I was devastated by the news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's passing. He was an actor of immeasurable talent, and a joy to watch no matter what role he was playing. It's really hard to pick a role that I loved him best in, because he is so damn good in everything he did, but, for me, it doesn't get a whole lot better than him playing Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. He brought an intelligence and spitefulness to that role, and the famous scene of his character talking about where all great art comes from just kills me every time.
If you really want to see what made Hoffman great, watch the performances he gives in movies like Mission Impossible 3 and Charlie Wilson's War. Watch how he elevates the material that is given to him, and single handily makes those movies worth watching. There are precious few actors who can take bad writing and still give a great performance.
Hoffman had the ability to underplay a character when that was what a script called for, and then, all of a sudden, steal the movie in a single scene. He could also take on big, challenging roles that most movie starts would be intimidated to even try. Just watch what he is able to do in movies like Capote and The Master. Pay attention to how he inhabits these characters, and notice how hard it is to take your eyes off of him. It's one thing to be captivated by one's presence. You watch a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and there is no denying his magnetism, looks and charm. With an actor like Hoffman, however, it's the performance that draws you in. It's the craft - something he cared about deeply:
“In my mid–20s, an actor told me, ‘Acting ain’t no puzzle,’ ” Hoffman said, after returning to his seat. “I thought: ‘Ain’t no puzzle?!?’ You must be bad!” He laughed. “You must be really bad, because it is a puzzle. Creating anything is hard. It’s a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don’t know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don’t know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it’s not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that’s hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to.”
The early word is that Hoffman died of a drug overdose. In the coming days we will hear all kinds of things about the way he died, but for now let's celebrate how the man lived. He was an artist of the highest level, and the art will live on forever. He threw himself whole heartedly into every role he played, and it showed. Thank you Phillip Seymour Hoffman for sharing so much of your life with us, and creating so many beautiful things. May you rest in peace.
How about that Super Bowl?
I actually feel bad for people who are obsessed with the sport and just wanted to watch one more enjoyable game before the season was over. There have been so many entertaining Super Bowls in the past decade that younger fans probably don't remember when these games were stinkers. Does anyone remember that 49ers/Chargers Super Bowl? There's still a lingering stench in the air from that game.
I can't complain though: during the game I ate a bunch of delicious chocolate and white chocolate chip cookies, was reasonably entertained by the half time show, and did not have to watch anybody get carted of the field with a serious head injury. If nothing else, people got to get together and have a good time. So there's that. Terrible game though.
I started the day off by live tweeting a viewing of the movie Groundhog Day. I'm not sure if networks did not want to compete with the Super Bowl or what, but for some reason there was nary a Groundhog Day marathon to be found. What a shame. How can you deprive the world of such a classic?
When you think of the greatest comedies of all time, movies like Caddy Shack, Animals House, and Airplane are sure to be among the first movies mentioned. It usually takes a couple of minutes for someone to say, "hey, how about Groundhog Day? That movie is pretty great." That person is usually me, because damn if the movie isn't fantastic. The premise is great. The jokes are consistently funny, and come at you in waves. Bill Murray is at the top of his game. And, perhaps most importantly for a comedy, it does not overstay it's welcome.
Since I had nothing else to do this morning I thought it would be a good idea to rewatch this classic and suss out the moments that make the film great. There were times while watching when I would have to pause the movie because the jokes were firing off too fast for me to be able to transcribe - thus the silly grammar errors.
If I had to single out a couple of favorite bits from Groundhog Day - one would be the deja vu line with Mrs. Lancaster, and the other would be Murray talking about the existential dread of living the same day over and over with the burnouts at the bar. I always lose it after Phil gives his spiel to the townies and one of them says, "that about sums it up for me," while the other guy finishes his beer.
Anyway, here is is the transcript from the live-tweeting: