However, while the men are all previous Oscar winners, there's a little more of a mix with the ladies: from two-time winner Sally Field, to one-time winner Helen Hunt, to 3-time nominee Amy Adams, to Jacki Weaver and Anne Hathaway, each with one previous nomination, but no wins. It's perhaps the most pre-determined of all the Oscar categories, but that's not why we're here. Below, you'll find our picks for the best performances (or ok, maybe relatively interesting ones for some of them) of all five actresses' early careers. Let us know your own favorites in the comments below.
Directed by two-time Academy Award winner and cinéma vérité documentarian Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County, USA,” “American Dream”), “Havoc” was the filmmaker’s first non-documentary feature film and it went to straight to DVD in 2005. Yes, it’s not great by any stretch of the imagination, centering on a pair of naïve, underage teenage girls (Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips) who are exposed to hip-hop culture in Los Angeles and then aspire to be badass and imitate this lifestyle. They encounter gang bangers and get in way over their heads, quickly learning they are not as street tough as they thought, and face some dire consequences. And while the movie is otherwise forgettable, Hathaway shows the spark of her daring, go-for-emotional-broke acting that she would take on in bigger and better movies down the line, making her one of the most sought after actresses working today. Hathaway also isn’t afraid to bare it all like she does in “Havoc,” and while it’s probably just a screencap favorite for the Mr. Skins of the world, it did show she was willing to go to dark and raw places. Now if only she had a stronger director to back her up. Kopple doesn’t necessarily leave her dangling, but the movie just never clicks in a meaningful way, mostly because it’s too obsessed with coming across as a cautionary tale. Still, the Hathaway glimmer is there.
Helen Hunt - "As Good As It Gets"
Interestingly, before 1997-ish, Helen Hunt was not that common a presence on screen. There were small roles -- "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "Project X," "Bob Roberts" -- but nothing that really penetrated the general consciousness until "Kiss Of Death" in 1995, and the blockbuster "Twister" in 1996. By this time, she'd already made her name on TV, thanks to "Mad About You" with Paul Reiser. So as such, the best pick for this feature seemed to be the film that she won an Oscar for, James L Brooks' "As Good As It Gets." The film's Oscar success -- a Best Picture nomination, the most recent film to win Best Actor and Best Actress together -- has led many to label it as overrated, but the fifteen year gap has let it settle into place as a modest, smart and touching, if unexceptional, romantic comedy. Hunt plays Carol, a single mother who waits the table of misanthropic novelist Melvin (Jack Nicholson), and is one of the few people who can put up with his behavior. The two become drawn closer together after Melvin's gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear) is savagely beaten, and she's eventually able to soften him up. Brooks was (at least until the "Spanglish" era), one of the better writers of women in dramedy out there, and Carol is never a simple fantasy figure or redemptive saint, especially in Hunt's hands; there's a toughness to her that makes her feel like the heroine of a fast-talking 1940s comedy, a Rosalind Russell type. With this role, Hunt definitely demonstrated that she was more than just a sitcom star.