Sunday, February 2, 2014

"But above all, I am a man". Remembering the work of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

By Sati. Sunday, February 2, 2014
Today we all mourn the loss of a great acting talent. An actor who gave us many incredible performances and sadly won't do so anymore. And while thinking about that, it's truly hard to stop the tears.

Capote
It's irrational, isn't it? To have tears in your eyes when you read about the passing of one of favorite singers, actors, directors...but today many, if not all, the movie fans are deeply consumed by sadness. Because one of the best actors working today - and for me one of the all time greats - Philip Seymour Hoffman - passed away.

Over the years Philip Seymour Hoffman gave us dozens of brilliant and unforgettable performances. When looking at his page on imdb you see all those wonderful films, years of incredible choices and beautiful performances. I was going to make a post highlighting 10 best performances of his, but it's truly impossible to choose just 10.

The Big Lebowski
I change my choice for favorite actor constantly. The name on number one spot changes all the time. But if you asked me over the last few years who I consider to be THE BEST actor working today? The answer was always constant - Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I have not seen all of his performances, but I've seen plenty. And this man never delivered a bad one. More importantly he always brought his A game and made his characters so insanely memorable.  No matter how supporting his characters were, Hoffman played them as if they were real people. He infused them with so many emotions and his own charisma. It was simply impossible not to remember his work vividly after the movie was over. And I suspect, years after seeing the film.

The Master
Just look at his work in films with not only big ensembles, but ensembles filled with so many famous actors - The Scent of a Women, Talented Mr. Ripley, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Almost Famous, 25th Hour, Cold Mountain, The Ides of March, The Big Lebowski, Red Dragon - it's impossible to forget him in spite of so many characters in those films.

Some of those performances, in the films listed above, were downright show stealing like in Boogie Nights and Talented Mr. Ripley. Who can forget his hilarious scene in Red Dragon where he is forced to see the 'art' of Fiennes's character? Or his desperate laughter and 'this is our concern, Dude" from The Big Lebowski?

Synecdoche, New York
No matter how much screentime Hoffman had in those films, he truly owned the character and the scene.  Whether he was playing a sleazy journalist, depraved Reverend or a guy in charge of political campaign, he truly made you believe he was all those people.

One of the most impressive things an actor can do is to give a great performance in a movie that either doesn't work or shouldn't work in the first place and yet miraculously, it does. And Hoffman proved how good he was when he did just that in Mission Impossible 3 and Along Came Polly. Hoffman had pretty great comedy talent too - he also appeared in The Boat that Rocked, Richard Curtis' hilarious film.

Magnolia
He even impressed me in films I really didn't like, for example Punch-Drunk Love. And Catching Fire....some criticized the work Hoffman did in this film but let me tell you the way he delivered the line this is a revolution and you are a Mockingjay was easily my favorite moment in this whole film.

Then there are the performances that are so mesmerizing, if I ever listed 100 of my favorite ones they would either end up on my list or be in serious consideration. There is recent The Master, in which Hoffman played the leader of the cult and for me, was miles above Phoenix. Phoenix was great, but this was one of the times Hoffman delivered work so raw and memorable you couldn't take your eyes of him.

Doubt
There was also great and challenging performance in equally great and challenging Synecdoche, New York, which I'm sure many would call Hoffman's best work. And of course his Oscar winning mesmerizing performance in titular role in Capote. But for me when it came to choosing Hoffman's best it was always about the two of his performances.

First one was Doubt where Hoffman played a priest accused of molesting one of the boys in the school. I've seen this film so many times and I still don't know whether the priest was guilty or not. Hoffman makes his character's humanity and kindness so incredibly believable you truly don't know whether this is the truth or just an extremely well planned and executed facade meant to cover his sins.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
And then we have Before the Devil Knows you're Dead. The entire performance is amazing but there is this one moment which for me is the single greatest moment of Hoffman's career. After his wife leaves him, his character walks slowly around the apartment - he pulls covers from the bed, he slowly pushes the things off the bedside table on the floor. He walks over to the glass table and picks up a bowl filled with marbles. And he slowly spills them on the glass. Without saying a single word.

Scotty J. heartbroken and in tears after being rejected. Lancaster Dodd lashing out against one of the people disagreeing with him. Freddie Miles calling out Tom on his peeping. Brandt showing the Dude around. Father Flynn's sermon about the pillow and the gossip. So many scenes, so many performances, so many memories.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hoffman.




44 comments:

  1. And everybody knows who he was, even if most of times we see him in supporting roles. I mean, my family didn't know his name, but when his picture was on the news they immediately recognised him and knew the kind of character he used to portray - which is big since they don't care all that much about movies and Hoffman is not known for being "a celebrity".

    Btw, I like your pics for the Blind Spot series on the sidebar -- you've got some interesting films there! Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was one of the first classic movies I saw. I used to absolutely love it! Now I'm not sure because it's been such a long time, but at least it has a stellar cast.

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    1. My mother has no clue I think, she sticks to romantic movies but maybe she caught one of his films on TV. Either way most of my friends, movie fans, all know his work.

      Thanks! I saw Cat several weeks ago and I really loved it. I chose mostly Louisiana set films for Blind Spot, that's something I always enjoy in films.

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  2. I'm pretty devastated as he was someone I grew up watching and was must amazed by in every performance he's in. There will never be another guy like him. There's stuff in his work that really exudes brilliance such as the scene where he's talking to Patrick Fugit on the phone about being friends with the rock stars. Hoffman is just so perfect in the way he deals with that humility and accepts the fact that he's uncool. Almost Famous is still my favorite performance from him as I also loved the monologue in Charlie Wilson's War where he tells Tom Hanks' character about what to do for the Afghan people and such. He owned Hanks in that scene.

    I also loved his comedic work such as The Boat That Rocked where he and Rhys Ifans play this game of chicken and Hoffman's character says "I don't even like Simon". He was great in that film though it was a real mess and still needed work in the editing room.

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    1. I haven't seen Charlie Wilson yet, I really need to see this one. That scene from Almost Famous you mentioned was really wonderful.

      I kinda liked The Boat that Rocked, if only because of the music and performances.

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  3. He was an incredible actor. Most actors are a dime a dozen (pretty faces with a little dramatic training), but Hoffman was one of those actors that came along perhaps once in a generation. I'm working on my own post on him.

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    1. It's such a loss. He had so much more to give.

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  4. Beautiful post, Sati. He was one of my favourites as well. What a loss.

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    1. I think everyone liked him. He was in so many wonderful movies and he was never forgettable.

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  5. What The Fuck! That's the worst news to wake up to. You are so right about his performances. PSH NEVER gave a bad one.

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    1. Awful news, let's hope no one else leaves us for quite some time.

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  6. Beautiful writeup, Sati. I remember that scene in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and now I feel all sorts of not happy... He will certainly be missed.

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    1. Thanks! The small consolation for movie fans is that there are 4 films with him to look forward to.

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  7. This is a beautiful post - this is definitely one of the most devastating things that has ever happened, cinema wise. He truly was one of the all time greats.

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    1. I feel even worse now than when Heath died :/

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  8. Lovely post Sati. It's weird. I never realised just HOW much I loved his work until now, which is a horrible way to find out. It's like I always took it for granted just how good he was in movies and now that we won't get any more of his incredible performances, this is hit me pretty hard. My uncle died recently and I didn't feel half this sad.

    Loved him in Doubt too. I will watch Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and Capote this very week. I must. It's killing me to realise that the Count from The Boat That Rocked is now dead. The last scene will never be the same.

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    1. Thanks! I think it' because he was mostly in supporting roles - you kinda never heard everyone shouting about him being in those movies, then you saw them and there he was, in so many of them.

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  9. He was a great, f--king GREAT, actor who is certainly gone too soon, but I take solace in the fact that through his stellar work, Philip Seymour Hoffman, will truly live forever.

    Fantastic post, Sati. Even under awful circumstances.

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    1. That's a beautiful thought. And he gave us so many performances to enjoy.

      Thank you!

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  10. Immensely talented. I'm with you, I don't think I've ever seen him deliver a bad scene. I even like him in his small roles like in Almost Famous and Patch Adams! He will be missed!

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  11. Very nice tribute indeed. I've stated somewhere else that I was never the biggest fan of his films but I certainly respected his acting. The Master is a great example. I thought it was an overrated film but he was magnetic. I'm also with you on Doubt. Another stellar performance.

    But even if I'm not the biggest fan of his movies it's still so sad to here of someone succumbing to such a horrible thing. Incredibly sad.

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    1. Yeah I'm also far from The Master fan but the acting in this one was really brilliant.

      I think everyone has some problems, we'll never know about many things - he must have been going through something awful to relapse after 2 decades.

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  12. Beautiful post! I've not seen many of his films, but those that I have… he's truly great.

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    1. Thanks! You should check out more of his movies!

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  13. Beautiful post, I still can't believe he's gone. Even when he had a small role he made a huge impact.

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    1. Thank you! It's truly one of the most tragic deaths when it comes to actors I experienced.

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  14. Absolutely tragic. His poor family.

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    1. 3 little kids. It's really very sad.

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  15. Great piece Sati. I'm deeply saddened that one of my top five favourite actors will no longer be providing the sterling work he always did. I've never felt so gutted at the passing of an actor. I was affected by River Phoenix and James Gandolfini but Hoffman is a different deal entirely. :(

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    1. exactly, Hoffman gave so many wonderful performances in so many different films. It's horrible that he won't be around anymore.

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  16. Great commentary, Sati. I quite agree. This man was a terrific actor, and his passing is big loss for film. And a much bigger one for his family.

    Oh and that scene from Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. It would be hard to pick a better one from his career, wouldn't it?

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    1. So glad you are a fan of that scene too. It's not picked by many as his best one but when I saw this movie it has left such a big impression on me.

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  17. Hi Sati! Great tribute to an extraordinary artist. I had to do one myself as soon as I heard the devastating news. Oh no it's not irrational at all to tear up about an actor's passing, esp. if we appreciate his craft and the circumstances of his death is just so tragic. I'm gutted that I didn't see Before the Devil Knows you're Dead when it was still available on Netflix Streaming, I have to find that somehow.

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    1. It's a very good movie but it may be hard to watch now, if I remember correctly there are quite few scenes with Hoffman and drugs. I actually cannot watch that movie Robert Downey Jr did 20 years ago where his character overdosed - Downey is thankfully here but it's just a bit too possible with his history.

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  18. Lovely post, Sati. I love that moment from Before the Devil Knows You're Dead as well. That still remains my favorite performance of his, and that moment is just so haunting and beautiful.

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    1. I just loved that scene so much. Stayed with me all those years.

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  19. Beautiful post. I'm glad you pointed that out about The Master. I was surprised that Phoenix was what everyone was talking about when Hoffman was SO good.

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    1. Thank you! I thought Hoffman's acting was the best thing about that movie.

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  20. Lovely tribute Sati. A phenomenal talent gone. Such a shame.

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  21. Wonderful post! His passing is so terrible. I wasn't aware of how much I loved him as an actor until now. I think I even took it for granted that he was always brilliant. He was so great in so many films, and I haven't even seen them all yet, which I must do.

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    1. I must watch more of his movies as well, there are still some I didn't see, especially his older stuff.

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  22. This is a great tribute, Sati. The man was my favorite working actor. Such a devastating loss.

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    1. Thank you! I really liked Blanchett's dedication to him last night, I'm gonna feature it in my BAFTa post.

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