Why do good people do bad things?
It takes a much smarter person to answer that on an existential level, but when it comes to making movies, the answer is simple: A paycheck's a paycheck.
Before they were working with people like Martin Scorsese and David O. Russell, this year's crop of Academy Awards nominees were struggling actors, clawing their way to a big break and surviving by taking whatever roles came their way, even if they were embarrassing.
Since you can't appreciate where you're going without remembering where you've been, we honor the starving artist days of this year's Oscar contenders with a look back at those cringe-worthy entries in their filmographies.
1. Amy Adams starred in the sequel to "Cruel Intentions."
Now: A Best Supporting Actress nominee for American Hustle
Then: Six years before she landed her first Oscar nomination, Amy Adams was seducing family members and saying no to the kind of thing that made Farrah Abraham famous in the straight-to-video sequel to Cruel Intentions. She's come a long way.
2. Matthew McConaughey played a name-less role on "Unsolved Mysteries."
Now: With critically acclaimed and complicated roles in things like Mud, Magic Mike, Killer Joe,and True Detective, the "McConaissance" is in full swing, and it might reach its peak if Dallas Buyers Club earns Mr. "Alright Alright Alright" his first Oscar.
Then: In the acting hierarchy, dramatic reenactments on daytime TV fall just above "extra" and just below "infomercial participant," but that didn't stop 1992 McConaughey from acting the hell out of an Unsolved Mysteries bit that required him to square off against a neighborhood pedophile (in short shorts no less).
3. Jennifer Lawrence appeared on an episode of "Monk."
Now: She could win Oscars in back-to-back years thanks to the nomination for her supporting role in American Hustle.
Then: Lawrence's first role ever was on an episode of Monk. While she had more than a minute of screen time, as "Mascot" her face was relegated to cameo status. Pestering Tony Shalhoub while dancing around in a full-body cougar costume was a baby step towards greatness.
Bonus: Lawrence's first major film role came with more lines and less mask-wearing, but was even more cringe-inducing. The Poker House was a bad look for everyone involved (especially Selma Blair, who should probably buy and burn every last DVD copy still in existence).
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