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The faces in the lens

A couple months back, someone (can't remember now whether I saw it on the flist or via a link, but pretty sure it was on LJ) posted a side-by-side comparison of the Entertainment Weekly photo of Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, and the original promo shot of Shatner and Nimoy that it was based on. The poster pointed to it as emblematic of their trepidation about the reboot, that the new cast would be too much cookie-cutter young Hollywood and lack the individuality, quirks, humanity of their predecessors. I thought about commenting, but ended up deciding I didn't have time or energy for a discussion, about how the problem they were pointing out isn't so much about what our stars are like these days, but about how they're packaged and sold to us.

I hadn't really thought about that post again until yesterday, watching the same faces on a greeeaaaat big IMAX screen. We're at a very interesting moment right now, when our visual expectations of faces in the media are being pulled in two opposite directions. On the one hand, you have the fact that was pointed up by the comparison in the post I mentioned above, that nobody would dream of sending any photo to print these days without a hundred (usually) subtle retouching tweaks.

But on the other, you have HD on ever-larger screens in our living rooms, and more and more tentpole features released in IMAX. And all of a sudden, people have pores and little moles and lines around their eyes. Apparently they even have chicken pox on Vulcan. (Quinto's right cheekbone. Even all the times I've watched Heroes in HD, I never noticed it before.)

Call me optimistic (that "Postmodern Pollyanna" label is there for a reason, so it's not like I'll be offended if you do), but I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the forces pulling in that direction might be starting to win the tug-of-war. Oh, Photoshop Disasters isn't going to run out of material any time soon. But who would have expected People's Most Beautiful issue to include several pages of "stars without makeup" (and without obvious Photoshoppping) including four young 90210 actresses showing us that even 20-year-olds crinkle under the eyes when they smile?

Still, surely advertising will all stay as airbrushed as ever, right? I would have thought so, until I flipped through the recent Vogue issue with Michelle Obama on the cover while waiting to get a haircut. I ended up buying it, not so much because of the cover feature, but because of two ads. One is a Tommy Hilfiger two-pager featuring a college classmate.

The other is a closeup of Beyoncé with visible smile lines. I swear I stared at that page for close to a minute in disbelief. I'm still intensely curious whose decision it was not to brush them out.

All this is anecdotal, of course. It'd take a lot more observation to really call a trend. But it's still interesting, and maybe even encouraging.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
wiliqueen
May. 12th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
I'd shell out the extra bucks for the close look at the Kelvin and Enterprise hulls alone. The rendering is just gorgeous.

I'm really hoping to see more people looking like people in magazines. Beyoncé has cute smile lines. :-)

Edited at 2009-05-12 03:08 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
brainiacfive
May. 12th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
On the other hand, there are some pretty disappointing (to me) choices with regards to focal lengths, leading to a few scenes of talking heads that are out of focus. It was noticeable on the regular screen, but it screamed at me on the IMAX. So, you've been warned. :-)
(Deleted comment)
studiesinlight
May. 12th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC)
I noticed the pores, pox and shaving results in Trek. I was quite startled by them, at first -- I thought, maybe because I've only seen one movie since Abby died? forgotten what faces look like two stories high? -- but I liked it as soon as I was done being startled.
wiliqueen
May. 12th, 2009 12:42 pm (UTC)
shaving results

Yes! Can't believe I forgot to mention that -- three-o'clock-or-so shadow everywhere! Which only makes sense, in the midst of a crisis. But it was particularly striking to notice it on Spock.

The last movie I saw in IMAX was The Dark Knight, which was much grittier on balance, but I don't remember noticing similar details. Maybe because Trek was so much more brightly lit.

Edited at 2009-05-13 03:31 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
wiliqueen
May. 12th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
I wonder if some of it isn't Botox backlash too. Facelifts & such have always been mocked, but in some ways I think Botox tipped it over by being SO widely used, and ultimately so much more obvious than people seemed to think.

There's also a trend in the media to acknowledge the glamor of older stars like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep. Not exactly sure where it fits into the dynamic -- cause/effect/both? -- but definitely worth noting.
taiamu
May. 13th, 2009 04:06 am (UTC)
This is interesting, and very topical. Every single photo I've seen of ZQ as Spock has been airbrushed, and I hate it. He looks plastic. That may have informed some of my initial resistance to ZQ as Spock, in fact. On seeing the movie, I was actually relieved to see those little lines, those imperfections, because everyone looked human, and less like department store mannequins. Just my 2 cents.
wiliqueen
May. 13th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
Right there with you. As an actress approaching 40, I have a pretty vested interest in the topic!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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