The lack of quality roles for female actors is a common complaint about recent movies. There are many excellent contemporary actresses whose work deserves recognition, however, and in January, Friday Night Flicks at the Belfast Free Library will highlight a few of them in their most outstanding roles.

“The Queen” will begins the month’s offerings Friday, Jan. 8. Helen Mirren won a well deserved Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in this brilliant film. In the days following the death of Princess Diana, royal tradition came into conflict with the demands of 21st-century media. Mirren’s performance of the Queen caught in this conflict is perfectly balanced and often surprisingly funny. James Cromwell, Michael Sheen and Sylvia Syms lead a fine supporting cast.

On Jan. 15, two great actresses square off in “Notes On A Scandal,” a tale of obsessions and secrets. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both received Academy Award nominations for their roles as two women caught in a tangle of scandal at an English public school. Based on a novel by Zoe Heller, Patrick Marber’s script is both witty and chilling. This film is not appropriate for younger audiences.

In “Far From Heaven,” showing Jan. 22, Todd Haynes pays tribute to the melodramas of the 1950s by both honoring and subverting their conventions. Julianne Moore, in an Oscar nominated performance, heads a superlative cast that includes Dennis Quaid, Particia Clarkson, Viola Davis and Dennis Haysbert. The film is a perfectly created period piece that manages to address the taboos of not just its period, but also of the present.

Laura Linney gave her breakthrough performance in “You Can Count On Me,” being screened Jan. 29. In this wonderful character-driven drama, she plays a single mother living in a small town whose life is thrown into turmoil when her long absent brother, skillfully played by Mark Ruffalo, reappears. It is a subtle, compelling drama that is well written and brilliantly acted.

Friday Night Flicks are presented free of charge in the Abbott Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St. Screenings begin at 7 p.m.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.