Best Actress

Jessica Chastain Mama
Jessica Chastain - “Madagascar 3” & "Mama"
Having only broken out in the last couple of years, Jessica Chastain hasn't had much of a chance to take a giant paycheck (she flirted with, but didn't take "Iron Man 3"). And while she has done a couple of big studio movies, she's been lucky in that both have turned out better than they had much right to be. Last summer saw Chastain lend her voice to "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," the latest in the DreamWorks Animation franchise, playing Gia, the Italian jaguar (?!) who serves as the love interest to Ben Stiller's lion Alex. Thanks to trippy visuals and an absurd script from Noah Baumbach, it's easily the best of the series, and Chastain's good as Gia, demonstrating light rom-com chops she hasn't had displayed much on screen to date. Then, in January came "Mama," the Guillermo del Toro-produced film which, while still a January horror, wasn't a particularly bad example of the sub-genre, and saw Chastain acquit herself well, adding extra texture as the bass-playing girlfriend forced into a maternal role. Hopefully she'll see this list and abstain from truly cashing out as her career continues.

Jennifer Lawrence House At The End Of The Street
Jennifer Lawrence - “House at the End of the Street”
Given that Jennifer Lawrence is only 22, and given that her big-budget studio pictures, "The Hunger Games" and "X-Men First Class," have been relatively palatable, one might assume that the young star hasn't yet had time to make a real stinker. But one would assume wrong, as anyone who saw last fall's "House at the End of the Street" would attest. Shot in September 2010 before Lawrence's first Oscar nomination but delayed by almost eighteen months, the teen-friendly horror stars Lawrence as Elissa, who moves with her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) to a new town, only to discover that terrible murders took place in the house next door, with the only survivor Ryan (Max Thierot) still living there, haunted by the killings his sister perpetrated. OR DID SHE??? The answer would only surprise a person who's accidentally traveled forward in time from the 18th century and has never seen a movie before, but perhaps more surprising is just how boring the whole affair is. Lawrence is winning enough that she just about makes it watchable, but she'll have try (or maybe not try) to find a film as terrible as this one down the road.

Dream House
Naomi Watts - “Dream House”
Like Chastain, Naomi Watts has had reasonable luck when it comes to selling out; even "The Ring" turned out to be a genuinely creepy horror film (contractually-obligated sequel "The Ring Two" less so), and even a film that didn't work, like Marc Forster's "Stay," is interesting enough not to warrant inclusion here. But 2011's long-delayed "Dream House" marks the moment when Watts' luck ran out. The horror/thriller, directed by Jim Sheridan, stars Daniel Craig as a novelist who finds out that his new family home was the site of a terrible murder. A murder which, he soon discovers, in part thanks to neighbor Ann (Watts), he may have been involved with, and he's committed to an asylum as a suspect of the killings. There are more ludicrous twists to come that will ultimately vindicate him, and while the film flirts with darkness, it isn't prepared to go the whole way, eventually turning into a sort of terrible, spooky riff on "Sleeping With The Enemy." The movie (which was heavily reshot) was disowned by pretty much everyone involved, but the premise is so silly that you wonder what they thought they were getting into in the first place, especially Watts, whose part is so thin and generally beneath her talents that it's genuinely puzzling that she'd sign on.