Earlier this week, I along with 20 other San Francisco film critics assembled at an undisclosed location -- okay, it was a café -- to vote on the best films, best performances and best other stuff of 2007. It's an interesting experience. I spent a few weeks combing through the year's releases, coming up with my own choices. Then I second-guessed some of them, deciding whether I should eliminate certain choices. If I was absolutely certain that someone would make the final ballot, then I would cast a vote for someone more obscure, someone I really liked. After doing that, I scrapped the whole thing and went back to my favorites in each category, regardless of where they placed.

For Best Supporting Actress, I selected Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone (301 screens) as my #1 choice, comfortable in my certainty that she was a dark horse and that no one else would pick her. She was far from being the focus of that film, but she knocked a home run in her few scenes as a horrible, drug-ridden mother who has lost her baby girl. As a bonus, she was also in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (321 screens), a film that also made a decent showing on my personal ballot. (She lost a few points by being in the wretched Dan in Real Life, but gained them back again by being on TV's "The Wire.") In any case, Ryan not only made our final ballot, but she actually won. Congratulations, Amy! My other picks, Taraji P. Henson in Talk to Me, Kristen Thomson in Away from Her, and Maggie Smith in Becoming Jane, didn't make it so far. As for my fifth pick, Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There (148 screens), you've not heard that last of her.

categories Awards, Columns, Cinematical