Sunday, February 02, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman R.I.P.

So, Philip Seymour Hoffman died today. I haven't seen a great many of his films, but he was pretty beloved in film circles, and he was only forty-six years old, while Vin Diesel will probably live to see his nineties.
Hoffman, a critical darling, won an Oscar for playing Truman Capote, but it was rare for him to play the lead in a film (especially something in the mainstream).

There's an alternate reality out there, where 2008's THE DARK KNIGHT wasn't nearly the hit it was here, but was also merely the second film in Christopher Nolan's five-film series, culminating in 2016's BATMAN ENDS.  In that reality, the third film, THE DARK KNIGHT HUNTED, featured both Eric Bana as The Black Mask and Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Penguin (along with that great scene-stealing cameo by Heath Ledger as the Joker).  A good flick, from what I've heard.

In our own reality, the film that stands out for me, the one that makes me like Hoffman's work as a whole is in 2000's ALMOST FAMOUS, where he plays cynical rock writer Lester Bangs.

I'm sure I mentioned it when Roger Ebert died, but his review of ALMOST FAMOUS made me scrape together what (very) little money I had during that time, and go see the film.  The two scenes that made the biggest impact on me were the one where everyone in the bus shares a joyful moment singing "Tiny Dancer," and the one where poor William Miller calls Lester Bangs, needing a friend after his dreams fall apart.

I try, less often than I should, but I am so far from one of the cool kids, that catching my own reflection can sometimes be shocking.  For every Saturday night spent among friends or in social occasions, there are another twenty, watching "Saturday Night Live" by myself, laughing (hopefully) hard enough that I don't notice how lonely I am.

This exchange between Bangs (Hoffman) and Miller (Patrick Fugit) speaks to me so deeply that I see it as Truth (with a capital T) in the way that an old black lady memorizes a Bible passage and recites it when the going gets the toughest.  And I recognize that that's self-indulgent, and pretty darn myopic, but boy, do I love that "when you're uncool" speech.

If I could write something that . . . that right, I think I might be cool.

Rish Outfield

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