Saturday, January 8, 2011

Oscar contenders - Best Actress: Annette Bening

Next up - Anette Bening for The Kids Are Alright.

Anette Bening was brilliant in American Beauty - amazingly she pulls off both caricature & raw authenticity in a skewering satire performance. As the tightly-wound, 'perfect' American working mother, she is scary, real, painful & hilarious - but she lost to Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry, which is hard to argue with.

(Bening clip in next post)

Then, Anette Bening was awesome in Being Julia - cranking up the old-school Hollywood theatrics as an actress nearing the other side of the hill. Her character is grounded by the grace notes of insecurity just barely beneath the surface, which informs the superficiality of everything else she does, but really comes to life when she finds her groove on stage - but lost to Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. That one you can argue with. (Bening's Golden Globe win just doesn't make up for it).

(Bening clip in next post)

This year, she is the seasons first 'lock' for Best Actress, for The Kids Are Alright, after almost being in the running for her other film, Mother and Child. 

In Lisa Cholodenko's indie comedy Kids, she plays one half of a modern lesbian couple (the other is Julianne Moore, playing ditsy & kooky stay-at-home mom) thrown into disarray when their two kids' shared sperm-donor father steps back into the picture. Bening is great at essaying complex, flawed characters without losing touch of the comedy, and the more tightly wound, acerbic working mother should be a good fit.

In Rodrigo Garcia's latest multi-character female-driven drama, Mother and Child, Bening plays a lonely & 'difficult' (okay, bitchy) fifty-something quietly not dealing with the guilt of giving her only child up for adoption as a teenager. It is a carefully observed & layered performance and Bening is, as ever, unafraid of courting the audience's contempt. Her commitment to the reailty of her character earns credibility to her eventual growth.

Kids was an unexpected hit in the States, and will be the film to land her on the nominees list come February. Opinion is divided over whether this is her best performance, or whether she really outshines her co-star, Julianne Moore. Be that as it may, she is the nominee to contend with for any Actress planning on taking home this year's prize (looking at you, Natalie Portman), mainly because of her reputation in the industry & the fact that there is not yet an Oscar decorating her mantle at home (well, none with her name on it at least - it does not hurt that she is the woman who finally got Warren Beatty to settle down).

(Incidentally, in keeping with their on-going rivalry, Hilary Swank does have an awards friendly movie (Conviction) out this year, but at this stage of the race, Bening is more likely to be her own biggest competitor. Touch wood)


Her other Oscar nomination is for Stephen Frears' The Grifters and, at the Golden Globes, for BugsyThe American President, Running with Scissors Mrs Harris (TV). I thought she was hilarious in Mars Attacks!

American Beauty:

Never ceases to amuse.

Being Julia:

A bit of a long clip, but it sums up the character quite well.

Mother and Child:

Two great clips from the film. 'You don't know me well enough to know if I was upset'. Great flirting, Karen.

Brilliant Mars Attacks! clip (for some reason, it won't embed or post to Blogger)

Ah, to see A listers being so wonderfully daft (that's Jack Nicholson behind the hat & sunglasses). Look like they're having a blast.

Vintage Tim Burton (before he got stuck in his own trademark)