Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday Top Ten: Holly Hunter

TTT: for the list-lover in you and the list-maker in me

Let the rest of the world have Julia Roberts, my favorite Georgian movie star is Holly Hunter and she's celebrating her 49th today. For those who've wondered why I can so regularly be found bitching about ubiquitously cast actors it's merely this: There's so many brilliant thespians out there who we hardly ever get to see. I want the wealth spread a little bit.

I shouldn't lie and say that I'll see anything with Holly in it (I have skipped a few --often because her roles are wee or she's playing third fiddle to people less talented than her pinky) but for the most part, she's a huge draw. Her best work rivals anyones. I miss her.

Ten Favorite Holly Hunter Performances

10 I'm reserving this spot (or a higher one) for...
"Wanda Halloway" in The Positively True Adventures of the Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom (1993)
Full confession: I have never seen this all the way through but I already love the performance. I laugh every time. I am interrupted every time I try sitting through the damn thing. Hunter won the Emmy for this. 1993 was definitely the peak of her career (see also #9 and #1)

09 "Tammy Hemphill" in The Firm (1993)
I have virtually no memory of this Tom Cruise legal thriller other than that Hunter (Oscar nominated) and Gene Hackman provided the spark and charisma whilst Cruise ran away with the credit for its huge hit status.

08 "Elastigirl" in The Incredibles (2004)
I hate the modern trend of animated voice casting (only celebrities allowed!) but at least Pixar knows how to do it without offense. You won't find them casting a celebrity just for a name. They have to have a memorable character specific voice, too. The Incredibles is great fun (2004 top ten list) and Hunter grounds the super family with maternal fire, sass, confidence and her own impeccable (one might say incredible) comic timing.

07 "Helen Remington" in Crash (1996)
David Cronenberg's freaky adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel about a community that sexualizes vehicular carnage turned off many viewers. I saw it twice in one week, marvelling at its bravely and in your face eroticism. I particularly loved Hunter's blend of self-horror and fearless compliance. Her face in the car when she exposes her breast. The way she navigates that sex scene with Rosanna Arquette's troublesome leg. Always this blend of subversive comedy with actual dramatic potency. How does she do it?

Have I mentioned that I love Holly Hunter, yet?



06 "Jane Craig" in Broadcast News (1987)
The performance that made her a star. She'll meet us 'at the place near the thing where we went that time.'

05 "Claudia Larson" in Home For the Holidays
Nobody loves this movie like I do. Well, maybe Nick.

04 "Judith Moore" in Living Out Loud (1998)
Nobody loves this movie like I do.

03 "Melina Freeland" in thirteen (2003)
I've talked about this performance several times before: 2003 top ten list and supporting actress gold medal for Holly's powerhouse work as a desperately loving single mother.


02 "Edwina 'Ed' McDunnough" in Raising Arizona (1987)
One of the best comedic performances in one of the greatest comedies ... ever. I love her work in Broadcast News but she was Oscar nominated for the wrong performance says me. It's her absolute commitment to Edwina's rigid worldview that just shoves the comedy into even funnier places. And it's already hilarious to begin with. My personal favorite moment (so many to choose from) is her instant staccato sobbing when meeting her (stolen) baby "I...love...him...so...much"

01 "Ada McGrath" in The Piano (1993)
One of those rare awards sweepers (like Mirren in The Queen) that deserved to dominate. I've been asked to write more about this movie as part of that fundraising offer so I'll do a retrospective on The Piano in April. Stay tuned.

I showed you mine. Now show me yours. Which Hunter charms you most?

33 comments:

JA said...

You crazy - I LOOOOOOOOOOVE HH in Living Out Loud. See all those "o"'s? That's a lotta love. I try and watch this movie at least once a year. She's so hysterical in it - the scene where we hear her thoughts in voiceover as she contemplates adopting a crack baby is COMIC GENIUS - but also so sad and lonely... god I love this movie.

JA said...

(sidenote - actually, now that i'm thinking of it, that perf is totally gonna be my "today's mood" today...)

Marius said...

I loved her in The Piano and Raising Arizona. As they say, great minds think alike.

Deborah said...

Broadcast News and The Incredibles are my favorites, but props should go to Jesus' Son. It's not a great movie, but her role is so wonderful, so affecting, so real, and really just perfect.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Hunter performance is actually Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. Totally committed and heartbreaking.

Arun said...

I think my favourite will always be the one I saw first: 'The Piano'. It also helps that I think its her best work. My list would look a lot like yours except I would probably put Broadcast News at number 2 and let everything else drop one place lower. I always thought I like Arizona better but lately I cannot get Broadcast News out of my head.

J.D. Judge said...

I've only seen her in The Incredibles, so... yeah. I'm pretty sure she gets the Gold for the Lead Voice-Over Actress 2004 JMC Award.

Michael C. said...

Oh, God, Broadcast News. It's not even close for me. Often, I will put in the DVD just to watch the "William Hurt is the Devil" argument a few times. I never get tired of it.

Anonymous said...

Holly has the teeniest tiniest blink-and-you-might-miss-it role in Mike Figgis's Time Code...and even with her lack of lines and screen time, she creates a fully developed character. Brilliant.

WickedScorp said...

Living Out Loud : as if. I went to three different run down piece of shit theaters to see it while it was playing. CAN I DECIDE LATER?

Home for the Holidays : a Thanksgiving fixture at my place. WHAT THE HELL DOES DEAR ABBY KNOW ABOUT LIFE ANYWAY?

Things You Can Tell : when she lets out the gasp. That made my heart skip the first time I saw it. Still can't believe they passed up award ops for all those actresses.

PFanLondon said...

Broadcast News, Raising Arizona, The Piano, The Firm, Ten Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, Living Out Loud, Time Code........JUST LOOK AT THAT LIST!! Holly Hunter is one of the most versatile actresses out there. Given that she is not your "typical" actress - ie. short, crooked mouth, weird voice - she has succeeded in millions of ways as an actress, and used everything she has to her advantage. After Pfeiffer, Holly is the next best thing about movies.

Beau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

Yes!

Love her in the Piano (probably my favorite performance in probably my favorite movie).

Her work in Thirteen is incredible, also. I loved it all the way through, but that break in her voice as she says, "I never knew it went that far!" really sold it as a classic.

And I can never decide if I like Broadcast News or Raising Arizona better. Currently, I have her winning in '87 for Broadcast, though.

J.J. said...

"Copycat." Seriously. I'm not saying it belongs on your list, but it's a movie I admire. Hunter (as a tough-cookie cop) and Sigourney Weaver (as a traumatized psychologist) are great together. Hunter's character was shaped from the mold of Clarice Starling (spunky police officer who's bite beats the bark of her brawnier colleagues). But "Copycat" is more a straightforward action/thriller genre picture than "The Silence of the Lambs," which makes it harder to act well. It's satisfying to watch Hunter succeed grandly in this mode and partner with Weaver, the gold standard for female action heros.

Adam P. said...

I'm glad you mentioned Crash. It's such a challenging and great film and yet it's severely underestimated. I love Hunter's cold demeanor and the way she defines the character so well with such minimal screentime and dialogue.

vv said...

Loved her in The Piano and Thirteen. What about O Brother Where Art Thou?

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad JJ mentioned Copycat because it was genuinely my first thought. It's a movie (and a performance) that's stuck with me in spite of itself.

One can't not admire Holly in The Piano, but I must confess I felt (and feel) as irked by her awards dominance as I did this year about Mirren. Whilst I admire it, I don't find it as special as either Stockard Channing or Emma Thompson.

Rob

Anonymous said...

...all that moaning and I never got around to saying that my absolute favourite Holly perf is Thirteen! Doh!

Rob

Anonymous said...

And not to take over here (I should pause more before I hit 'publish'!), but it's worth noting that Spike Lee is now 50. I mean... Spike Lee is officilly 50. Seriously. Spike Lee.

In my head he's still part of some kind of new wave. When did the new wave get old on me?!!!!

Rob

Kamikaze Camel said...

I need to see so many of those movies! But, yeah, The Piano is tops.

Thomas F. said...

I like totally adored her in Little Miss Firecracker.

NATHANIEL R said...

i saw Miss Firecracker only once but i don't remember it at all which probably accounts for why it's not on the list.

but perhaps a rental since I'm feeling all Hunter now

Alanna said...

I... love... her... so... much! Haha. I just saw her in Nine Lives, which I enjoyed overall, but the movie could have used more of her, for sure.

mistyh92104 said...

I, too, totally love the Hunter. And I KNOW that had she reteamed with James L. Brooks on "As Good As It Gets" (as the role was originally intended for her), it would be just as good as most anything we've mentioned here. What a shame...

adam k. said...

OMG, Holly was supposed to have that role? Why didn't she get it? Did she turn it down? She coulda had a second oscar.

adam k. said...

And what did they do then, just get the actress with the most similar name they could think of? Hmmm...

NATHANIEL R said...

she was first choice and apparently wouldn't back down on her $ amount and they went with HUNT instead (much cheaper at the time. tv star only)

Anonymous said...

Hell, even Melanie fuckin' Griffith turned down that role in 'AGAIG' before they finally offered it to Helen (gag) Hunt (barf). Lesser of two evils, I guess.

Marco

Dominic said...

I think The Piano is one of the greatest films of the 1990s, and her performance is perfection. However, Holly Hunter's crowning moment in my eyes is from Broadcast News (a movie I was lukewarm about), when her boss says "It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room" and then her almost tearful response: "No. It's awful."
Dominic
PS This is WAY off-topic, but you mentioned a while ago that you were going to post your reaction to the A Chorus Line revival, and I'm pretty interested to hear what you have to say.

NATHANIEL R said...

dominic --yeah that is a great moment (hence the youtube clip)

oops. forgot all about that. ACL. soon maybe...

Anonymous said...

No Life Less Ordinary?

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that the roles she chooses, from Broadcast News to The Piano to Living Out Loud to Crash, are usually a character evolving upward and breaking free from something. I saw her in the play By the Bog of Cats and saw the same thing. They're very inspiring characters.

Nick Davis said...

How do I visit this site multiple times every day and still I missed this straight-to-my-heart post???

You know I love every performance you mentioned (except the one in Crash, which kinda doesn't work for me), but I'd also second the cheers for Holly in Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, Nine Lives, Timecode, and Jesus' Son, and I even thought she mined some tart moments out of the humdrum scripts for Moonlight Mile and Levity. This woman doesn't seem to need any time, or a good surrounding movie, or even particularly good lines to whip up something great.

Call me, Holly!