Pop Rocks: New Blood For Hollywood. Please

I used to review movies (over here, if you care), an endeavor I had to quit for a variety of reasons: my hectic neurosurgery rotation, for one, as well as the increasing physical demands of the new Mrs. Vonder Haar, Carla Gugino. But among the non-imaginary factors influencing my decision was the way all those movies were starting to blur together. I attended, at most, three screenings a week, so it wasn't oversaturation. Early onset dementia? An attention span whittled to nothing by decades of television and self-medication? Or was it maybe that all the movies looked alike for some reason?

Part of the problem is that so many movies are sequels, remakes, or sequels of remakes, but that wasn't the whole story. I was missing something, and then it hit me. I don't remember what movie I was watching at the time, maybe it was the sixth romantic comedy in as many years starring Sandra Bullock, or Will Ferrell's latest exercise in insensate hollering, or that one movie where Nicolas Cage was in a car chase (no, the other one), but I finally figured it out: Hollywood doesn't have enough actors.

It isn't like there aren't enough people who want to be actors. I know about 50 of them personally, and that's down here, where your best shot at a movie is probably a Houston Knights reunion special. Out in California, where I'm told most movies are made, you can't swing a venti frappuccino without hitting ten of them. They only barely outnumber wannabe screenwriters, a particularly loathsome breed that I discuss in greater detail in the script for my new movie, Write of Passage.

Hollywood, however, seems content to recycle the same 20 actors ad infinitum. And while I understand that movies are a business and studios will milk every popular film trend until it lactates blood, surely a little variety couldn't hurt things, could it? Is Jennifer Aniston the only middle-aged woman who can do formulaic rom-coms? Do Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have codicils in their contracts that say they're the only ones who can make tired, by-the-numbers buddy comedies? Is Seth Rogen the only unkempt stoner in America? Hell, take one look around the Houston Press offices and you'll find a dozen likely candidates for Pineapple Express II.

Television isn't immune to the syndrome, either. Worse, actors who appear in failed TV shows are apparently rewarded by giving them second, third, and fourth chances. Alex O'Loughlin, for example, rode the vampire-cop trainwreck Moonlight all the way to the bitter end. His punishment? The lead role in the excruciating new medical drama Three Rivers, which also stars Alfre Woodard, accomplice in such bombs as Inconceivable -- a drama set in a fertility clinic -- and My Own Worst Enemy, which also starred Christian Slater, who is now the lead in The Forgotten. It's like the genealogy chart for the House of Windsor.

My proposal is a modest one: keep the most bankable movie stars, like Will Smith, Johnny Depp, and Angelina Jolie, and get rid of everyone else. There may be a few hiccups when audiences wonder why the third Meet the Parents movie doesn't have anyone they've ever heard of in it, but we've put up with inferior product from these people for long enough. After all, shouldn't we hold Hollywood up to the same rigid standards we apply to the banking and finance industries?

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