Up first, the five very different, yet very effective performances nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Hayden Panettiere brought an unmistakable energy and charisma to her role as Kirby in the long awaited Scream 4. Touted as the female equivalent to Randy Meeks, Panettiere's Kirby is an intelligent, strong and comical character who instantly became a franchise favorite among Scream fans. Panettiere nails the role and easily steals the film from her co-stars. She oozes just the right balance of vulnerability and charm and elevates the film, lighting up the screen each time she appears and having the audience longing for her return she absent from the screen.
Lin Shaye, who won the Fright Meter Award for Best Actress in 2004 for her marvelously frenzied performance in Dead End, earns her second nomination for her portrayal of no-nonsense psychic investigator Elise Rainer in Insidious. Shaye strikes the right balance between stern authority figure and sympathetic, yet frightened support for the Lambert family, who are being terrorized by a malevolent force. Shaye's confident and commanding screen presence allows her to be the bridge between the audience and the supernatural activity that is occurring in the film. Through Shaye, the audience knows when they can relax a bit or when they should grasp the arm of the person sitting next to them. Not since Zelda Rubenstein's portrayal of Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist has portrayal of a psychic investigator been so convincing and entertaining.
Maneula Velles may be the lesser known of the five nominees, but make no mistakes about it; her performance as Isa in the Spanish home invasion film Kidnapped is a stellar exercise in an actress completely embracing her character and the situations her character is facing and reacting accordingly. Perhaps the most physically and emotionally challenging role of the five nominees, Velles' decent from typical self-absorbed teenager girl to brutalized, emotionally wrecked vigilante is a marvel to watch. She is utterly believable and her last moments on film provide a heavy punch in the gut to the viewer.
Melissa Leo, fresh off an Oscar win for her performance in The Fighter, delivers a wonderfully macabre, against-the-grain performance as Sara, the matriarch figure of a religious fanatic family in Kevin Smith's Red State. Leo sinks her teeth into the role that allows her to showcase a plethora of sides to her character, from titillating seductress, to loving and protective mother, to psychotic zealot. And she does so with the ease of a truly great actress, never verging on going over the top or coming off as a caricature rather than a character. In the hands of a lesser actress, this role could have been a train wreck waiting to happen, but Leo's gives a dazzling and highly effective performance.
Kerry Bishe, perhaps best known for portraying Lucy Bennet on the sitcom Scrubs, gets the opportunity to sink her teeth into a highly dramatic and showy role as Cheyenne, a teenage member of the religious fanatic family in Red State. Her character is perhaps the most sympathetic to the audience because of her conflicted feelings about her family's beliefs and actions, particularly when it comes to the treatment of a young teenage boy (Kyle Gallner) they abduct who she feels great sympathy for. Bishe doesn't miss a beat, going toe to toe with Oscar winner Melissa Leo and veteran actors John Goodman and Michael Parks. It's a heartbreaking performance in a overtly violent film that sticks with the viewer long after the film credits have rolled.