It may be a bit early for this, but I wanted to get my two cents in on some of my favorite performances of 2007 so far, especially since most of these will probably get overlooked in the great Oscar crush of December. The awards almost always go to actors who are involved in biopics, message pictures, costume movies or epics, so let's start with the wonderful Alan Rickman, who has yet to earn a single Oscar nomination. This year, he can be seen toiling away once again in the small role of Severus Snape in the fifth "Harry Potter" film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (283 screens). In the third film, he practically stole the entire movie with the way he read the line "turn to page 394," but in this fifth film, he actually has a scene with some meat to it. In training Harry to block his thoughts, Harry takes a peek into Snape's own mind and finds a disastrously sad childhood. When the flashback ends, the camera lingers on Snape's face for a moment, and Rickman renders an astonishing expression of hurt and hatred that broke my heart and sent chills through my spine.

One costume movie, Becoming Jane (32 screens), was unfairly judged, perhaps because it was too much fun and not somber enough (or not based on a literary source of proper merit). The lovely Miss Anne Hathaway usually lends a kind of smart energy to her best performances, as if she were slightly ahead of the game, and she does so perfectly as the budding Jane Austen. She's playful, but tough, beautiful but restrained. And when she falls in love with her man (James McAvoy), she does so breathlessly and with her whole heart; the movie more or less explains through fantasy how Austen was able to write so passionately from such a dull existence. The real Jane was said to be rather plain, but I'd much rather imagine her like this. Add to this Maggie Smith's delightfully wry supporting performance as the wealthy aunt, who can't understand the impudent youth of today and fires off comically nasty barbs at their expense.