Sunday, February 2, 2014

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Well, this is a sad start to what was going to be a fun Sunday.

One of the best supporting actors of all time as well as one of my favorite actors of all time has died today. Its a horrible day for me as Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the industry's great talents has passed away.

When I sit down to write a column of Hollywood employees who pass away, I usually try to discuss what that particular person meant to me personally. I am usually able to narrow down one particular movie or one particular role that sticks out for me. Unfortunately, that harder for me to narrow down with Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Hoffman has been an actor I have been paying attention to for years. No matter what role he is was in, lead or supporting, he made his characters come to life. His work rose the bar on acting, his acting did not feel like someone saying lines, his acting did not feel like impersonation, he became the characters he played. To focus on one particular role or roles I feel wouldn't do justice to a man who has been turning in great work year, after year, after year, after year. When Hoffman does great lead work as Lancaster Dodd in 2012's "The Master" is just as captivating as his small role as Brandt in 1998's "The Big Lebowski." No matter how big or how small his time on camera was, he was determined to stand out, determined to make his time special. 

So, when it gets down to my favorite Hoffman performances, its quite a challenge. Its hard to weigh down his work in "Magnolia" when he played the nurse Phil Parma, or his Oscar-winning role of Truman Capote in 2005's "Capote," or his hilarious comedic performance as Sandy in 2004's "Along Came Polly," or his equally silly work in 1996's "Twister," or his small but effective work as the snark reverend in "Cold Mountain," or the equally dirty teacher in "The 25th Hour." Goodness, I have already gone through a lot of the performances of his that I love the most and I still haven't mentioned his work in "Almost Famous," "Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "Charlie Wilson's War," "Red Dragon," "Doubt," "Before The Devil Knows Your Dead," "Boogie Nights," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "The Savages," "The Ides of March" or "Moneyball." Each of these wonderful films would be worth your time and attention just to see what Hoffman was capable of, each of his roles in these films are great examples of great acting. All of these examples go to show that he had a lengthy career and his resume is filled with gems.

Hoffman even shined in films that I didn't like so much. Look, no actor's career is spotless and I never hold that against my favorite actors. But Hoffman also had a gift in making bad movies watchable. "Mission Impossible III" is nothing more but a carbon copy of the other two movies, but Philip Seymour Hoffman's work as Owen Davian is intense, malicious and even haunting work. I sat up every time he came onscreen, intrigued by what his character would do next. In "Happiness" where Hoffman plays an overly lonely man living by himself, he was able to make a particularly slow film kind of wonderful. I also really enjoyed his work in the mostly miscalculated and confused "Patch Adams," where he plays a quasi-antagonist role and a great foil to Robin Williams. Even though these films did not make the impression on me I hoped, Hoffman made them watchable for me. That's a gift that not every actor has, even the great ones.

This will be tough one to get over. When you have followed an actor for as long as you can remember, it can be hard when they pass away. To say the movie business won't be the same without Philip Seymour Hoffman is the understatement of the century. Hoffman was easily one of the best working actors who was around and he was for several decades. All I know, is that this week will completely dedicated to the actor, as far as my DVD player goes. If you haven't payed as much attention to his work as I have, I strongly encourage you to, and witness what truly superb acting really looks like.

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