Following Jamie Foxx's Oscar-winning Ray Charles impression last year (By the way, would someone please ask him to stop?), conventional Hollywood wisdom seems to suggest that the best way for celebrities to grab a golden statue from the Academy is to eternally sully the legacy of a celebrated musician with a feel-good, upliftingly short-sighted biopic. This season's front-runner for instant critical lionization seems to be Joaquin Phoenix's skin-crawling caricature of Johnny Cash in next month's Walk the Line—who, following in Foxx's footsteps, actually learned to play(!) the songs he performs in the film. Admittedly, I haven't actually seen Walk the Line (the trailer was more than enough, honestly), but I have very little confidence in its capacity to be anything more than Ray 2—which, if I haven't been abundantly clear, is not something I'm particularly excited about. And it's not just because Joaquin is only seemingly capable of convincingly portraying the borderline retarded, either.
In the most fundamental sense, the actor and the musician could hardly be less similar: the actor's meticulous self-awareness, in direct opposition to the cool, casual confidence (real or fabricated) that's always marked the common standard of musical authenticity. (This, of course, with the notable exception of hiphop stars, who somehow inversely always make great actors—something to do with their deft image-building aptitude, me thinks). It must be why movie stars are always so enthusiastic about portraying rock stars: a shot at the effortless cool they can only seem to reach with years of calculated affectation. The effect, however, is typically one of nuanced karaoke—a studied, reductive, and sanitized impression that saps the performer of any trace of power and danger. The estates of these musicians seem on the whole more than happy to tarnish the good names of their patrons—not only for the sake of further cultural acknowledgment, but also for a comfortable padding of their collective pockets via publishing rights and record sales. (When was the last time Ray Charles had a platinum record, for example? Try never.)
Furthering this alarming trend comes the recent nauseating double shots on the actor-indulging-rock-star-fantasy front: Mike Myers and Elijah Wood are set to play Keith Moon and Iggy Pop (respectively) in a pair of scheduled, as-yet-untitled biopics. (Other rumored projects link Renée Zellweger to a planned Janis Joplin flick, and—astonishingly—Jude Law to Ian Curtis). And while Frodo could scarcely do a shittier Iggy than Ewan McGregor's take in Velvet Goldmine, the laundry list of frustrations associated with either official casting are too lengthy and absolute to even dignify with an inventory. All the more reason they'll both probably be in line to thank the Academy come 2007.