Planet of Sound: Are You an Actress Who Wants to Be Taken Seriously? Get Ugly

Say you’re an actress who’s really beautiful — your skin is smooth and milky white, your body is lithe and inspires the lust of every man, woman and inanimate object (such as Bob Goen and Pat O’Brien) you come into contact with, you have the type of bone structure women spend millions to replicate — and the only roles you’ve been getting over the years require you to take off your clothes and play second fiddle to a male co-star. What do you do?

You get ugly.

There was a time when putting on weight and forgoing make-up was anathema to an actress– and not just the pretty ones. Remember the endless stories of how “brave” Susan Sarandon was for going without lipstick in “Dead Man Walkingr” (An older woman exposing her saggy skin and pallid fleshr Good Lord, no!) But nowadays getting your beast on is a surefire way to score Oscar gold.

Case in point: Charlize Theron. Be honest: the only thing you remember about her last five performances was her breasts. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, because her breasts somehow became a part of everything she did: it got to the point where even if she was making a kids’ movie about a dying cancer patient, she’d be nude. In movies like “The Yards” and “Reindeer Games,” she seems to be nude for no apparent reason. Like she couldn’t keep her clothes on.

But then the world shook with “Monster,” the little female-serial-killer movie that could. Theron transformed her comely face by slapping on make-up that made her skin as mottled as that of the real woman she’s playing. Her mouth disfigured in a crooked-tooth scowl. Now, with thirty extra pounds, she became…well…a normal weight. And what happened once Charlize got uglyr Everyone took notice and gasped, “A beautiful woman ridding herself of her looks! Here, take these awards! Oh, you beautifully ugly darling, awards, awards, awards!” Listen, I’m not saying that Charlize wasn’t terrific in “Monster.” That’s not my point. My point is that even before a single person saw “Monster” they were talking about the “astounding” transmogrification. When did gaining weight equal good actingr Robert De Niro forever wrote the playbook by going from the best shape of his life to an overweight slob for “Raging Bull.” But if you take another look at that film, you’ll see that De Niro’s big nose and fat gut are not what makes his later-days, downfall performance memorable.

The Academy makes itself very clear: it’s not just Susan and Charlize, but also Renee Zellweger, who simply rounded out her skinny frame with a few extra pounds for “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” and of course Halle Berry, who might be the one truly responsible for this trend. What shock and awe from critics when the known-for-her-pulchritude Halle appeared before us with: No make-up! Shabby clothes! A tired, burned-out visage! Maybe I’m insane, or maybe I just have low standards, but Halle still looked pretty good in that movie. And the to-do made over her supposed “stripping down” of her beauty and her so-called “courageousness” because she let the director exploit her (by featuring a sex scene so over-the-top it was hilarious) was downright sad. Actresses already have to battle so much to be taken seriously and to get roles that rise to the level of their talent, and all this does is use their beauty but in a new, skewed way.

If Britney Spears played an obsessed maniac whose bald head, flabby cheeks and dumpy thighs made no teenager drool, would she get a SAG nomination?

You don’t need to go without cosmetics, letting the harsh light bounce off your skin, reveal warts, to bottom out in a film. Just look at Naomi Watts in “21 Grams.” Sure, she gets a little greasy, a little sweaty, a little desperate-looking, but that’s the last thing you notice. Because emotionally she’s gripping you in her fist; what state her looks are in is the last thing you’re thinking about.

Is there a silver lining to this? Maybe. It will be a good thing if actors take on unattractive roles. It’s more exciting to see them taking inner unattractive roles, though. Tom Cruise playing a hit man and things like that. Which leads to my next point…

Go Gay
Not only are actors, after years of fighting and clawing and vacillating, willing to play gay characters, now it’s just about the coolest thing around. Actors, trying to prove (like pretty women who get ugly) that they’re “real” actors, are beating down doors to play gay guys. They can’t wait to “stun” the public by hot-and-heavily making out with a dude onscreen.

Look at Ang Lee’s upcoming “Brokeback Mountain,” which is quickly becoming known as the “gay cowboy movie.” Young stud-boys Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger will be playing the gay cowboys, and Colin Farrell, Josh Hartnett and Billy Crudup were all up for the roles. That’s a most-wanted list of the hottest young male stars. And they’re all lining up to play someone in a gay relationship because I’m sure nothing would make them happier than to temper the flame of their female fans. Like Theron and Halle, they’re running from their beauty too. And the double prize is that playing gay for a guy is considered as “brave” as not putting on make-up is for a woman.

Do you remember what an outrageous deal it was for a guy to play a homosexual in a movier Remember Will Smith’s reaction to kissing a man in “Six Degrees of Separation”r Frantic calls to Denzel Washington on what he should do.

What I’m waiting for is a movie where the male characters are gay and their sexuality has nothing to do with the plot. They just happen to be the people we’re watching and they just happen to be gay. No one mentions it. It just is. Will “Brokeback Mountain” be a western that just happens to have a gay couple in it? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Get Ready to hate Cameron Diaz
MTV announced that Cameron Diaz, the long-legged blonde star of “Charlie’s Angels,” will have a travel series on their network. The viewing audience will be able to jet around the world with the star as she surfs and hikes in what will no doubt be very skimpy outfits. And we’ll listen, I’m sure, as Diaz brays laughter with her just-as-hot friends. She’ll also “address environmental issues,” which I’m sure means Diaz looking at the camera and saying, “Pollution is bad; clean waters are good; I like to surf.”

Is Diaz out of her mind? Okay, she is. She’s under the delusion people aren’t already a little sick of her. With that big, big, cackling laugh and her famously pimpled face and the starved body she loves to show off. Not to mention the ditziness of a brain-battered baby. I knew Diaz was “a little behind” (as they used to say euphemistically in my grade school) while watching her promote “There’s Something About Mary” with Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon. The film had opened three days prior and Stiller pointed this out by saying the film opened a few days ago. No, no, Diaz corrected, her mouth stretching to her ears, her tone mocking, it opens a few days from now. Stiller, his grimace of a smile showing how utterly perplexed he was by her stupidity, softly said, “No, Cameron, it was a few days ago.” He said it to her the way you might tell a kid her kitten was squashed by a truck. Diaz’s smile never waned; she thought Ben was a big idiot. Dillon, then her boyfriend, was unfazed. He’d seen it many, many times before, I’m sure.

Diaz actually was alluring at one time. And maybe even charming. You’ll have to travel back in time, to “The Mask,” but she was something stunning. Then the deliquescence occurred: slowly, slowly her body melted away until she was this long-limbed creature, and her face was so thin her nose looked like a snout, and her pockmarked skin was revealed.

That Diaz thinks anyone would want to actually be around her for a half an hour at a time (without the benefit of a script), watching her do the things we don’t have the money for, watching her live a life we see only in pictures, just proves that she’s completely deranged. If you didn’t hate her already, now you’ll want to kick her grandmother in the gut.

We’re Such Americans
Check out the outrage engendered by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s look-at-me shenanigans during halftime at the Super Bowl. You would have thought Michael Jackson made out with Emmanuel Lewis or something. At the end of yet another boring song-and-dance routine, where Janet was rubbing her butt in Justin’s crotch (which is always worth a good laugh), Justin ceremoniously, as if about to expose something profound, tore off the right cup of J.J.’s brassiere, giving the world a view of Janet’s lovely breast. Almost. You see, there was this big, weird metal thing on the nipple. According to Standards and Practices, you didn’t see a breast. Because you didn’t clearly see her nipple– it took a number of hours and the Drudge Report to show that it was a brooch of some sort that did reveal some nipple protusions. What does this meanr That this huge controversy is pointless: all you saw is what you can see on any TV show at any time during any day.

If Britney can kiss Madonna, Justin seemed to be saying, I can tear off J.J.’s shirt.

I think the bigger surprise than the boob-exposure was that the halftime show was produced by MTV and all they could throw together was has-beens: P. Diddy (singing?), Kid Rock (he’s still around?), Nelly telling women to take their clothes off, and Janet Jackson? It was like traveling back in time. This would have been a really hot show…five years ago.

The fun started after “the incident.” A flurry of apologies flew to the press. CBS, the NFL and MTV all said they had no idea it was going to happen. Justin said the same thing. Who are they kidding? The fact that Justin and Janet punked out in the face of controversy shows they are novice provocateurs. How can you say it was a “malfunction” when Janet’s breast had what looked like a silver cog on it? That just happened to be there?

Though there is nudity and foul language and bad behavior all around us, if you put it in our mainstream culture — on a primetime TV show or at a sporting event — Americans go berserk. Did all the little boys watching the Super Bowl get corrupted by the two-second flash of flesh? Probably they were disappointed in the lighting and angle. We seriously need to grow up.

Remember When a Film Produced by “National Lampoon’s” Was Funny?
“National Lampoon’s” has a movie in development called “National Lampoon’s The Trouble With Frank.” (Talk about originality: if you can’t think up a title, rip off Hitchcock!) Jon Bon Jovi, known currently as the guy in those house-smashing arena football commercials, is set to star as the titular Frank, a law school dropout who tries to start a female hockey league. The plan blows up when — uh-oh — everyone finds out this little endeavor is being funded by credit-card fraud.

Jon gets his romantic interest in the form of Jessica, “the best trial attorney in the city,” who eventually helps him out with his case. They are polar opposites, they don’t like each other, and guess what — this is so amazing, this is just so cool — Jon will disarm her with some humor and then, baby steps, baby steps, they end up in bed. Just like real life. Well, sorta. Okay, not really. No, no, it’s true — stuff like this doesn’t happen in real life. But, then again, how many people have Bon Jovi’s luscious locks, big teeth, and musical ability?

The only real interest here is that Matty Simmons co-wrote the script. I didn’t think the old guy wrote anymore.

There seems to be no end to comedies like this: they aim low, they’re fleeting and utterly interchangeable, and it’s like cinematic junk food. Sometimes I picture an old handcrank printing press churning these things out. But it’s hard to complain. When you’re up at three a.m. and your eyes are pounding because you’re dying for sleep but your body won’t allow it, and there’s an ice-cold beer in one hand and mini-brownies in your other, what else do you want to see on your TV but ephemera like this? This is Darwin Mayflower’s first “Planet of Sound” column at FilmJerk.com, an op-ed departure for the site. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the other staffmembers, or of the site in whole.

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