Thursday, April 18, 2024

Oscars: Annette Bening Makes Waves as the Dark Horse Candidate for Best Actress Because She Makes Diana “Nyad” Look So Easy


“Nyad” is on Netflix right now. Four time Oscar nominee Annette Bening plays celebrity swimmer Diana Nyad who, at 64, became the only person to make it from Cuba to Key West swimming without a shark cage. Two time Oscar winner Jodie Foster is her gutsy, indefatigable coach and life partner.

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Oscar winners for their spectacular work on theĀ  2019 documentary “Free Solo,” made “Nyad” their directorial debut in features. Oscar winner Claudio Miranda is the cinematographer.

Yet, no one in the grinding world of FilmTwitter, or influencers, or Gold Derby, any place else where buzz is created, has shown much enthusiasm forĀ  “Nyad.” The Golden Globes did nominate Bening, but otherwise overlooked the rest of the film. The Critics Choice Association threw a bone to Foster, but nothing for the film or Bening.

All of this is ridiculous. If you haven’t seen “Nyad,” it’s easier to do than brushing your teeth. It’s playing on Netflix even as you read this. Bening and Foster do some of the best work of their heralded careers. They are sensational playing difficult roles. Diana Nyad is a great swimmer but no day at the beach. She’s abrupt, caustic, and focused on herself. Coach Bonnie is more likable, but she’s also a tough cookie. These two are not “Thelma and Louise.”

But what Best Actress has ever won, in our lifetimes, for being an overachieving athlete? One who won’t accept the word “no”? Bening finds the heart at Nyad’s core, shows a vulnerability that makes this superstar human, and makes her root for her. You can see all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the performance. Ignoring Bening’s accomplishment would be a crime.

Bening has been nominated four times — for “The Grifters” in 1991 (Supporting), “American Beauty” in 2000 (she should have won), 2005 for “Being Julia,” and 2011 for “The Kids Are Alright.” She was overlooked for “Bugsy,” “The American President,” “20th Century Women,” and “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.” It’s a career of 32 years, but like Glenn Close, Bening makes it look too easy.

So put on a life preserver, and watch “Nyad” if you’re serious about great acting. Bening and Foster, and even cinematographer Miranda are at the top of their respective games. Don’t leave them treading water. They’re Olympians — even if Nyad wasnt!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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