Breakthrough for Bening

Thesp a front-runner for Oscar nom

Life is beautiful for Annette Bening. The “American Beauty” star recently was nominated for a best actress Golden Globe and is considered a front-runner for an Oscar nom in the same category. Before those ceremonies roll around, however, the 41-year-old thesp will be honored by the Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival.

The Charles A. Crain Desert Palm Award will be bestowed upon Bening during the fest’s Jan. 15 Awards Gala. The career achievement honor is going to Bening this year, according to fest exec director Craig Prater, because, “Her extraordinary talents both on the screen and stage have distinguished her as one of the industry’s most outstanding and radiant actresses.”

Bening, who is currently expecting a fourth child with husband Warren Beatty, has indeed distinguished herself through her relatively short career — her first feature role was in 1988’s “The Great Outdoors.”

Still, though she’s been nominated for several awards over the years, the actress has never made it to the Oscar or Globe podium.

Bening’s most notable roles include a star-making turn in 1990’s “The Grifters,” which brought her first Oscar nom — for supporting actress — and the first taste of fame.

In 1991, Bening starred opposite Beatty in “Bugsy.” The actress’s future husband directed her to a Golden Globe actress nomination.

A Globe nom also came for her role in 1995’s “The American President,” opposite Michael Douglas.

But, it’s the role as Carolyn Burnham in Sam Mendes’ critically acclaimed “American Beauty” that could see Bening beaming through an acceptance speech.

Speaking recently to Variety, Bening was effusive about her experience on “American Beauty”: “It was emotionally hard work, but hilariously funny.”

Laudatory toward everyone else involved in the film, Bening is reluctant when it comes to self-critique.

“I’ve done enough now to know what I like and what I don’t but I’m not a good judge of the public, nor of my own work, I can’t be objective. Who can?”

Still, Bening is happy to know when one of her performances resonates with the audience, saying, “The thing is it’s gratifying if you can move people — and I’m not saying they have to be bawling — but if you can really move people and get into their hearts. ”

Up next is Mike Nichols’ “What Planet Are You From?” with Garry Shandling — and of course the new baby.

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