Os-scar Buzz: The 1999 Skinnies Awards
We're here, with cheer, for our yearly peer at notable examples of cutaneous cinema. And the winners of the "Skinnies" are...
Best Use of Soft Focus:
Robert Redford in "The Horse Whisperer"
It seems a part of human nature for portraitists to "clean up" the complexion of their subjects. Since the Renaissance, painters have minimized their patrons' wrinkles, scars, and spots. For all we know, Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" likely had a craggy wart that matched her enigmatic smile. These days, with a celebrity emphasis on youth, hiding wrinkles is both art and science. Just take a look at these images of Redford's sensitive cowboy from "Whisperer." Despite years of sun exposure, he appears to have less weathering than his horse and his young female co-star, Scarlet Johansson. Computer trickery? No, just a lot of makeup and a lot less focus while filming. By softening the camera's focus, the sharpness of wrinkles become invisible. This saves a lot on laser resurfacing procedures which while blasting away at pruney furrows, leave a redness and shininess that persists. Many might prefer to be a glossy tomato rather than a dull prune, but being simply blurry is the simplest of all.  
Worst advertisement for cosmetic masks:
Leo DiCaprio in "The Man in the Iron Mask"
French Iron Mask facial





A mainstay of aesthetic facial treatments is the "mask." Traditionally composed of inedible organic materials (i.e., mud), masks are supposed to exfoliate, clear away toxins, and generally promote world peace. They may do all or none of those things, but certainly can place one in a relaxed, meditative state. Given that acne, eczema, and psoriasis are clearly all worsened by stress, relief from such agitation is of great therapeutic value. Cosmetic masks are not made out of iron, however. Occlusion of the pores with hard, non-porous, rigid materials, especially for three years in the case of DiCaprio's character is something that even the most strident aesthetician would protest. The occluded environment would enhance the growth of bacteria & yeast and likely worsen acne and scarring. It is only in the magic world of movies that our hero could remove the mask and appear as blemish-free as Leo does above.
Most distinguished hair loss in a royal character:
Dame Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth in "Shakespeare in Love"
Hair loss, though usually thought of occurring in men, happens to women as well. Due to genetics, age, and hormonal influence, hair follicles reduce in number, hairs gradually become white and stiff and the hair line recedes. Apart from menopause, several health conditions can also predispose women to hair loss. Anemia (low red blood cell counts), low dietary iron, thyroid disease, and autoimmune diseases like lupus are treatable medical causes for alopecia (lengthy medical term for baldness). Though less common, the sexually transmitted disease syphilis can also result in thinning hair. Rampant in Elizabeth's day, we presume that the "Virgin Queen" was not syphilitic. Instead, some have argued that her high forehead was fashionable. Whether inherited or be design, Dench effectively recreates both Elizabeth's manner and manly hair loss. Long live the Queen and long live Rogaine!
Most precipitous drop from Oscar winner to tattooed romantic interest of serial killer doll:
Jennifer Tilly in "Bride of Chucky"



 Tilly as tattooed B-movie starlet

And as tattooed Barbie doll harlot  
Only four years after winning the best supporting actress award for "Bullets over Broadway," one wonders whether Jennifer Tilly wishes a bullet struck her agent. How else must she feel dropping from Oscar prestige to cheesy B-movie sequel? As an obsessed amateur voodoo practitioner, Tilly is in love with the evil and now scarred Chucky of the "Child's Play" franchise. She revives the Chuckster and is herself converted to doll form using the self help tome "Voodoo for dummies." Certainly, the only dummies involved (other than the producers) were those suckers who shelled out shekels to see this slimy sludge. From the skinematic angle, Tilly sports a red valentine to Chucky tattoo both in human and doll form. In an effort to resuscitate her career, we suggest laser tattoo treatments for a start. Unfortunately, red tattoo pigment is much more difficult to remove with a series of laser appointments than blue or black colors. So conservative tattoo fanciers prefer dark (more easily removed) colors. But it's clearly not the first lapse in judgment this starlet has made.
Best Zit as a plot device:
Worf in "Star Trek: Insurrection"
In this latest effort to wring dollars from the Star Trek franchise, the best laughs come from the arrival of a...pimple. Members of the crew are beamed to a planet which recreates in visitors the hormonal shifts of puberty. As hormones go into flux, facial sebaceous activity increases. Trapped oils create inflammation, resulting in pustules. In Worf's case, an inflamed cyst develops on his nose. Not the cutest look for a Klingon warrior. Without the aid of Federation technology, 21st century humans turn to high strength benzoyl peroxide for topical relief. Or dermatologists can administer dilute cortisone injections for rapid resolution of the problem. If only intergalactic conflict was so simple.
Worst advertisement for sunscreen (tie):
Vampires Thomas Ian Griffith in "John Carpenter's Vampires" and Stephen Dorff in "Blade"
A look at these two fair villains confirms that pale skin on-screen has long been associated not with health but instead (by clear movie logic) with blood sucking. Since the first silent film depiction of vampires, their avoidance of sunlight is dramatized by ghostly fair skin. Griffith's 600 year old neck-biter is the classic example. In "Blade," Dorff's vamp puts a new spin on this old theme. Traditionally, movie vampires die when exposed to the sun. In this version, vampires can be exposed to sun and survive, but only if they wear SUNSCREEN! For most people, a sunscreen with an SPF strength of 15 is usually enough to prevent sun burns and minimize sun damage. Presumably the sunscreen vampires wear is SPF 15,000. For those keeping track, this is at least the second film to portray sunscreen use in a malevolent light. See also a corpulent Marlon Brando white with sun block as Dr. Moreau.
Notable mention of usually un-mentioned non-melanoma skin cancer:
Hope Davis' date in "Next Stop Wonderland."
Hope Davis is looking for love.
The big bandage...
...And crusty skin lesion are definite turnoffs.
Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC = basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer) represents melanoma's ignored kid brother. Though much more common than the irregularly colored and potentially life threatening melanoma, NMSC seems virtually unknown to the general public. These lesions arise in sun damaged skin and slowly grow. Usually without causing itch or pain, NMSC can appear pink, pearly, or scaly. Though they do not spread to other organs (metastasize), NMSC can result in sores that gradually destroy tissue. Not a huge deal on the back but more of an emergency around the eyes or nose. In "Next Stop Wonderland," perennial dater Hope Davis meets a potential beau and notices an abnormal facial growth. In a later scene, the NMSC has been surgically removed and her date now sports a less-then-romantic bandage. That is as real a depiction of NMSC diagnosis, treatment, and results as occurs in the cinema. Skinema congratulates the film makers. This is one Wonderland that is more "Real World" than "Fantasy Island."

Skinnies Awards


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