Tag Archives: The Master

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

I don’t tend to say much when a celebrity dies, even if it’s someone whose work I admire. It’s always very sad, and often I feel sadness about it, even, as though a vague acquaintance of mine has passed. But when it’s someone you don’t personally know, I find it difficult to articulate exactly why a person’s death is so tragic and what their work meant. As well-intentioned as the tributes may be, they often come across as a bit hollow and repetitive when spoken by outsiders. However, I feel the need to say something about the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’m sure I don’t have much to add to the conversation, but I’d like to share a bit about what his work meant to me and to celebrate some of his many, many great performances.

For a long time now, Philip Seymour Hoffman has been one of my favourite actors. Maybe even my favourite, though I’ve never been able to narrow it down to just one. I’ve also seen him in more movies than perhaps any other actor. This is just a testament to the amazing quality of his work; when I see the name “Philip Seymour Hoffman” attached to a movie, I know that it’s a movie I probably wanted to watch. Of the 23 movies of his that I’ve seen, barely any were disappointments, and even in the few that were less than great, Hoffman made the best of what he had and still turned in a strong performance.

Though I’d seen him do comedic roles in films like Twister and Along Came Polly, Hoffman first really caught my attention in Almost Famous. Granted, I came to Almost Famous at the exact perfect time in my life (I was 15 years old, obsessed with classic rock, a young outcast with writerly ambitions and a love of Rolling Stone), so almost everything to do with that movie had a big impact on my life. But Hoffman’s performance was like this little oasis in an explosive and deliciously decadent film. In other words: he was relatable to me, where everything else in Almost Famous was a fantasy.

Playing the famously ornery rock critic Lester Bangs, Hoffman brought his small but important character in Almost Famous to life in such a fully realized way that much like the film’s protagonist, William Miller, I felt like Lester Bangs was mentoring me. And while William was the character in that movie that I wanted to BE, Lester was the one I actually needed to hear from at the time. In one of William’s several telephone conversations with Lester, Bangs says this when William admits that he has befriended the band that he’s supposed to be writing about: “They make you feel cool. And hey, I met you. You are not cool […] And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don’t have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we’re smarter.” Lester is the thing that keeps William grounded – even when William doesn’t want to be – and he was the character who spoke to me. It’s all well and fine to be Penny Lane off gallivanting with rock stars, but eventually reality is going to hit, and Lester is the one who will talk some sense into you when that happens. And Hoffman delivered that balance of jaded snark, wisdom, and warmth to a tee.

Almost Famous is still one of my favourite Hoffman performances, but in the intervening years, I’ve seen countless other great Hoffman performances. Take his Oscar-winning turn in Capote. Transcending mere impersonation, he once again dove into the character and pulled out something wholly human. This perhaps comes across best in his scenes with Perry (played exquisitely by Clifton Collins Jr.), the murderous subject of his book whom he builds an extremely complicated relationship with.

There are also his numerous collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson, the most recent of which in The Master earned Hoffman an Oscar nomination just last year. Playing Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic cult leader, Hoffman turned in some of his most ambiguous work yet. Watching him share the screen with Joaquin Phoenix feels like a master class in acting. Not to mention his small but extremely memorable turn in Punch-Drunk Love. Say it along with me, now: “SHUT UP!

Hoffman was always great at those explosive scenes. He used them sparingly, but they always cut right to the core of things. Take his performance in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, which may be one of his most underrated turns. He plays a quietly scathing man full of dysfunction, and Hoffman portrays that with alarming calculation and restraint. Suddenly, though, it all comes pouring out in one unforgettable scene, which may be Hoffman’s finest onscreen moment. The scene might not work so well out of context, and it does contain some plot spoilers, but if you’ve already seen the movie, here it is to appreciate again:

I could go on and on talking about Hoffman’s many great performances, and I’m sure other people will do so in a more comprehensive and articulate way than I could. But for me, while Hoffman always gave well-rounded, wonderful performances, he was also the master of commanding a scene, when necessary. I’m generally not one to focus on individual movie scenes, but half a dozen really great ones immediately come to mind when I think of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Along with the ones posted, here are a few more that I love (though unfortunately not all of them are on YouTube).

  • Pirate Radio is hardly the shining gem on PSH’s filmography, but he brought this wonderful rapscallion vibe to his performance as a rogue radio DJ. It’s a fun performance all around, but one scene that has always really stuck with me is the scene where his character is sitting on the deck of the boat at night and reflecting on things. “These are the best days of our lives,” he says. “It’s a terrible thing to know, but I know it.” The whole scene is so delicate, and such a nice reminder of Hoffman’s natural skill.
  • Hoffman might not have a big role in Boogie Nights, but he plays a strange, sympathetic character. Watching his harmless crush on Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler go horribly wrong is both sweet and heartbreaking to watch.
  • Magnolia is another great supporting turn from Hoffman. In particular, his final moments with Jason Robarts’ character are especially touching.
  • Watching Hoffman cut Ryan Gosling’s character down to size in The Ides of March was nothing short of spectacular.

I don’t really have specific scenes in mind, but Hoffman’s turns in Synedoche New York, 25th Hour, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Savages are also well worth watching if you haven’t seen them.

It’s certainly a shock to see Philip Seymour Hoffman go so soon. The loss is tragic, and his presence in movies will be missed more than I can say. However, if we can find a consolation as fans, his legacy is a great one. He made more fantastic movies in his too-short life than most will make in their entire career. His filmography is expansive and surprisingly consistent, and all of those great movies are there for future generations to discover and love. Rest in peace, Mr. Hoffman, and thank you for the countless hours of fun spent watching your work.

Things We Learned from TIFF 2012

With TIFF winding down, I thought I’d take a look at some of the shifts that we saw, in terms of the upcoming Awards season. I didn’t find there were any huge surprises, but as usual, some new favourites emerged, and some anticipated flicks lost traction.

  • Bradley Cooper can act! (And might get his first Oscar nom, to boot.)
    • I’ve been a Bradley Cooper fan for a while. And while the movies themselves weren’t that great, I thought he showed some acting potential in Limitless and Valentine’s Day. But boy, did he get a good response at TIFF this year. He’s never been much of a critical favourite, but Cooper earned raves for both The Silver Linings Playbook and The Place Beyond the Pines (which is currently slated for a 2013 release). It’s hard to say if he’ll make the jump to Oscar nominee this year, but right now, I’d say he has a decent shot. Especially if he gets a boost from a certain co-star…
  • Speaking of which, Jennifer Lawrence will probably become the youngest actress to get two Oscar nominations
    • The Silver Linings Playbook was met with great response and pegged as a crowd-pleaser. Jennifer Lawrence received heaps of praise, too. Add in the good reviews for The Hunger Games and her general likeability, and I imagine she’ll probably get her second Oscar nomination at just 22 years old. She might just even win the whole thing.
  • The Master, The Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo will be big Oscar players, like we thought
    • These three seemed well-suited for Oscar glory, and they all received nearly universal praise at TIFF. I’d expect them all to get Best Picture and acting nominations.
  • Hyde Park on Hudson may not be the big Oscar player many thought it would be
    • The FDR biopic really just failed to make much of an impression at all at TIFF. Its buzz seems to have dropped considerably overnight – even for Bill Murray, who seemed like the film’s only definite nomination.
  • Kristen Wiig definitely won’t be getting her second Oscar nom this year
    • Imogene‘s reviews were so bad that I’d expect the film to be shuffled for an inconspicuous limited release next summer
  • Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Noami Watts (The Impossible), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed) are now Best Actress dark horses
    • Winstead’s goodwill from Sundance carried over, Watts earned raves, and Gerwig came out of nowhere to become a critical darling. But will any of them sneak in for a nomination?
  • Anna Karenina and Cloud Atlas will do really well in the technical categories. But will they score anywhere else?
    • Both received mixed reviews but were lauded for their visuals. Knightley still seems like a good bet for Best Actress, but will either find much traction elsewhere in the big categories?

FIRST Oscar Predictions: May 2012

The past couple of years, I’ve posted ultra-early Oscar predictions (usually in March). I guess I was slacking a bit this year, but here is my first round of predictions.

If you’d like to see how my early stabs in the dark panned out in previous years, you can check them out here.


Best Picture

Amour

Anna Karenina

Argo

The Dark Knight Rises

Django Unchained

The Hobbit

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

The Master

Other Possibilities: Moonrise Kingdom, The Great Gatsby, Inside Lllewyn Davis, Hyde Park on Hudson, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zero Dark Thirty, Killing Them Softly, The Silver Lining Playbook, Gravity, Trouble With the Curve, The Place Beyond the Pines, Brave, Gangster Squad, Lawless, Six Sessions, Rust and Bone, Prometheus, Seven Psychopaths

 

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

Michael Haneke, Amour

Peter Jackson, The Hobbit

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Stephen Spielberg, Lincoln

Other Possibilities: Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Joel and Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), David O. Russell (The Silver Lining Playbook), Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom), Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly), Baz Luhrman (The Great Gatsby), Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Ben Affleck (Argo), Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson), David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis), Ridley Scott (Prometheus)

 

Best Actor

Clint Eastwood, Trouble with the Curve

This movie sounds like a crowd-pleasing heartstring-tugger, and also a great acting showcase.

John Hawkes, Six Sessions

Hawkes received massive buzz at Sundance for Six Sessions (then known as The Surrogate). He’s an actor whose had a huge breakthrough recently and has been making very smart role choices. I strongly think he will get his second nomination this year.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

I’m not sure how the Lead/Supporting split will go with Hoffman and Phoenix (I’ve seen it predicted both ways), but I imagine they’ll both be nominated. It’s about time for another PSH nomination, right?

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

If there’s one nomination I am almost positive will happen this year, this is it. Unless this turns out to be J. Edgar or something, it’ll happen. Not sure if DDL will get a third Oscar so quickly, but he’ll almost certainly be nominated.

Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson

I personally don’t think this movie will have the awards season sweep that a lot of people seem to be predicting (it sounds more Iron Lady than King’s Speech, to me), but it seems pretty likely that Bill Murray will be nominated for Best Actor. He might even win his first one.

Other Possibilities: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Ryan Gosling (The Place Beyond the Pines), Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly), Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad),

 

Best Actress

Amy Adams, Trouble With the Curve

Adams has three Supporting Actress nominations under her belt already, and this father/daughter drama could get her a Lead Actress nom. The Academy clearly loves her, so between this and The Master (which I am currently predicting her for, as well), it seems fairly likely she’ll get nominated again this year.

Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone

Cotillard made big waves at Cannes this year for her apparently raw performance in this Jacques Audiard drama. It is a French-language performance, though, which could be a tough sell to the Academy.

Helen Hunt, Six Sessions

Since winning her Oscar for As Good as It Gets, Helen Hunt’s career hasn’t exactly been stellar. However, this Sundance hit could be the one to turn it around for her. John Hawkes might overshadow her, since it is his character’s story, but who knows?

Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina

On paper, this sounds like a good bet. It’s the adaptation of a beloved classic novel directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley. That formula worked very well for Knightley with Pride & Prejudice. We’ll have to wait and see if this one works quite as well, though.

Elizabeth Olsen, Liberal Arts

Olsen established herself as a truly talented young actress with Martha Marcy May Marlene last year. And while Liberal Arts looks considerably lighter, she received raves at Sundance, with some critics calling it a star-making turn. Not sure if this is a lead or supporting performance, though.

Other Possibilities: Kristen Wiig (Imogene), Laura Linney (Hyde Park on Hudson), Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed), Mia Wasikowska (Stoker), Maggie Smith (Qaurtet), Abbie Cornish (The Girl), Meryl Streep (Hope Springs)

 


Best Supporting Actor

Bradley Cooper, The Place Beyond the Pines

Maybe it’s wishful thinking or maybe it’s a hunch, but I have a feeling that Bradley Cooper will get serious Oscar consideration this year. I don’t know if the Academy would nominate him in the lead category yet (especially when it’s shaping up to be so competitive this year), but if this is a meaty role and he does it well, this could be the perfect “welcome to the club” nomination for him.

Bryan Cranston, Argo

Affleck has had luck getting his supporting players nominated in the past. There are plenty of possible acting nominations for this film, but Cranston seems to have the right combination of critical respect (for his excellent work on Breaking Bad) and relevance (his many recent supporting roles) to maybe get some Oscar recognition, if the role is good.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained

DiCaprio hasn’t been on the best terms with the Academy recently, and while I don’t think this nomination is a lock by any means, it seems like a pretty good bet. Tarantino always writes fascinating characters, and it should be interesting to see how DiCaprio does with that style.

Woody Harrelson, Seven Psychopaths

Admittedly, I’m at a bit of a loss with this category. Apparently, Harrelson has a very good part in Seven Psychopaths, and he’s had a few good years, so it could happen.

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Joaquin is back, and I think he’ll pick up right where he left off. And while a three-minute clip is hardly enough to go from, he looks fantastic in this movie.

Other Possibilities: Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), David Straitharn (Lincoln), Robert De Niro (The Silver Lining Playbook), Justin Timberlake (Inside Llewyn Davis), Guy Pearce (Lawless), Tom Hardy (Lawless), Josh Brolin (Gangster Squad), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Lincoln), Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)

 


Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Master

I have no idea what Adams’ or Dern’s parts are like (and maybe I’m just way too excited about The Master), but I could see both of them getting nominated. After all, if there’s a category where that could happen, it’s Supporting Actress (The Help! The Fighter! Up in the Air! Doubt! Two of which involved Amy Adams…)

Laura Dern, The Master

Dern has had a bit of a comeback with her work on the TV show Enlightened, and if her part is good, she could receive her first Oscar nomination is twenty years.

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Maybe I’m still sore about Hooper beating Fincher two years back, but for me, Les Miserables just has the faint scent of disaster. Now, if that turns out to be true, that doesn’t mean it’ll get shut out by the Oscars (hey, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Lovely Bones!). Hathaway seems like most likely candidate for a nomination.

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

I’m not sure if this movie will be Oscar’s thing, but Jennifer Lawrence is too big of a force to ignore right now. The Academy voters helped launch her by nominating her for Winter’s Bone, so they’ll probably want to follow that up with another nomination sometime soon.

Olivia Williams, Hyde Park on Hudson

Williams has been turning out fantastic, under-recognized work for many years. Maybe this glossy biopic will be what it takes to get her some attention. Playing Eleanor Roosevelt certainly can’t hurt.

Other Possibilities: Vanessa Redgrave (Song for Marion), Jessica Chastain (Lawless), Reece Witherspoon (Mud), Gemma Arterton (Song for Marion), Sally Field (Lincoln), Kerry Washington (Django Unchained), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Jacki Weaver (The Silver Lining Playbook)

My 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012


1. Django Unchained

Tarantino. DiCaprio. Levitt. What more could you want?

2. Lincoln

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is poised to have a fucking fantastic year in 2012. Add to that a big role in Spielberg’s next epic, Lincoln. Playing Robert Todd to Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham, this could be the role that finally gets Levitt some serious Oscar attention. Oh, and the film also features John Hawkes, Tommy Lee Jones, Jackie Earle Hayley, Michael Stuhlbarg, and David Strathairn, among many others? That’s cool, I guess.

3. The Master

Man, these first three movies are all very exciting to me. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movie since There Will Be Blood and it’s also Joaquin Phoenix’s first movie since his…social experiment (or whatever you want to call all that). Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights alumni alert!) also star. The subject matter maybe isn’t the most interesting to me (it’s based around a charismatic scientology-like leader), but then again, I would have said the same thing about There Will Be Blood.

4. Wettest Country

Director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) reteams with Guy Pearce, and also brings Shia LaBouef, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, and Mia Wasikowska along for the ride in this crime drama about a Depression-era bootlegging gang. Any movie with that cast is going to grab my attention, and with Hillcoat at the helm, you know it’ll be gritty.

5. Prometheus

I’ve been avoiding the promotional stuff for this film (and most upcoming films, actually), but the cast is enough to get me very interested. Michael Fassbender and Guy Pearce are the at the top of my favourite actors list, and Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Idris Elba, and Noomi Rapace ain’t bad, either.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I absolutely love the book, and I love that the author (Stephen Chbosky) is also writing and directing the movie adaptation. And let’s talk about the young cast here. It’s like they took every young up-and-coming actor that I love and put them all in one movie. You’ve got Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons, Reece Thompson, Nicholas Braun, and Mae Whitman. Nice. And Paul Rudd and Melanie Lynskey, too? Extra nice.

7. The Dark Knight Rises

Since it’s #7 on my list in a year full of interesting movies, obviously I’m excited (like the rest of the world). But I’m also nervous. Maybe they should have gone out on a high with The Dark Knight?

8. Liberal Arts

Josh Radnor’s college dramedy was one of the more buzzed-about films at Sundance this year, and it stars Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Zac Efron, and Richard Jenkins. Radnor’s directorial debut Happythankyoumoreplease got mixed reviews, but I was rather fond of it, so I’m excited to see what he’ll do next. I could see this film being a bit of a breakout hit this year.

9. Seven Psychopaths

I would be excited for any new film by In Bruges director Martin McDonagh, so the fact that this one features Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Abbie Cornish and revolves around dognapping is just icing on the cake.

10. Anna Karenina

Joe Wright is a bit of a hit-or-miss director for me (loved Pride & Prejudice, didn’t care for Atonement), but he has definitely proven that he knows how to make a period piece look great. Re-teaming with Keira Knightley, his adaptation of the classic Tolstoy novel also stars Jude Law, Emily Watson, Kelly Macdonald, Aaron Johnson, and Olivia Williams. Awesome.