If giving the benefit of the doubt (unlikely): it's to make full use of dynamic range. Film can only appeal to limited senses, so using music as an accent, as background, as well as the predominant part of a scene serves to cover as many available angles as possible in engaging the viewer. Also, certain types of music need to surpass a volume threshold before they take effect.
Cynic response: to appeal to the ear-bud generation.
What can you do: Not a lot at the cinema; those guys really want to show off new audio tech.
At home, however, voice usually comes out of the center channel of a speaker system, so you can mix it to some extent yourself.
Some DVD players have dynamic range controls -- look for "Cine filter" and/or "Late Night filter." These should bring things back to the middle.
It really comes down to director ethos. There's likely studio pressure, but it's the director that gives the sound engineer's work the OK. You could also watch more foreign movies. Apparently Britain's also adopting the American way, but other countries still seem to have a good compass for sane sound levels.
"I see a similar thing in television, and on television it's worse because the volume in commercials is also higher than the regular programming."
From msnbc© Why are TV commercials louder than the show?:
Spencer Critchley, writing in Digital Audio last month, explained it this way: “The peak levels of commercials are no higher than the peak levels of program content. But the average level is way, way higher, and that’s the level your ears care about. If someone sets off a camera flash every now and then it’s one thing; if they aim a steady spot light into your eyes it’s another, even if the peak brightness is no higher.”
There’s also what Brian Dooley of CNET.com calls “perceived loudness.” If you’re watching a drama with soft music and quiet dialogue and the station slams into a commercial for the July 4th Blow Out Sale, it’s going to be jarring. If you happen to go from the program into a commercial for a sleeping pill, one with a subtle soundtrack, it probably won’t bother you.
"Why is such a fuss made over (new) pretty actresses?"
People respond to figureheads and trends. You could break it right down to consumerist society -- out with the old, in with the must have and hugely marketable. Sex sells. Men want to see women they want to fuck; women (want to) compare themselves to women that men want to fuck. It's fantasy and it's stupid, but that's where the money is.
Megan Fox will probably disappear in a few years if she doesn't start adopting African children/start aid organizations/marry a film star.
But this is a minority of actresses, imo, that appeal to a minor, hedonistic part of our lives. They're the glacier cherry you feel a little guilty about eating, with their curves, their bright color, and their eye-melting concentration of sugar. Meanwhile, there's many actresses making tens of millions a year because their talent is in demand, and yet in half-an-hour of walking around where I live, I could certainly find someone with greater objective, marketable beauty; blowing the actress out of the water au naturel.
Cynicism is justifiable, and the female movie star rites of passage seems pretty ouchy to me, but people generally respond to quality and charisma. For better or worse, people look up to celebrities for moral value; the burden and expectation of which sadly all too often settles the demise of [stereotypical young female celebrity]. If the viewing public is let down, you get this feeling of betrayed trust from the media, in a "we accepted you, we looked up to you" kind of a way. If [stereotypical young female celebrity] can keep their shit together and do a good job -- with all the unrealistic responsibility that entails -- then they should have a long and successful career.
On the other--less manicured--hand, I saw Timothy Spall in my local town on the weekend. He's about the same height as me, which was strange. I told him I thought he was fantastic in All or Nothing. The film's a dreary Mike Leigh drama, so he was a little taken aback, with a glint in his eye. This gave him a warmth and humility that showed his beauty.
Viewing his IMDb profile, it looks like he's been in nine films and a TV series this year. Nicely done.