DVD: Nicole Kidman in BMX Bandits, and 5 Other Goofy Early Works by Best Actress Oscar Winners

This year's Best Actress Oscar-winner, Natalie Portman, was getting critical raves from the moment she hit the screen with prepubescent performances in The Professional and Beautiful Girls. But for a few in her very exclusive sorority, the road to the Academy Award was paved with the kind of movies that don't get talked about on the red carpet in front of the Kodak Theatre. Case in point: BMX Bandits (out this week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Severin Films), starring a frizzy-haired teenager named Nicole Kidman.

It's certainly possible that the energetically silly Bandits would have achieved U.S. cult status on its own -- Australian director Brian Trenchard-Smith's films are heavily featured in the "Oz-sploitation" documentary Not Quite Hollywood, and his action-packed flicks Stone and Stunt Rock have been popular midnight movie titles in L.A. of late -- but Kidman's early appearance has definitely given the movie a cachet it wouldn't otherwise have. (And if BMX Bandits sells well, maybe we'll finally get a DVD release of her early performance in Flirting, as well as that film's Kidman-less predecessor, The Year My Voice Broke.)

Kidman's not alone in having made a film or two that's anything but Oscar bait in the years prior to nabbing the gold statuette, of course:

· Halle Berry, B*A*P*S

Before her Oscar for Monster's Ball and her Emmy for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Berry starred as Nisi in a comedy that Roger Ebert hailed as "jaw-droppingly bad... There is a thin line between satire and offensiveness, and this movie crosses it." It's a testament to Berry that she has become an international style icon after starring in a film (whose title is an abbreviation for "Black American Princesses") that required her to wear long, tacky fingernails, gold teeth, pink latex, and a giant pile of hair on her head.

· Hilary Swank, The Next Karate Kid

After some early stints on series television and a brief appearance in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Swank got what she no doubt thought would be her big break in the reboot of the Ralph Macchio franchise, playing a young girl who becomes the new pupil of Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita). But the martial-arts flick's critical and box-office failure basically relegated Swank to trivia-footnote status until her double Oscar wins for Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby.

· Reese Witherspoon, Fear

Witherspoon had the very good fortune to make her screen debut in the lovely period piece The Man in the Moon, directed by Robert Mulligan; as the director of To Kill a Mockingbird, he'd proven he knew a thing or two about telling stories about young girls in the South. But after that movie and before amassing the clout to pick and choose properties, young Reese made a few sub-par teen flicks, including this Fatal Attraction-esque story about a good girl who falls for a very handsome, but very psycho, bad boy (Mark Wahlberg). Witherspoon's other most notable adolescent embarrassment would have to be the cloth-eared 1990s nihilism parable S.F.W..

· Julia Roberts, Satisfaction

This embarrassing rocker-chick comedy is probably most notable for being the only time that Roberts would take billing under Justine Bateman. In 1988, the same year as her breakout success in Mystic Pizza (and a year before snagging her first Oscar nod, for Steel Magnolias), Roberts played a sex-crazed bass player in this utterly disposable movie, notable for also being an embarrassing skeleton in the closet of Liam Neeson, who plays a nightclub owner.

· Helen Hunt, Desperate Lives

Look, I could try to explain it to you, or I could just show you this:



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