In an interactive N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine piece, critic A.O. Scott celebrates 11 actors whom he believes delivered the creme de la creme of 2021 screen performances. Spencer‘s Kristen Stewart, Passing‘s Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, King Richard‘s Will Smith, The Tragedy of Macbeth‘s Denzel Washington, Drive My Car‘s Hidetoshi Nishijima, et. al.

One presumes that if one of Scott’s favorites somehow couldn’t make himself or herself available for a special N.Y. Times photo session with Ruven Afanador, they were replaced by another favorite. So let’s be liberal and hypothesize that the two finest female performances of the year — Penelope Cruz as a woman with child in Pedro Almodovar‘s Parallel Mothers and Renate Reinsve as a young woman of solitude in Joachim Trier‘s The Worst Person in the World — were on Scott’s initial list but couldn’t fit Afanador into their schedule.