Boldest Balding performance:
Bruce Willis in "Unbreakable"
You have to give Bruce Willis credit for the risks he took to make "Unbreakable," his follow up to "The Sixth Sense." First, he takes the role of a soft spoken guy who may or may not be a superhero (not your typical action fare). Next, he is again cast opposite a child actor (when last time Haley Joel Osment garnered an Oscar nod, with none for Willis). But most significantly, he plays the part with his own receded hair line. Not since Persis Khambatta in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," has such a strong scalp statement been made. Considering it is still a Hollywood tradition to shave the head of whichever actor plays the villain role, how many heroes outside of Star Trek movies can one think of with a shiny pate? Our short list includes Telly Savalas as "Kojak," Yul Brenner in "The King and I," and the Mr. Clean genie. And we do this as a hobby. Certainly Rogaine, Propecia, hair transplantation, wigs, comb-overs, weaves, spray paint, and chia hats are all possible treatments for hair loss. Yet perhaps dignity, as conveyed by Bruce Willis in this performance, may be the best solution yet. And that's the bald truth.
Most Obscure Evil Condition:
Samuel Jackson with osteogenesis imperfecta in "Unbreakable"
We love it when film makers attempt the realistic inclusion of a medical condition. In "Unbreakable," Jackson's condition is central to the plot. Osteogenesis imperfecta is a fortunately rare condition where bones are extremely fragile. Joints are loose and fractures common because of abnormal production of collagen protein. Some people can have a blue tint to the sclerae (the usually white part of the eye). Dermatologically, the skin is thin, and severe wide scars can develop from poor wound healing. Though no skin problems were actually seen in the movie, we are adopting this example until the Genetic Bone Disorders in the Movies site is up and running (Bone-ema dot com, now under construction). For the record, outside of the multiplex, osteogenesis imperfecta is not associated with immoral acts...or bad hair cuts.

Most skinematic ensemble:
The Cast of "The Perfect Storm"

George Clooney

Mark Wahlberg

Diane Lane 

William Fichtner

Michael Ironside

John C. Reilly

Karen Allen






Forehead Pock Mark

Extra nipple

Facial scar

Facial scar

Bad facial scar 

Acne scars


Certain films stand out with the number of cast connections to cutaneous cinema. Clearly, the rough waters of "The Perfect Storm" were reflected by the rough complexions of the film's actors. With seven major roles filled with skinematic celebs, the film narrowly beat the casts of "Charlie's Angels" and "Little Nicky." This also striking considering the film was a drama and not science fiction or a comic book reenactment, genres usually prone to scarred bald bad guys with drooping moles and furrowed brows. The film made much of the danger of storms at sea. Unfortunately, the point that overuse of water at home (excess showering) can dry out the skin was missed in this otherwise compelling disaster picture.
Skinematic nomination most likely to overlap with the Oscars:
Matthew Mungle's burn scar makeup for Kevin Spacey in "Pay It Forward."
"Pay It Forward" features Kevin Spacey as a sympathetically scarred school teacher. Though the film itself was mangled by critics, makeup artist Mungle's professional work shone through and may even garner an Oscar nomination. He has the right pedigree: Mungle already has one Academy award on his makeup table.
Don't Try This at Home award:
Russell Crowe's self surgical tattoo removal in "Gladiator"
In the WWF-goes-Roman epic "Gladiator," Hunk from Down Under Russell Crowe is downsized from centurion to slave. In his anger at this change of status, he cuts the Roman tattoo out of his own arm. Sure, he may be laughing about it, but he's an indestructible movie superstar. The real Roman warrior would likely have developed a severe skin infection, become septic, and died. So much for boffo international box office. These days, rusty Latin swords are not the treatment of choice for tattoo removal. Instead, lasers can fulfill the needs of anyone from centurions to dot-commions. Absorbed by the dark pigment of the tattoo, laser energy allows gradual fading with little risk of scarring. The last thing gladiators want is a scar. That and getting killed.
Worst derm condition used for humor (three way tie):
Skin conditions are frequently used for comic effect. We're not against this, unless the desired effect is not funny. Is that so much to ask from a farce? This past year featured three notably lame efforts at skinecomedy. With such a dubious bounty, we'll let you decide which is the best/worst...

 Teen tattoos in "Dude, Where's My Car?" 

 This one note "Bill & Ted" rip off punctuated the repeated use of "Sweet" & "Dude" nicknames by showing tattoos of the same. Supreme hilarity. Maybe in the Roman sequel, "Dudicus, Where's My Chariot?" Russell Crowe can stop by to perform gladiator tattoo surgery. Dude, where's my anesthesia?


Hair loss in "An Everlasting Peace"

 This misfire featured salesmen hawking toupees amidst civil war in Ireland. We're laughing so hard, our hair is falling out. These fellas seem to have more hair follicles than the number of people who saw this winner in theaters.

Extra breasts in "Little Nicky"

 Adam Sandler's pact with the Devil ran out with this special effects "comedy" literally gone to hell. After angering Satan, Kevin Nealon's character is granted a pair of breasts on his head. We are aware of extra nipples (a birthmark common on the trunk of men or women), but this is ridiculous. Surprisingly, Nealon is this years' sole double nominee (see the pale group below). Suffice it to say, all three flicks are also the least likely to overlap with Oscar noms.

Skinematic stereotype that will not die:
Evil characters that look like they have albinism

Kevin Nealon in "Little Nicky"

Spooky chick in "Blair Witch 2"

Inverted vampire in "Dracula 2000"

Bring in the Clone from "The Sixth Day"

True albinism from "Me, Myself, & Irene"

Willem Dafoe is best in show from "Shadow of the Vampire"

Maybe it's the all the sun worshiping cults in Los Angeles. Hollywood types, enamored of their freshly baked tans, must see pale skin as the ultimate enemy. Even with our efforts at to dispel the notion that albinism equals sadism, movies continue to feature baddies as white as a blank movie screen. We particularly feel for the last two examples. In Jim Carrey's "Me, Myself & Irene," Michael Bowman is an actor with actual albinism struggling in an imperfect movie-making world. And thespian Willem Dafoe looks annoyed that he would be included with the rest of these one-offs. In "Shadow of the Vampire," a fresh spin on the seminal Dracula flick, "Nosferatu," critics have savored his quirky performance. And we will shrug and add his example to our list of our bald and pale cinematic cads. Maybe next year we will not longer need this category. Sigh...
Most Welcome Inaccurately Fair skin:
Kate Hudson's pale face in "Almost Famous."
Ah, the 1970's. Free love, hedonism, and rock and roll. Not to mention applying baby oil and laying out to get the skin good and brown. The occasional exfoliating set of blisters was just part of the bronzing process. While baby boomers fondly remember the era's love and music, they regret that last indiscretion: too much sun. Because of those "healthy" tans, so many people became prematurely wrinkled, sun spotted, and at increased risk for skin cancer. Here at, we are always on the lookout for fair skinned performers that act as role models for a new era of sun protection. So we are grateful for Kate Hudson's light skin tone, in hopes that young people will emulate her appearance. In this case, however, being fair does not fit the role of a rock show groupie in the '70's. Her character would much more likely have been burning by the pool than appearing ghost-like. This makes the film's accuracy "almost" perfect. Considering the damage the sun can cause, it is actually more perfect from a dermatologist's point of view! Don't be afraid to be fair, Kate. And have a nice day with your groovy pet rock and bell bottom pants. Rock on!

Best sunscreen poster boy:
Wilson the volleyball in "Cast Away"
In this drama about island isolation, director Robert Zemeckis cleverly includes a subliminal message about sunscreen. Wilson is a pale white volleyball, and so represents the skin type most vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation. His face, scrawled in red blood, is the color of acute sun burn. Finally, his texture is the consistency of weathered chronically damaged skin: leather. Not since Cameron Diaz' roommate from "There's Something About Mary" has a character so dramatically illustrated the danger of excess sun exposure. We can only guess how many moviegoers have been subtly influenced by Wilson's example. Without being consciously aware, many of them now realize that they don't want to become red-faced, leathery volleyballs. Thanks to you, Wilson, the world of the 21st century is a safer place with sunscreen of at least SPF 15, wide-brimmed hats , and sun avoidance from 10 AM until 2 PM. Oh, yeah, and your costar Tom Hanks earned his movie paycheck too.

That's a wrap, congrats to all this year's winners. Now on to the post-ceremony bash: Free cleansers and biore strips for all!
Skinnies Awards

The past year has been a big one for dermatology in the cinema, so competition has been fierce. It seems all the studios have been lobbying for their spot at "For Your Consideration" ads have been arriving daily. The producers of skinematically significant but otherwise pathetic "Dungeons and Dragons" staged a mock battle/skin cancer screening check at the Skinema lobby. Despite the full page Variety ad taken out by the makers of "Dracula 2000," we have remained objective. With this bounty of cutaneous clutter, the only difficulty has been deciding which movie skin conditions make the cut. Enjoy this year's winners and don't forget to moisturize...

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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