Monday Morning Critic – Of Scenes & Moments: Five Films That Define Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Legacy

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What a weird post Super Bowl week this was. The Seahawks beat the pants off Peyton Manning and the Broncos in what was the worst Super Bowl I’ve ever watched. There was an odd feeling going in for a lot of people because that afternoon Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose, of course, as there was a somber ambiance to the proceedings for a lot of people. People die all the time, of course, but when it’s someone notable we all stand up and notice for minute. It’s one of the sick and sad things about modern society.

I found it really hard to get into the game because Hoffman was an actor I enjoyed immensely. I feel for those who knew him well as losing someone who was clearly someone of worth to them. Drug problems aside Hoffman was immensely talented and lived the sort of private life most actors of his stature wish they had. He was a private man, never a tabloid star, and I wish more actors would be like him in that regard.

He was a professional’s professional, someone who was never subject of a rumor mill for behaviors on set or otherwise, and the world of cinema is a worse place without him in it. But he leaves behind a rich legacy and a number of films that were completed but haven’t been released yet, so at least we have some more remaining from what’ll be the final pieces of his cinematic resume. We’ll even get to see the final Hunger Games sequel CGI his final scenes, most likely, and be able to laugh in a sick sad way about it.

With his passing I think that when we discuss Hoffman’s legacy it’ll be scenes and moments. He was a brilliant actor but the thing he was beautiful at was taking what was on the paper and finding the inner humanity in it. He was able to find something that could touch the soul in moments. Cameron Crowe discussed how Hoffman took what Crowe had written as a call to arms into something much different, as a late night discussion between two people that I can’t do justice to Crowe’s heartfelt paragraph.

Normally I’d find a way to incorporate Hoffman into my “Wit and Wisdom” series because of how insanely quotable Hoffman’s films have been. Instead I choose to remember my favorite moments and scenes from his work. Feel free to share yours in the comments below.

Five Films That Define Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Legacy

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5. The Boat that Rocked, aka Pirate Radio

Why it matters: It was a film that didn’t find an audience, not even on DVD, when it should’ve. It wasn’t brilliant, marginally good, but the key to it is the rare moments that Hoffman is on screen. This was one of my favorite scenes of 2009 and there’s a truth to it. Words can be words but they don’t have the power of action.


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4. Doubt

Why it matters: It’s a terrific monologue and if there ever was a role I didn’t think he could pull off it would be of a Catholic priest accused of molesting some kids by a nun with nothing but her convictions.


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3. Mission Impossible 3

Why it matters: The one thing you could criticize Hoffman’s career for is that he never took a lot of true genre parts once he hit a certain level of fame. He was always an indie film guy and it was only towards the end that he’d show up in a blockbuster. It’ll be sad when a group of people refer to him as his character in The Hunger Games sequels, of course, but he made for a great villain when Tom Cruise asked him to be one. I love this interaction between the two; Ethan Hunt is trying to intimidate a man who very clearly isn’t intimidated. Seeing Hoffman stare him down with such nonchalance to it all was so good. Alan Rickman may have the best villain in an action film … but Hoffman wasn’t all that far behind him.


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2. Charlie Wilson’s War

Why it matters: Probably the underlying theme of the film, as a whole, is it that sometimes you don’t know what’ll happen even if you think it’s good or bad at the time. We thought the Russians losing in Afghanistan was a great thing at the time it happened … until we didn’t follow it up by helping that next generation have a better life. It’s such an insanely quotable bit, too, and it’s one of the reasons why I thought Hoffman should’ve won an Oscar for this role. Gust was such a great character in the film and without him this is just another Tom Hanks vehicle. It managed to be an excellent, rewatchable film because of Hoffman.


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1. Almost Famous

Why it matters: The quintessential PS Hoffman performance. Cameron Crowe wrote it best:

“My original take on this scene was a loud, late night pronouncement from Lester Bangs. A call to arms. In Phil’s hands it became something different. A scene about quiet truths shared between two guys, both at the crossroads, both hurting, and both up too late. It became the soul of the movie. In between takes, Hoffman spoke to no one. He listened only to his headset, only to the words of Lester himself. (His Walkman was filled with rare Lester interviews.) When the scene was over, I realized that Hoffman had pulled off a magic trick. He’d leapt over the words and the script, and gone hunting for the soul and compassion of the private Lester, the one only a few of us had ever met. Suddenly the portrait was complete. The crew and I will always be grateful for that front row seat to his genius.”

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

From elsewhere in the Inside Pulse Network:

Travis wrote about The Lego Movie, currently in theatres.

I saw and covered The Monuments Men in theaters as well.

DVD Reviews: Escape Plan, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete.

Brendan Campbell wrote about Rush.

And now on MMC … we DANCE!

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – Capote

Since this is a column on Philip Seymour Hoffman and why not tackle the film that got him an Oscar: Capote.

This was one of my favorite films of 2005, nearly a decade ago, and it holds up still. Simple premise: Truman Capote (Hoffman) and his best gal pal Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) go to rural Kansas to find something to write about a brutal crime. A family was murdered by a couple of thugs and Capote wanted to be there for the investigation. What he wound up writing was “In Cold Blood,” one of the great novels of our time, and the film follows his time in Kansas with Lee as they follow the case to its end.

This is a powerful performance by Hoffman, every bit worthy of his Oscar. Strongest recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Robocop – A reboot of the ‘80s action satire

Skip it – It’s PG-13, for starters, and looks just awful.

Endless Love – Alex Pettyfer and Gabrielle Wilde have a romance despite being from opposite sides of the train tracks or something.

Skip it – A remake of an 80s film, this looks like a Nicolas Sparks film gone bad. Me, I’d rather watch a rom-com written by Nicolas Cage instead.

About Last Night – Another 80s remake, this time of the quintessential ‘80s film about Chicago.

See it – So far it looks pretty good and it has a great cast.

Winter’s Tale – Colin Farrell time travels and loses his memory or something.

Skip it – I love everyone involved but so far the film looks like it’ll be on DVD in a couple weeks.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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