Five years ago I was pushing Melissa Leo as a Best Supporting Actress contender for her knockout performance as Benicio del Toro‘s partner in 21 Grams, but not enough people agreed so the the ball never got rolling. But now she’s back in the arena with a striking performance as a poor single mom involved in illegal- immigrant smuggling in Frozen River (Sony Classics, 8.1). Karen Durbin has profiled Leo in this N.Y. Times piece, published today.

Times photo of Melissa Leo by Randy Harris.

HE reader Adam Davenport, who caught Frozen River six months ago at Sundance, feels that Leo’s performance is “not just powerful [but] reminiscent of the blue-collar heroine rarely seen since the days of Sissy Spacek, Gene Rowlands and Sally Field. I think Ms. Leo may very well surprise a lot of people this year as she is an actor\’s actor and well-respected by her peers in the Academy and the reviews have been nothing less than stellar for her.
“A small gritty indie film that may attract serious award consideration for its lead thesp, Frozen River could be this year\’s Half Nelson, Away From Her, Transamerica, Monster’s Ball, Hustle & Flow, Whale Rider or Maria Full of Grace. Given that in the past few years at least a few indies from Sundance each year have managed to get nominations, what other Sundance films are up for consideration this year other than Man on Wire and American Teen in documentary?
“I’m also sick of the same handful of actresses being nominated for the same awards every year, and it would be refreshing to see this underrated but deserving middle-aged actress break through finally after years of delivering consistently excellent performances. She should have been nominated for supporting in 21 Grams.”