Annette Bening: A threat or an afterthought?

When The Kids Are All Right was released in July  it was assumed that the Best Actress race would be a two-way contest between three-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening  and Academy Award nominee Natalie Portman (Black Swan).  When Black Swan opened the Venice Film Festival in September, it was confirmed.  However, the end of the year accolades tell a different story.  A story that has Portman receiving 18  awards from critical circles and societies around the country,  while Bening has only picked up three.   On the popular awards circuit, both performers are up for Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards; yet the question remains, at this point in the game is Bening still a threat?

In  a perfect world, Portman would be the sobbing face at the podium in the Kodak Center on Feb. 27; after all  she did deliver the year’s most daring performance. However, realistically speaking its time to come to terms with one simple fact − for Bening, the derby is just beginning.

Let’s look at the state of the race one year ago.  Favorites included Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Gabourey Sidibe and Carey Mulligan. At the beginning of last year Sidibe and Mulligan led the pack with 14 critical honors, Mulligan even picking up the coveted National Board of Review Award,  while Streep trailed closely behind with 12. Bullock received zero critical accolades for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side. Fast forward to March 7, 2010− Bullock had already picked up the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe and SAG Award and on this night she completed her golden journey with an Oscar win.

If history were to repeat itself, then Bening could still pose a threat to Portman’s Oscar chances. Not really a legitimate threat but a threat nonetheless.  A legitimate threat would be Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone, who has received 19 critical nominations and 5 wins; compared to Bening’s 15 nominations and three wins.  Or Nicole Kidman who has been receiving numerous praises for her role in Rabbit Hole.  Technically this would make the race a four-way contest but even in this equation, like Bullock last year, Bening still has the upper hand.

Here’s why….

Bening will easily win this Sunday at the Globes because she wont have to go head to head with Portman, but if she can pull out a win at the preceding Critics’ Choice Awards she will inevitably put herself back into the game.  Furthermore, a SAG Award win is highly likely because the guild loves to honor the veterans, and Bening has been nominated here twice before. Cut to the Oscars, which will mark her fourth time at the big dance.  While it surely can’t be compared to Streep’s 16 nominations and 27 year Oscar drought, Bening has yet to claim one gold statue for herself while Streep has at least picked up two. This is what will separate her from the pack.  Why? Because despite not giving the absolute best performance of the year, she’s given us memorable performances for decades and while the Academy should honor the work of now, they will pay it forward on Oscar night and honor the work of now and then. As for Portman, she will have many opportunities down the line to vie for another Oscar, and quite frankly with the year she’s getting ready to have− a baby, a wedding and a million movies −a little gold statue is probably the last thing on her mind. Her time will come but for now, this time belongs to Bening.

Now it’s your turn to sound off? Is Annette Bening a threat or an afterthought? GO!

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