As the lead-up to this year's awards season in Hollywood was preceded by a hot-as-Hades heatwave in Melbourne, I spent a lot of time in air-conditioned cinemas watching nominated movies.
Often, I purposely miss out on seeing new releases on big screens, preferring the ease of the remote and Candy Crush on the iPad during the boring bits on the small screen at home. But seeing all those famous faces writ large recently has been a revelation to me.
I now realise why I believe certain actresses more than others and avoid Nicole Kidman movies at any cost - because their believability as a thespian relates to their believability as a person.
If you look like something created in a surgeon's office (a better word may be laboratory), you're going to look similarly alien when attempting to portray someone who wasn't.
To convince me in a role an actress needs to resemble the age of the protagonist she's portraying. Call me picky, I'll cop it.
Which is why, over those horrid heated weeks when I chose choc top over Uzi as a coping mechanism, I grew a renewed respect for actresses such as Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Dame Judi Dench (who I would happily have adopt me) and Cate Blanchett.
Not only did these women star in truly enjoyable films in the past year, they managed to successfully do their job by transporting me.
I didn't feel like I was watching wax dummies attempting to emote without cracking. I believed I was seeing the written character brought to life, flawed human beings inside and out, women I understand. Women who look like women, not women trying to look like girls. Women I want to see win.
Then, I watched the Oscars ceremony last week and saw Kim Novak, a once natural beauty who looked anything but with a face so plumped, pulled and pinched it appeared more painful than pretty.
I felt deeply distressed that she had not been able to accept the process of nature, the very same source that gifted her that incredible beauty in the first place. At 81, you would hope she could finally relax.
The same went for Liza Minnelli, who also looked like she had spent the past decade in a very fast convertible. At 67 she, too, looked frozen in that awkward age only achieved through medical intervention.
Even the younger girls looked like they have cryologists on speed dial, all shiny high foreheads and McDonald's-arch brows.
Gravity might have been a big winner on the night, it appears just not for women.
That said, I am not about to criticise or ridicule these actresses for the choices they have made.
It is their right to do whatever they want with their bodies and any feminist who says it isn't, I'll see you in the car park.
In an industry where appearance has more merit than talent, you can see why so many women give in. It's like you just can't win, whether you accept ageing or intervene to reverse it. How can women play normal when we've lost sight of the definition?
Nope, I'm not mocking anyone experiencing the pressure of age because to do so is merely to rub even more salt in what is an open wound for every woman.
If anything, I sympathise with women with such a distorted sense of self that the appearance of a House of Wax mannequin is preferable to that of a gracefully aged beauty. It's called wearing pain on the outside - and just ask someone obese how that feels.
You can see why this madness is method. Today's high-definition media demand perfection, yet delight in highlighting imperfection.
We have photos of celebrities' cellulite thighs blown up on magazine covers alongside tut tuts about weight gain, loss, and make-up-free faces.
Forget the baby part of pregnancy, it's all about the body - the bumps and bounce backs. Reach mid-life and women have their sexuality reduced to novelty terms such as MILF and cougar. Get old and, well, it's hard to tell, with media that all but ignore the elderly.
Which is why I decided while watching all those movies last summer that I do admire women who can ignore such intense scrutiny and allow themselves to be vulnerable, foot-high projected pores and all. (Hello Annette Bening, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson, Emily Watson, Anjelica Houston, Mia Farrow, Jacki Weaver.)
I wonder whether I could be so brave or if, at 81, I would be wearing my jowls as earrings. Would I too grab a white-knuckle hold on beauty, having known its intoxication and power? Would I buckle (or should that be tighten?) under the pressure? If I had looked like Nicole Kidman at any stage of my life, would I too look like she does now?
As much as I blanch witnessing women using around four of their 43 facial muscles, I also get it.
I can see that under every frozen forehead, every eye that no longer ruffles with laughter and every baboon-bum lip is the pain of insecurity.
I'd like to believe I am braver than to succumb to surgery but, not having experienced being placed upon a pedestal for my beauty, I will never really know.
In a way, it is another reason I embrace being average. Mediocrity has its merits.
- FFX Aus
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