Posts Tagged ‘Philip Seymour Hoffman’


Press play & sing along.

Barack ObamaBeyoncé,
Matthew McConaughey,
Lena Dunham, Boko Haram,
Bill deBlasio

Polar Vortex, Richard Sherman,
True Detective, Immigration,
Pete Seeger, Derek Jeter,
Maya Angelou

Neil deGrasse Tyson,
Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Battle in the Ukraine,
and Malaysia’s missing plane

Colorado’s legal weed,
Daft Punk’s got a Grammy,
Malala Yousafzai,
Donald Sterling, goodbye!



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Philip Seymour Hoffman first caught my attention in 1997, when he performed one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ll ever see: playing the awkwardly sweet boom operator Scotty in Boogie Nights, right after he’s rejected by hot porno superstar Dirk Diggler.

Until this point in the movie I’ve been laughing at Scotty’s flirtations with Dirk, assuming Scotty would never be so delusional as to try and kiss him or something. Then Scotty actually tries to kiss Dirk, and even though it goes a little better than expected (ie, Dirk doesn’t erupt into violent, coked-up gay-panic), it’s still devastating once Scotty starts calling himself Fuckin Idiot. It’s even more devastating because part of me still wants to laugh at Scotty, and laugh much harder than I might be willing to laugh at myself while looking back on my own Fuckin Idiot moments.

This performance is the epitome of the Fuckin Idiot moment.

I also like to remember PSH as a paragon of the Pig FUCK! moment: When an arrogant fraud lashes out at someone who dares to expose the truth. As Lancaster Dodd in The Master:

He says, “We are not helpless,” and he wishes he could believe it more. He adds, “And we are on a journey that risks the dark.” That much he’s sure of.

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(Part 15 of an ongoing series)


And it is in the humble opinion of this narrator that this is not just “Something That Happened…”

Narrator (Ricky Jay)

This happens.  This is something that happens.

Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman)

Surprisingly, the movies of 1999 weren’t extraordinarily apocalyptic.  (In subtext, maybe, but not overtly.)  There was the Biblical Schwarzenegger vehicle End Of Days, and The Matrix briefly flashed-back to its Robot Armageddon.  But after years of Independence Days and Deep Impacts, Hollywood was pretty much burned out on catastrophe as the millennium turned.

Not PT Anderson, though.  Magnolia is no asteroid blockbuster, but it does boast Anderson playing God with Old Testament audacity, raining down his Frogpocalypse (Afrogalypse?) to punish the sinners and redeem the saints.  And considering how much time Magnolia spends masturbating with coke sprinkled on its dick-tip, it’s not nearly the fiasco-tastic ego-trip it could’ve been.  Like, do we really need a 5-minute intro showing us three eerie coincidences from real life (Spoiler: they’re not really from real life) in order to suspend our disbelief about the eerie coincidences during the remaining three hours?  No, we absolutely don’t- especially if we’re still on board once the frogs start falling- but it’s an engrossing sequence anyway.

Do we also need two old men (Jason Robards, Philip Baker Hall) who worked in TV, cheated on their wives, traumatized their children, and are now dying of cancer?  It’s a little, as they say on Project Runway, “matchy-matchy.”  Anderson could’ve combined both characters and we’d still get the message loud and clear: They fuck you up, your mum and dad.  But Robards and Hall are both great as usual, so who’s to complain if they get to toss out a little award bait?

Of course if I had to choose just one, I’d give Robards all the dying asshole scenes.  The fact that he’s actually dying (really, in real life) injects an uncanny energy into the film.  Like a dying man, Magnolia is terrified and fearless, infected with frighteningly bold vulnerability.  How else could it pull off an Aimee Mann sing-along from right outta nowhere?

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(Part 11 Of An Ongoing Series)

Don’t you just take the past and put it in a room in the basement, and lock the door and never go in there?  That’s what I do.

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon)

1999 was teeming with movies about people desperate to reinvent themselves (Fight Club, American Beauty, Boys Don’t Cry, Being John Malkovich).  Yet of all those movies, only Boys Don’t Cry was as heartbreaking as The Talented Mr. Ripley.

We sense early on that Tom Ripley’s awkwardness and duplicity mask much darker demons, but we’re still pulling for him.  Thanks to Anthony Minghella’s sympathetic vision and Matt Damon’s sensitive portrayal, we want Tom to find a place to fit in and a person to love him.  We’ll even root for a bromance between Tom and Jude Law’s stupendously charismatic Dickie Greenleaf, despite Dickie’s formidable douche-breath.

Alas, Tom smashes our hope with just a few strokes of a paddle.

Apparently this happens differently in Patricia Highsmith’s book, where Ripley commits a more premeditated murder.  But Ripley’s a vastly more fascinating character when his story turns on a crime of passion rather than one of cold-blooded calculation.  Here he’s not just a sociopath- he’s a sociopath wrestling with a lost little boy, and we see that fight in his eyes every time he’s threatened with discovery.

Ripley’s villainy, pathos, and ingenuity create a disorienting cocktail of emotions in the movie’s second half.  We want Ripley brought to justice, yet we want him to find peace, and we get off on watching him use his wits to weasel off the hook.  And when we see what he has to do when he finally finds someone to love him- when we realize this troubled young man will probably never become the person he wants to be- the amount of pity Minghella and Damon are able wring from our souls is utterly diabolical.

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