Maybe you have to be old like me to know Annette Bening’s Oscar story. She has come close a few times, but thus far a win has been just out of reach. Strangely enough, buzz that Bening might finally win has begun to sprout up here and there due to a few factors. The first is the idea that Sandra Hüller’s nomination creates a new vector on competition in the category, especially for Emma Stone. Lily Gladstone did not earn a BAFTA nomination, though neither did 2021’s winner, Jessica Chastain, and neither did Bening.
Here is how the chart looks:
Only Carey Mulligan for Maestro and Emma Stone for Poor Things have hit all five of these early nominations. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything because we know the BAFTA also uses a committee to select two of the nominees.
It’s rare to win the Oscar without a BAFTA nomination, but it has happened in the past. Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side is one example. But since then, only Chastain has pulled through for a win without it. Chastain had already won the Critics Choice and would win the SAG before winning the Oscar.
Bening might ultimately benefit as an actress who is long overdue for a win and who gives a vanity-free bravura performance as Diana Nyad in Nyad. To win the Oscar she’s probably going to have to win the SAG.
Annette Bening has been Oscar nominated five times: once for supporting and four times for lead, including this year.
Bening had a small part in Postcards from the Edge, playing an actress, and she makes the most of her tiny scene:
Her breakthrough role, and first nomination for supporting, was in The Grifters:
Her voice was high-pitched for the role, and once people heard her actually speak they were surprised her voice was pitched much lower in real life.
Things moved incredibly fast for her. One year after The Grifters she met Warren Beatty, did Bugsy, and then married him.
Bugsy almost landed her a Lead Actress nomination:
She had a few roles here and there while coupling up with Beatty and having four children with him. Her next really juicy role was in The American President:
She earned her second nomination for American Beauty. She’s fantastic in the film and many thought she would win, as the film won Best Picture. But that was the year Hilary Swank won for Boys Don’t Cry.
Four years later, Bening would be up again, this time for Being Julia. And again she would lose to Hilary Swank, this time winning her second Oscar for Million Dollar Baby.
Her third nomination didn’t come until The Kids Are All Right:
It would be 12 years until Bening earned her fourth nomination, this year’s Nyad:
Could she actually win? Here is the best case I can make for a Bening win: she’s great in the part. That’s the best argument to make here. No, she isn’t young and exciting like Emma Stone. Her win wouldn’t be about making history, like Lily Gladstone. But she’s an artist whose body of work speaks for itself. Bening, unlike so many of her contemporaries, has refused to get any plastic surgery for the sole purpose of committing authentically to her work. How can you play an array of characters if you can’t allow yourself to age?
A vanity-free actress who gives a vanity-free performance is unheard of in Hollywood now. But wow, is it a breath of fresh air. A real person on screen, imagine that. She plays Nyad as a difficult, stubborn, but ambitious person who refuses to give up. Bening is a revelation in this role, but it’s also a testament to her versatility as an actress. Every role she plays is a little different. She’s a chameleon, yet remains a legend who has never won an Oscar.
Stats tell us Emma Stone will probably win her second Oscar for Poor Things. The only drawback she has is how weird Poor Things is. If you read the audience reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see a lot of walk-outs. This isn’t going to be a problem for the mostly male Academy, of course. There is nothing they love more than naked actresses having sex on screen. No judgment, it’s basic biology. Sex sells. Needless to say, Stone is also brilliant in the role. Her Bella is full of humanity, sensitivity, and humor. But it’s weird.
Sandra Hüller is going to have much support, as voters across the board clearly love Anatomy of a Fall. But she can’t win the SAG as she’s not nominated, which makes it very hard to win the Oscar.
Finally, I believe that the frontrunner is still Lily Gladstone, despite her lack of a BAFTA nomination. I think she’s the strongest in terms of publicity: to win an Oscar you mostly have to campaign hard for it (give or take an Olivia Colman). But also, wins are often driven by people who wish to do something good with their vote. What makes them feel good? I think voting for Gladstone is more than just the performance, more than just making history, but also a way to acknowledge the history — our history.
It would also be the one big win for Killers of the Flower Moon. Nyad has just two nominations for Bening and Jodie Foster. Does a movie like Killers with so many nominations have a better shot at pulling off that win? Does it come down to how much they love the movie? Sometimes it does.
This year’s race for Best Actress is a tough one. Emma Stone probably wins the BAFTA, but if she doesn’t and if, say, Hüller wins it instead, that could be an early sign that the SAG and BAFTA will go to a different actress, like Gladstone or Bening.