The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

 ★★★

 

As a not so secret admirer of Orson Welles and his films, I feel I can safely and honestly say that “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947) is a disaster. I have been watching this film for years and every time I sit through it, hoping to change my opinion, I become more and moreThe Lady from Shanghai (1947) frustrated by the end. Of course it didn’t have to be this way. Once again, if everyone (and by everyone, I mean Columbia Picture President Harry Coen) would have left our cinematic “knight in shining armor” alone, perhaps “The Lady from Shanghai” would today be a masterpiece.

The plot, as confusing as it is, revolves around an Irish drifter named Michael O’Hara (Welles). While walking through the park, he meets and then saves his damsel in distress, Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth). O’Hara is enamored by Elsa, and even though she is married, O’Hara eventually becomes convinced to take a job aboard Elsa’s wealthy husband’s (Everett Sloane) yacht. Merciless to the allure of Elsa, O’Hara gets himself The Lady from Shanghai (1947)entangled in a murder mystery, with little hope of surviving unscathed, despite his best intentions.

Orson Welles said he would never work for Columbia Pictures or Harry Coen. The stories on the origins of this film differ slightly, with the overall consensus being that Welles was in desperate need of a substantial amount of money for his stage production of “Around the World in 80 Days”. He made a deal with Coen and the money was exchanged for Welles to write, direct and star in this film. Welles’ heart wasn’t in it at this point, but like so many of his projects, he developed a unique vision for the film he wanted to create, and fell in love with his own ideas. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly), his vision wasn’t shared byThe Lady from Shanghai (1947) Harry Coen. It seems that they disagreed on every single aspect of the film, and the foundation of the movie was doomed before filming even began.

There has been much speculation as to why Welles agreed to work with his estranged wife, Rita Hayworth, and personally I have chosen to believe that he did it with the best of intentions. Yes, he had her cut her adored hair short and bleach it blonde, but not to hurt her career (as some have insinuated) or infuriate Coen (although that does sound like fun). The truth is that Welles and Hayworth have an undeniable chemistry together, and their strained real life relationship only added to the effectiveness of their characters love hate relationship on the screen. Besides, as the femme fatale of this film, it is easy to The Lady from Shanghai (1947)believe that Welles would be captivated by Hayworth’s beauty, because it was true.

At the time the film was made Coen publicly voiced his disappointment in Welles for running long on the shooting schedule and going over budget. Truth be told, he came in under budget and on time, but Coen was unhappy with the style and approach Welles used, and forced him to reshoot many random singular shots on a Hollywood sound stage. Welles had initially avoided many close-up shots in order to change the overall feel of the film, but Coen didn’t want the glamorous Hayworth to go unappreciated. In addition to the numerous close-up’s that were forced upon Welles, he was also instructed to include a song for Hayworth, as that was customary for her films.

Then the real problems started. When Welles initially turned in his completed film, it hadThe Lady from Shanghai (1947) a running time of 155 minutes, which Coen deemed unacceptable. Coen supervised lengthy edits and ended up cutting 68 minutes of footage, leaving the film at a brisk and unentertaining 87 minutes. No wonder the final product is a disaster; it’s missing almost half of the film! How can a complex plot hold up when all the details are deleted?

I will never understand why people hired Welles to make a film and then would take it apart bit by bit. Even at this early stage in his career, everyone seemed to understand what you could expect from his films, so why hand him so much freedom during shooting, only to dismantle his work in the editing room? Of course all the footage that was removed has now disappeared and is considered lost, so there is no way to know if the film could have be good, but I can promise that the film that has been left for us is only bearable because of The Lady from Shanghai (!947)the glimpses of genius that somehow survived. Even the final climactic sequence in the “hall of mirrors” has been edited from an original twenty minutes down to about four. Although these four minutes are filled with brilliance, it is easy to see how rushed and anti-climactic it has become.

As I sit here irritated by the debacle that is “The Lady from Shanghai”, I wonder how Welles continued to make films in a system that obviously stunted his creative and artistic abilities. Did he go into every project knowing that they would destroy his vision? He was superior to many of his contemporaries, but because he didn’t follow the rules he was deemed an outsider and punished for his creativity. It’s no wonder that Welles only made films sporadically throughout his career.

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Ace in the Hole (1951)

 ★★★★

 

Billy Wilder is one of the few directors who was actually appreciated in his own time. Everyone seemed to know that he was talented, and hisAce in the Hole (1951) films often received positive reviews as well as financial success. Of course there is always the exception, even for Billy Wilder. “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) was released to enormous acclaim, and then it was later nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Wilder must have felt as if he was on the top of the world, as it was his third Best Picture nominee in the last seven years. With his established record for superior filmmaking, Wilder set out to make a movie that was bold and daring. The result was the drama film, “Ace in the Hole” (1951), which was not only bold and daring, but also Wilder’s biggest failure.

In this film, Kirk Douglas plays a washed-up newspaperman named Chuck Tatum. He has been fired from 11 of the top newspapers in the country for lying, manipulating, drinking and sleeping with his bosses’ wives. Chuck finds himself in New Mexico, where his car breaks down and leaves him penniless. He wanders into the local newspaper and openly tells the boss that he is a great newspaperman, with a checkered past. He is willing to work well below his worth price in order to try to earn back some attention from a larger newspaper.

A year later, Chuck is still doing meaningless stories day after day, until he finally runs across a curio shop picturesquely located in front of Ace in the Hole (1951) some old Indian dwellings. The shop’s owner, Leo (Richard Benedict), was digging for Indian artifacts and became trapped inside the cave. Chuck sees the potential for a story and agrees to help, but his motivations aren’t on the well being of Leo, but on his own career.

Chuck wants to prolong the rescue in order to drive up the popularity of the story, so he makes an under the table deal with the local sheriff to drill from the top of the rock, rather than securing the tunnel. Now instead of getting Leo out in a couple of days, it will take a whole week. Chuck also meets Leo’s wife, Lorraine (Jan Sterling). She is fed up with life in New Mexico and wants to run away. Chuck convinces her that if she stays and allows him to embellish her side of the story, spectators will come, and her little shop will make a fortune, allowing her to be Ace in the Hole (1951)financially secure after Leo gets out.

Of course things go better than could be expected for Chuck, as things continue to get worse for Leo. The cliff dwelling becomes a tourist attraction and people flock to them by the hundreds. At one point it gets so out of control that a carnival even sets up their rides in order to entertain the people while they wait. People come from miles around, not to eat the food or ride the rides, but to bare witness to the human drama that is unfolding before them.

At the beginning of this page I said that this film was a failure, and in many ways that is true. The critics were irritated with Wilder’s depiction of the callous and manipulating media, and audiences didn’t identify with any of the “regular” people in the film, who seemed to be obsessed with watching everything unfold. Perhaps they were all too blind (or inept) to see the accuracy of this glorious film. Then again, what if they were all right? What if in 1951 the media didn’t manipulate stories for their own benefit?  And perhaps back then people didn’t flock to events of travesty, just to say that they were a part of the drama. In today’s world we expect our media to be out of control and ridiculous, and I don’t think Ace in the Hole (1951)anyone is going to attempt to say that us “regular” people don’t like to be involved in real life drama. After all, if reality television has proved anything, it’s that we love to watch people like us in extraordinary situations.

It’s too bad that people didn’t appreciate this film in its time, because much like everything else that Wilder touched in the 1950’s, it’s a brilliant film. Kirk Douglas fits perfectly into his cocky, bright-eyed character, and even though you want to hate him, his attitude and natural charisma just make it so darn hard. What really drives the film home is the deliciously written script. Douglas gets most of the good lines, as he is the focal point of the film, but every character seems to have been blessed with an abundance of wit and humor, even in serious situations.

So here we are 60 years after the release of “Ace in the Hole”, and instead of the film being unrealistic, it’s become an accurate depiction of the future. I guess that’s just one more thing to add to Billy Wilder’s resume: writer, director, producer, clairvoyant.

Sally Field: Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Nominee #5

Our final Best Supporting Actress nominee is the talented and delightful Sally Field. Over her long and highly entertaining career she has consistently found a way to play wonderful and memorable roles, without ever falling into the routine of playing the same characters over and over again. And who would have ever thought that anyone associated with “The Flying Nun” would one day become an Academy AwardSally Field winner?

Sally Field starred on “The Flying Nun” from 1967-1970, but then decided she wanted to become a more dramatic actress and began studying with Lee Strasberg. After fine tuning her craft with him, she began to take more prominent dramatic roles and almost instantly earned an Emmy for her performance in the television movie, “Sybil” (1976). The following year she received her first of eight Golden Globe nominations for her role opposite Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. (aka Mr. Mustache) in “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977). They became a successful pair on and off the screen, as they made a handful of profitable and entertaining films together of the next few years.

What I look for mostly in a man is humor, honesty and a mustache. Burt has all three.”

Norma Rae (1979)In 1979, Sally Field earned her first Academy Award for her performance in “Norma Rae” (1979). Her brilliant portrayal of the factory worker who becomes involved in the labor union enabled Sally to become a legitimate dramatic actress, and for the next few years she starred in a few acclaimed drama films that elevated her career even more. First, there was her role opposite Paul Newman in “Absence of Malice” (1981), and then she starred in “Places in the Heart” (1984), which again earned her an Academy Award.

Her comedy films during this same time period were mostly successful and continued to earn her Golden Globe nominations on a regular basis. She starred in the ghost comedy,Places in the Heart (1984) “Kiss Me Goodbye” (1982), with James Caan and Jeff Bridges, as well as “Murphy’s Romance” (1985), opposite James Gardner. Throughout the 1980’s, Sally Field was able to jump back and forth between comedies and dramas with the greatest of ease. It is actually quite impressive how well she was able to accomplish the transition. In 1988, she starred with Tom Hanks in “Punchline”, and then followed it up with her well-acted role in“Steel Magnolias” (1989).

The 1990’s saw an enormous change in the type of roles Sally Field would play. Instead of being the star of her films, she became a solid supporting actress, most prominently in Forrest Gump (1994)films like “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) and Best Picture winner “Forrest Gump” (1994). She made her directorial debut in 2000 with the film “Beautiful”, starring Minnie Driver. Unfortunately the film had little success and acclaim. That same year she also began a reoccurring role on the television show “ER”. She appeared in seven different seasons on the show and won herself another Emmy in 2001. Her film work has been extremely sporadic since 2000, partly because of her television work and also because of the lack of roles available to her.

In 2012, Sally Field appeared in two films, both supporting roles. First was her portrayalLincoln (2012) of Aunt May in “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012). The other film was much more prominent and grandiose, as she portrayed Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Best Picture nominated “Lincoln” (2012). Sally Field gives a remarkable performance in this film, despite the fact that she is 17 years older than Mary Todd Lincoln was at that time. Sally has been nominated for her third Academy Award for this role, and although this category seems to already be won by Anne Hathaway, if there was going to be a surprise upset it would certainly be Sally Field.

As an interesting side note to Sally Field and her history with the Academy Awards, she Lincoln (2012)has the distinction of being one of only five actors and actress who have won more than one Academy Award, without ever losing. (The others being Helen Hays, Luise Rainer, Vivian Leigh and Kevin Spacey.) No actor has ever won three awards without losing, so if Sally Field could manage to win for “Lincoln” she would be in a class by herself. Of course if she doesn’t win she will no longer be included in this elite little club. Only time will tell.

Sally Field will be reprising her role as Aunt May in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, due to be released in the summer of 2014.

You can learn more about this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees here:

Amy Adams for “The Master”

Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables”

Helen Hunt for “The Sessions”

Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook”

Anne Hathaway: Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Profile #4

As much fun as it is to sit here and talk about all the Best Supporting Actress nominees this year, the truth of the matter is that it is one of theAnne Hathaway most unexciting awards that they will hand out. Not because the nominees aren’t talented, but because Anne Hathaway so completely captivated everyone with her performance in this year’s Best Picture nominated “Les Miserables” (2012), that even the competition knows that she is destined to walk away with the award.  If it’s not enough that she has been nominated for what appears to be every possible award in existence, she has won them all as well. The only way someone else could take this Oscar home is if they steal it right out of her hands; that is how great she is in this film.

Of course most of us aren’t surprised by her success because we have been watching her over the last decade, slowly work her way up in the film industry. Her breakthrough film The Princess Diaries (2001)came opposite Julie Andrews in the Disney film, “The Princess Diaries” (2001). This movie was popular beyond expectations and Anne was instantly on her way. Over the next four years she made a handful of unimportant family films, like “The Other Side of Heaven” (2001), “Ella Enchanted” (2004) and, of course, “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” (2004). All of these films accomplished two things for Anne. 1.) She gained quite a following (especially from 15 year old girls). 2.) She managed to find a way to remain a teenager until she was 23 years old.

In 2005, with her sights set on transitioning into more mature roles, Anne took on twoBrokeback Mountain (2005) movies that left little doubt in anyone’s mind that she was finally ready to grow up. “Havoc” (2005) is not a great movie, but it is filled with serious adult themes and allowed Anne to still play a high school character that adult audiences could take seriously. Her other film appearance that year was in the Best Picture nominated, “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). Obviously this was not a children’s movie, and her small but crucial role left no doubt in anyone’s mind that Anne was ready to take on whatever they could throw at her.

As she adjusted to her new life as a serious adult actress she made a series of diverse films. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)She starred with Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”(2006), as Jane Austen in “Becoming Jane” (2007), and as Agent 99 in the comedy, “Get Smart” (2008). Also in 2008, she starred as the black sheep of the family, coming home for her sister wedding, in “Rachel Getting Married” (2008). Her performance earned rave reviews and she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

If variety is what you’re looking for in an actress, Anne dedicated these last few years to satisfying you. In 2009, she made the lighthearted comedy “Bride Wars” with KateRachel Getting Married (2008) Hudson, and then she had a role in the ensemble romantic film, “Valentine’s Day” (2010). She also joined Tim Burton on his off-the-wall adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), which easily became one of the highest grossing films of all time. Next, Anne reteamed with her “Brokeback Mountain” co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in the romantic smash-hit, “Love and Other Drugs” (2011), directed by Edward Zwick, and then she lent her voice talents to the animated film, “Rio” (2011).

In 2012, Anne managed to make two films that couldn’t have been more different. In “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) Anne plays Selina Kyle, The Dark Knight Rises (2012)or more importantly, she played Catwoman. Everyone loved the film, especially her portrayal. Her other role was, of course, her Academy Award nominated performance as Fantine in Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables”. The funny thing about her in this film is that it’s a popular character that has already been played by countless people in countless productions, yet somehow Anne gave the role a special something that so many of the other productions lacked. Perhaps it’s just that amazing sense of sadness and pain that she was able to produce, with so few minutes on the screen. It’s actually quite a small part, but because she nailed the role so perfectly, she easily became the most memorable part of Les Miserables (2012)the film.

In the future, Anne Hathaway will be reprising her role in the sequel, “Rio 2” (2014), and she also has a few undeveloped films in the works. Anne, however, has also admitted that her first love is the stage, and I expect her success from “Les Miserables” to carry her into the theater world more often in the future. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.

You can learn more about this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees here:

Amy Adams for “The Master”

Sally Field for “Lincoln”

Helen Hunt for “The Sessions”

Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook”

Amy Adams: Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Profile #3

Can you believe that Amy Adams has already been nominated for four Academy Awards in her relatively young career? That’s even moreAmy Adams impressive considering her first nomination came in 2005, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Amy Adams wasn’t one of these actresses who found instant fame after her first screen appearance. She has had to work and adapt herself in order to survive. Born in 1974, into a family with seven children, Amy loved to sing and dance at an early age. She had aspirations of becoming a ballerina, but eventually understood that the required discipline wasn’t something she possessed. She found acting work where she could, and supplemented her income with various jobs at places such as Gap and Hooters.

Junebug (2005)She was invited to join a dinner theater company around 1995, and she up and moved to Minneapolis. It was there that she auditioned for a movie that would be filming locally. “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (1999) was a dark comedy flop, but it got Amy on screen, where she belongs. She began getting bigger and bigger roles until she finally landed the one that would make her a star. At least, that’s what her director Steven Spielberg thought. Her role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) was a good one that should have made everyone turn and pay attention. The film was a huge success, but for whateverDoubt (2008) reason, Amy still went unnoticed.

Over the next two years she didn’t make anything substantial, and then her real break came from an unexpected small, independent film called “Junebug”(2005). Amy played a sweet and peppy pregnant girl, and her performance resonated throughout the movie world. “Junebug” earned Amy Adams her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, making all of her years of paying dues finally behind her.

After a few mostly insignificant roles, Amy showed off her singing ability in Disney’s “Enchanted” (2007). This film was incredibly popular with both audiences and critics, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonianand earned Amy a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. Amy had a small role in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (2007) and then starred opposite Francis McDormand in “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” (2008). Both films were good, but didn’t showcase Amy at her best. Then, she starred opposite Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis in the film, “Doubt” (2008). This intense human drama earned rave reviews from most, and almost everyone singled out the actors for their extremely impressive work. All four actors (including Amy) were nominated for Academy Awards for this film, although none of them ended up winning. The real test of the film for Amy was in the fact that every scene paired her up against someJulie & Julia (2009) of the most distinguished and talented stars possible; yet she was amazingly able to hold her own.

In 2009, Amy appeared in two highly successful films. First there was the Nora Ephron comedy “Julie & Julia” (2009), and then she portrayed Amelia Earhart in “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (2009). The following year she joined Mark Wahlberg, Mellissa Leo and Christian Bale in the Best Picture nominated, “The Fighter” (2010). Once again, she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress (along with two of her co-stars). This film showed a different side of Amy, and her performances showed an untapped range in her abilities. Next, Amy decided to make a film on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. She starred with Jason Segel (and Kermit the Frog) in “The Muppets” (2011). Once again The Fighter (2010)she found a film that allowed her to sing, and this time she even got to do a minor amount of dancing. The film was enormously successful and rebooted the Muppet franchise. There will be a sequel coming in another year or so, but Amy Adams is not scheduled to appear.

For 2012, Amy decided to join Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the P.T. Anderson film, “The Master”. She plays the wife of the leader of a religious movement, who doesn’t approve of her husband’s friendship with a troubled WWII veteran. Once again, Amy Adams was nominated for an Academy award for her work (along with bothThe Master (2012) Phoenix and Hoffman).

It’s interesting to note that although Amy Adams continuously makes films that are enjoyed, it is her supporting roles that earn her the most praise. Four Best Supporting Actress nominations in eight years is pretty impressive, but she has yet to achieve the same kind of acclaim for her leading roles. Some people are born to be part of a cast rather than the star, and I think this is where she shines brightest. In the four films where she received her nominations, a combined total of seven other actors were also nominated. She not only excels in these films, but she also elevates the performances of The Master (2012)those around her.

You can see Amy Adams back in theaters this summer as Lois Lane in the Superman reboot, “Man of Steel” (2013). She will also be reteaming with Christian Bale in “Her” (2013), directed by Spike Jonze, and then sometime late in the year, Amy Adams will be playing Janis Joplin in the biopic “Janis Joplin: Get it While You Can” (2013). Perhaps that will be her chance for a Best Actress nomination.

You can learn more about this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees here:

Sally Field for “Lincoln”

Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables”

Helen Hunt for “The Sessions”

Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook”

Jacki Weaver: Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Profile #2

Jacki Weaver is not a commonly known actress in America. Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1947, Weaver broke into show business in the early sixties as a singer. It didn’t take long for her to turn her sights on acting and began a long series of Australian television appearances. HerJacki Weaver feature film debut came in the comedy film, “Stork” (1971). She earned positive reviews for this film and began to gain a following as a sex symbol. Her performances in the internationally successful Peter Weir film, “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975), and the drama film, “Caddie” (1976), increased her popularity.

Over the next twenty years, Jacki Weaver appeared on more than ten different television shows and movies. She also began to do more and more work on the stage. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s,her stage credits included roles in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Picnic at Hanging Rock“Death of a Salesman”, “Love’s Labour’s Lost”, “Blithe Spirit” and “Last of the Red Hot Lovers”. In 2010, she starred alongside Cate Blanchet, Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh on the Sydney stage production of “Uncle Vanya”.

2010 also proved to be a big year for Weaver on the big screen. She had a supporting role as the matriarch, Janie “Smurf” Cody, in the crime film, “Animal Kingdom” (2010). The film is a gritty, dark and somewhat disturbing look into an Australian crime family’s tribulations. “Animal Kingdom” is a brilliant piece of filmmaking, but it’s Weaver’sAnimal Kingdom (2010) unbelievable haunting performance that holds the films suspense together. She gained enormous acclaim for the role, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Anyone who loves a great crime drama is sure to find this film and Weaver’s performance completely enthralling.

With her newfound international fame, Weaver took a small role in “The Five-Year Engagement” (2012), and then appeared in one of this year’s Best Picture nominees, “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012). Her performance has earned her another highly Silver Linings Playbook (2012)deserved Academy Award nomination, along with three of her co-stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. In the film, Jacki Weaver plays the good natured mother of Pat Jr. (Cooper), who is struggling to move on with his life after a personal breakdown. Weaver is the perfect consoling and optimistic mother figure who believes in the good in her son, no matter what everyone else thinks. It is a very subtle performance, and that is why Weaver is perfectly suited for the role.  Obviously this category is an extremely competitive one, and Weaver’s chances of victory are slim, but I for one am glad to see her get the recognition that she deserves.Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Jacki Weaver has been busy as of late, and will be appearing in the horror/thriller film, “Stoker” (2013), along with Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska, later this month. She will also be portraying Maguerite Oswald in the Peter Landesman film, “Parkland”, about the events directly following the assassination of President Kennedy. This film is being produced by Tom Hanks and has a sensational cast that also includes Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thorton, Tom Welling, Jeremy Strong and Marcia Gay Harden.

You can learn more about this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees here:

Amy Adams for “The Master”

Sally Field for “Lincoln”

Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables”

Helen Hunt for “The Sessions”

 

Helen Hunt: Academy Award Best Supporting Actress Profile #1

Helen Hunt has quietly become an extremely versatile actress. Unsurprisingly, she has been nominated for an Academy Award for her mostHelen Hunt recent role in“The Sessions” (2012). In the film, Hunt plays a sex surrogate who helps a man (played by John Hawkes) learn to control his body because he lives most of his life in an iron lung, after suffering from polio as a child. Mostly an acting driven film, “The Sessions” boasts two strong performances from its leads, but it is Hunt who earned herself a nomination. She gives a brave and touching performance in a film that would fall apart without her professionalism and talent. Then again, this is what we have learned to expect from her time and time again, right?

It seems that Helen Hunt was always destined to be an actress. At a young age she began appearing on television shows like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “The Bionic Woman” and “The Facts of Life”, but it was in the mid 90’s that she became a household name, with her starring role on “Mad About You”. She co-starred opposite Paul Resiser for the show’s seven seasons, earning Emmy nominations As Good as it Gets (1997)each year, winning four of them. It catapulted her to stardom and inevitably the silver screen demanded her presence.

First up was her role in the action packed summer blockbuster, “Twister” (1996), with Bill Paxton, which performed much better than expected.  Although“Twister” continued Hunt’s rise in popularity, it was her next role where she really surprised the world. In 1997, Hunt starred in “As Good as it Gets”(1997) with Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear. It was amazing to see how well she stacked up against a Hollywood heavyweight like Nicholson. Hunt won the Academy Award for Best Actress that year, but unlike so many other Oscar winners, she didn’t jump at every new offer that came her way. In fact, sheCast Away (2000) didn’t appear in another film for over two years.

Even though she waited a while, 2000 ended up being an extremely busy year for Helen Hunt, who starred in four very different films. First, she appeared in the Robert Altman comedy, “Dr. T. and the Women”, and then the depressing and uninspiring drama, “Pay it Forward”, with Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment. Neither of these were great films, but luckily she had two more impressive films right around the corner. In December, she co-starred with Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”. This film received wonderful reviews and was the third highest grossing film of the year. Just one week later Hunt starred in the enormously popular Nora Ephron film, “What Woman Want”, which surprised everyone and became the fourth highest grossing film of the year. Not a bad couple of months.

What Women Want (2000)Over the next decade, Helen Hunt continued to make films at a somewhat sporadic and extremely patient pace. She starred with Woody Allen in the unexciting comedic mystery, “Curse of the Jade Scorpion” (2001), and she had a small part in the ensemble film, “Bobby” (2006). In 2008, Hunt undertook the largest challenge of her career when she co-wrote, co-produced, starred and directed a drama film about one woman’s faith under unfortunate circumstances in, “Then She Found Me”, co-starring Colin Firth, Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick. This film was an extremely personal project for Hunt, and something that she had been attempting to bring to the big screen for over a decade.

Back in front of the camera again, Helen Hunt’s role in “The Sessions” has once again thrown her back into the spotlight. From the early screening of the film, almost every review has singled out her outstanding performance because of the abundance of courage that she brings to the role.  Although her Academy Award nomination for this film likely will not win herThe Sessions (2012) another Oscar, it has gained her more attention and hopefully it will lead to some more interesting and desirable roles in the near future.

Later this year Helen Hunt will appear in the ensemble film, “Decoding Annie Parker” (2013), and then in the drama film, “Relative Insanity” (2013), directed by Larry Moss.  Hunt is also scheduled to star opposite Armie Hammer in the Malin Akerman film, “Serpent Girl”, although no release date has been set.

Learn more about this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees here:

Amy Adams for “The Master”

Sally Field for “Lincoln”

Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables”

Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook”