tv edition. Here is my top 10 for 2011:
#1: Allison Brie, Community – Though its fate is still in question at this point, Community had something of a breath of fresh air this season. What started out as an entertaining enough addition to the stellar NBC Thursday lineup has since turned into a reliably funny and smart ode to the ridiculousness of television and movies. And thanks to the plucky, good-natured comedic timing of my winner this year, the cast is in good hands. I will admit that a huge part of this victory was the amazing Christmas episode that showcased her great sense of humor. Seriously. Watch it and you’ll understand. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s been awfully fun as the endlessly perky wife Trudie in Mad Men and probably the best part of this year’s Scream 4.
#2: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story – Since her heyday in the ’80s, she certainly hasn’t had the proper big-screen treatment. But Jessica Lange has clearly found her niche in television, from Grey Gardens to this, a gem of a role. Sure, it wasn’t perfect by any means, but Lange was clearly the standout. She’s devilish, hammy, and gloriously evil as the conniving vixen next door. She falls so naturally into the role it feels like a much-deserved career continuation.
#3: Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie – My winner from last year, the excellent timing of this unheralded character is what should keep people coming back to Nurse Jackie. Zoey Barkow is endearing and sweet but not afraid to say what she’s thinking, particularly as the series progresses and she grows to emulate her mentor, the show’s titular character. She continues to turn in one of the best performances on television, and yet continues to go unnoticed by awards bodies. At least she has the LCTs…
#4: Sofia Vergara, Modern Family – With one of the most skilled casts on television, it’s difficult to stand out. But Vergara has no trouble. Sure, her comedic choices can be broad, but she’s completely believable as the thick-accented, highly opinionated Gloria. From her relationship with her singular son Manny to her interactions with stepson-in-law Cam (I always enjoy their duo episodes!), I think Sofia is more aware of how funny she is than she’s given credit for.
#5: Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope – First off, why aren’t people watching this show? The premise may be simplistic – white trash family takes care of unexpected bundle of joy – but the ensemble is incredible and the writing is uproarious. And as the matriarch of the ship, Plimpton is totally believable in her goofball Virginia Chance role, despite playing nerds and know-it-alls in the past. So let’s all go queue season one and check back in later – it’s worth it.
#6: Julie Bowen, Modern Family – She probably has the most thankless role in the bunch. She’s the fun-hating stay-at-home mom who keeps the ship running. Yet, there’s more to Claire Dunphy. It takes a special kind of woman to put up with a flaky, hammy husband and at least two head-in-the-clouds children. And if you’ve ever witnessed an episode in which Claire cuts loose and kicks a few back, you’ll see just how great Bowen can play drunk.
#7: Gillian Jacobs, Community – After an adequate first season that kept me interested enough, I didn’t expect Community to make such strides in the two seasons since. And no one has grown in my estimation more than Britta Perry herself, Gillian Jacobs. Once the most throwaway part of the study group ensemble, she’s become the pretty hilarious wannabe-crunchy-granola punching bag – and she’s never been better. Brie may get the overt laughs, but Jacobs gets the sneakily brilliant moments.
#8: Rashida Jones, Parks and Recreation – One half of television’s best friendship, Anne Perkins could easily be just a pretty face who sets up jokes. But instead she makes her undying gal-pal relationship with Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope genuine and totally buyable. Jones’s refreshing performance has kept pace with her more outlandish co-stars, and her struggles with singledom (as well as a confusing relationship with Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger) has given her lots of great material in 2011.
#9: Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife – What’s an actor without some great words to perform? Well Archie Panjabi certainly makes good use of the expertly written Good Wife, particularly her ability to keep her low-key and mysterious Kalinda Sharma so riveting through some dramatic character changes. Plus she’s pretty good with a baseball bat.
#10: Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory – Sure, many won’t agree with me that Big Bang‘s new direction in the past season or so has been a good move, but I simply don’t care. Introducing Amy and Bernadette as regulars reinvigorated a series that could’ve floundered; plus it gave Kaley Cuoco more to do. But the big win in bringing on the ladies was the hilarious character of Amy Farrah Fowler. The former Blossom perfectly blends into the geeky group with her social awkwardness, blunt opinions, and bizarre, and thus hilarious, obsession with “BFF” Penny.
And we conclude with the film nominees (albeit a few days later than planned). These are my own picks for the best of the year, and I must say I can’t remember the last time I’ve differed this much from the Academy. Which is not to say that the Oscars didn’t have some admirable choices – many, in fact, I quite enjoyed. Just not quite as much as this crop. In film, it seems there were a couple noticeable trends – young actors really excelled during 2011, and comedies sort of ruled the roost. But before I get too indulgent, I’ll just show you the nominees themselves…
The awardage continues! I suppose I’d better hustle if I want to get the nominees announced before the actual awards (Sunday!) – but alas, the mad scramble to edit the show is sucking up my quality blogging time. But I digress – here are my best of the best for music of 2011. As per usual, it’s a little bit of an insane hodgepodge, but it turns out my musical tastes tend to be a little eclectic (and probably questionable). Check out the categories below, and the film ones should be coming tomorrow! Enjoy.