Tag Archive for Philip Seymour Hoffman

On Celebrity, Addiction, and Art: Why Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Matters

Update, 2/7/2014: Aaron Sorkin‘s brief tribute to Hoffman from Wednesday, February 5 struck a chord, so you should go read it. DeBieHive also published a great piece on addiction, and the way it affects not only the addict but everyone around him. 

Yesterday one of my favorite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, was found dead in his New York apartment with a needle hanging from his left arm. He’d openly discussed his issues with addiction before, and today a friend of his claimed the actor genuinely seemed to have his life back together. This is exactly what people said about Cory Monteith.

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“We are uncool.” A discussion of the quicksand that is celebrity in Almost Famous.

Every time someone famous and talented dies, those of us in the real world are subjected to ridicule for mentioning it. My Facebook has blown up with snarky, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” and “I have no sympathy for this,” and “Who the fuck cares? You didn’t know him.” These same folks said the same thing about Paul Walker and Monteith when I mentioned I was upset to hear of their deaths. (And by the way, though I can’t say I respected Walker’s acting career particularly, NO ONE deserves to die that way, particularly not someone who devoted large chunks of his personal life to charity.)

Why is any death less significant than any other death? Why do people feel the need to slither out of the woodwork and vehemently attack those who mourn the passing of young, talented people?film Heist 2015

I have seen either 28 or 29 of the movies in which Mr. Hoffman performed, and each time he was onscreen he affected me. That means at least 60 hours of my life, not counting time in the college classes in which I studied his roles, and time spent contemplating and writing about his performances, I spent with this man. He played grief, anger, intensity, love, and poignant humanity in a way that no other actor of our generation has. He had an incredible presence, a way of inhabiting each and every role he got his hands on, that deserves recognition no matter the way he died.
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“I do many, many things.” (2012’s The Master).

Maybe instead of taking to the internet to claim you lack sympathy, that “the only reason people give a shit about this guy’s death is that he was famous,” it’s time to discuss why our culture venerates celebrity, loves to follow the travails of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and their ilk, but condemns the drug abuse that so often accompanies this celebrity. These people live in a world where anything and everything is available to them due to stature, money, and a cadre of hangers-on who wish to provide. Maybe it’s time to quit being self-righteous dicks about death, and discuss the fact that drug abuse is common, not only in the poor and under-educated, but among the wealthy, famous, and talented. Let’s face it: it’s even common in the middle class. And that in any case, it’s a terrible illness that needs not your contempt, but a discussion of how to help stop it. How do we care for the addicted? How can we provide assistance to those in need? Publicly scrutinized deaths like those of Hoffman, Monteith, River Phoenix, or Amy Winehouse (and the list goes on) should not be ignored or shoved aside. Those who mourn them should not be viewed in contempt. Let’s actually talk about drug abuse. Let’s actually talk about celebrity. Let’s not diminish the importance of someone’s death because of the cause; let’s not diminish death, period.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hoffman. I, for one, will miss you as though you were a friend. Your brilliant performances will live on in celluloid and digital prints and your memory with the people who loved you. I hope your demons no longer haunt you. I’ll continue to hope that a life like yours will bring out the best in people instead of the worst. That you’ll be an inspiration for those to come.

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“I’m a fucking idiot!” In one of my favorite performances in film history, Hoffman played poor, rejected, messed-up Scotty in P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights.

Movie Review: Pirate Radio (11/14/09)

Movie Poster: Pirate Radio

Pirate Radio

Directed and written by Richard Curtis

The Count – Philip Seymour Hoffman
Quentin – Bill Nighy
Gavin – Rhys Ifans
Dave – Nick Frost
Minister Dormandy – Kenneth Branagh

CLR Rating: 4/5 stars

Movie Still: The Men Who Stare at Goats

A Brilliant Comedic Cast Keeps This Period Piece Afloat

Richard Curtis, the director of 2003’s romcom Love Actually, has made another film about the beauty of falling in love—but instead of stodgy Brits having awkward conversations in limos, Pirate Radio (British title The Boat That Rocked, a much catchier moniker) features a pure, sincere adoration of rock and roll music. Set in 1966, Pirate Radio follows the ragtag crew of Radio Rock, a station on a rig anchored in the North Sea off the coast of England. The film starts with a bit of history: in “the greatest era for rock and roll,” the British government refused to play pop or rock on its sanctioned stations, causing fans to tune into offshore stations. Twenty-five million fans, to be exact. The government, therefore, was reduced to making up new laws to illegalize pirate radio stations.

The movie doesn’t truly have a singular protagonist, which is one of its only faults. Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) finds himself expelled from school for smoking, and his mother sends him to spend time with his godfather (Bill Nighy) aboard Radio Rock. The crew takes him under their collective wing, but though he may be the initial focus, the viewpoint gradually shifts about until it’s clear each and every crew member is a protagonist of sorts. Luckily, the ensemble cast (many of whom have worked together before, as movie and TV fans will surely notice) has fantastic chemistry and rapport, and Curtis’s screenplay allows the actors to perform to their fullest.

Veteran Brit actor (and scenery chewer extraordinaire) Kenneth Branagh plays the delightfully dastardly Sir Alistair Dormandy, whose singular life’s goal is to shut down the pirate stations causing unrest via airwaves in England. Branagh rolls his “r”s and shrieks like a madman; the effect is perfect in this role. It’s nearly impossible to be understated or subtle while spewing lines like “If you don’t like something, you simply make it illegal,” and Branagh works his magic here. Jack Davenport, most recognizable to Americans as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise’s Captain Norrington, plays Dormandy’s assistant Twatt (the irony of the name is not lost). The duo creates an excellent foil for the amiable crew of Radio Rock, which includes some of Britain’s finest comedic actors, as well as perennial weirdo Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Rhys Ifans plays legendary DJ Gorgeous Gavin, slinking about in a purple velvet suit, a feathered hat, and treating the microphone like a lover. Nick Frost, Simon Pegg’s affable sidekick in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, gets a leading role as chunky ladies’ man Dave. Rhys Darby, a New Zealand native whose role as band manager Murray on the hit HBO series “Flight of the Conchords” has placed him securely in the sights of a cult audience, reprises his role as lovable geek. Nighy’s trademark pauses and tics add luster to the impeccable captain Quentin. Seymour Hoffman lends his slightly disheveled and wacky persona to the role of The Count, the only American DJ, whose passion extends to risking his life in the honor of rock and roll. His role is virtually an extension of Lester Bangs, the legendary music journalist he played in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. All in all, the cast of fantastic comedians make the film.

Pirate Radio is a true period piece; costumes include plaid suits paired with paisley scarves, huge lapels, and tight corduroy pants. The film’s women are decked out in miniskirts and mod check, and Emma Thompson, playing a small role as Young Carl’s mother, appears with a bouffant and a houndstooth-patterned cape. The fact that this sort of apparel is currently available in your nearest Urban Outfitters is likely not lost on the filmmakers. The movie features a great classic rock soundtrack—of course—and a nostalgically affectionate tribute to the swinging 60s’ sexual insouciance. Radio Rock’s broadcasts are juxtaposed with shots of listeners across the UK, twisting and jiving to the era’s best music. The film will have audiences resisting the urge to dance in their seats (or the aisles).

Aside from the lack of a true protagonist, a number of small story arcs fall a bit flat, and the film may be a bit long at over two hours. However, a hilarious cast, a few genuinely poignant moments, and a slightly silly but ultimately uplifting end save the plot from disaster. The brilliant cast and funny script make for a fine film that probably won’t enjoy the sort of release it deserves in America—which is unfortunate, since it’s exactly the kind of movie whose heart and ingenuity should trump trashy big budget disaster movies at the box office. Whether these characters DJ’d out of love for the music, or purely in rebellion against censorship of an unstoppable force, their adoration of the cause (and ultimately each other) manages to keep the movie triumphantly afloat.