Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967 – 2014)

PSH The MasterLike so many others I was shocked and saddened to learn of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death at the age of 46. I’ve read a number of excellent pieces written about the talented actor but I think my favorite was this carefully chosen career retrospective put together by Bilge Ebiri for New York Magazine. It’s a fitting tribute that gives you a quick reminder of just how versatile and powerful he was on screen. I hated Punch Drunk Love but I’ll never pass up an opportunity to watch this clip or this short blast of genius from Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut Hard Eight which began a long series of fruitful collaborations between the two men culminating in his turn as Lancaster Dodd in The Master, which for my money is his finest performance. Hoffman was part of a rare breed of what you would call simply a real actor. He wasn’t a movie star, I mean he certainly didn’t look or act like one. But he had the ability to elevate material, to create a memorable character or special moment in movies that were simply not deserving of his talent. Two of my favorite performances of his are both drastically different and consistently underrated. As Jacob in Spike Lee’s  25th Hour (one of my favorite movies of all time), he’s a guy getting dragged along for the ride but he brings a humanity to a part that in the hands of a lesser actor could have simply disappeared amidst the tall shadows cast by Ed Norton, Barry Pepper and Rosario Dawson. His turn as ornery, old school, Oakland A’s manager Art Howe in Moneyball couldn’t be further from what you’d come to expect from Hoffman and the fact that he perfectly inhabits a tobacco spitting, crotch scratching, ball buster of an ex-ballplayer turned manager is proof that there were no limits to what he could do. He’s an actor that could surprise you. Not only with his choice of roles but how he chose to play them. Like the rest of the world, I’m sad we won’t get the opportunity to see what he would have done next.

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