creature features: son of frankenstein (rowland v. lee, 1939)
the peanut butter falcon (tyler nilson and michael schwartz, 2019)

geezer cinema/film fatales #196: nyad (elizabeth chai vasarhelyi and jimmy chin, 2023)

Nyad is the first fiction film from noted documentary film makers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. The transition is made smooth by the fact that Nyad is based on a true story ... the core of the script has written itself. I'm not sure I could actually explain the difference between a biopic and a film "based on a true story". The biopic suggests a focus on one person rather than a situation or event, and Diana Nyad is certainly an interesting subject for a biopic. But the "true" story is actually the best part of the film, especially the relationship between Nyad (Annette Bening) and her coach, Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster). If Nyad were simply a biopic, it would be like so many others, simultaneously slavish to biography and drawn to making reality into more interesting fiction. But whenever the film bogs down, Bening and Foster (and the rest of the cast, notably Rhys Ifans) raise it up again. (Bening and Foster both received Oscar nominations for the film.)

Diana Nyad is similar in some ways to Alex Honnold, the rock climber at the center of Free Solo, which was co-directed by Vasarhelyi, Chin, and others. Honnold has an obsession, and the willpower to do what it takes to accomplish something no one else has ever done. Nyad adds another dimension: she is in her sixties when she decides to swim from Cuba to Key West. Bening's performance is brave ... she's unafraid to show Nyad's harsher side ... and Foster hits the right notes as the friend who can keep Diana on track without taking too much shit.

The technical aspects of Nyad's swim are mindboggling, and the filming techniques are fascinating, as well:

But, as is often the case with this genre, what is left out can be too important to ignore.  I think Nyad's accomplishment is amazing, but it matters than her record has never been ratified "due to the lack of independent observers and incomplete records." It matters equally that nothing about this is shown in the film, as if we would be less amazed by Nyad's remarkable marathon swim if we knew there was some controversy involved.

Still, the story works well, as in most sports stories (a powerful ending is the usual for such movies), and the acting makes up for a lot. I've seen all five nominees for the Best Actress Oscar, and Bening certainly belongs in the same company as the others, although I imagine Lily Gladstone will win, Emma Stone was more outrageous, and Carey Mulligan is as good as always. I've seen all of the Supporting Actress nominees except for Danielle Brooks in The Color Purple, and again, Foster is a viable candidate, but I'm guessing Da'Vine Joy Randolph will win that one.


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