Tag Archives: Philip Seymour Hoffman

I Knew It Was You

I don’t get HBO.

I mean, I get HBO – great concept – but I’m not a subscriber. I did, years ago, when I got everything, but as the cable company bill kept skyrocketing little by little things dropped off, until I was down to the skeletal, but still expensive, basic package. At the time I wasn’t missing much, since the home viewing market had transcended from VHS to DVD and the quality of the televisions got better. So by the time HBO started to really craft its signature programs like The Sopranos, I was so weaned off of pay cable that I still resisted. Only the advent of DVD recorders and the new market for TV on DVD box sets saved me, but shows like The Sopranos and The Wire were meant to be watched in six-hour gulps. I never would have survived the week in-between episodes.

I certainly can afford HBO now, but for some strange reason, I just haven’t bothered. Maybe it’s because basic cable channels like FX, AMC and USA have followed their lead and stolen their thunder? But the consequence is the same. Occasionally I still miss good programming, and I’ve conditioned myself to wait for the inevitable DVD, which likely will have bonus features and other amenities that would make it more than worthwhile.

And that’s my long-winded story about how I came across I Knew It Was You, the documentary about the great 70’s actor John Cazale. The title, of course, refers to the classic scene in The Godfather Part II between Al Pacino’s character and Cazale’s damaged brother Fredo. Of all the great moments in the first two films – and there were many – the last scenes between Michael and Fredo are the most haunting.

Pacino played Michael tight-lipped, private, superior. Cazale was palpable, he oozed defeat.

Cazale was only in five films, but every one was nominated for Best Picture; three of them took home the prize. He shared the screen with legends Robert Duvall and Marlon Brando as well as a Who’s Who of his generation in Pacino, Gene Hackman, Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep and James Caan. He was never the lead, but The Conversation and The Deer Hunter and Dog Day Afternoon and both Godfathers would have been weaker without his presence.

I was captivated by the subject and by the film, but it had two major drawbacks. I didn’t really learn much about John Cazale, as the narration and the interviews basically echoed each other – an actor’s actor, found the heart of his characters, made his fellow actors better, always played true to the moment. I already knew that, having seen all of his films numerous times. Still, it was enjoyable to watch his co-stars as well as other craftsmen like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell and Steve Buscemi vouch for his impact as well as his directors Sidney Lumet and Francis Ford Coppola.

The other shortcoming – literally – was the forty minute length.  Again, I was honed in on every minute, so the quality was there. But even if they couldn’t have acquired rights to longer clips of the films, certainly there were more actors who could have been involved, or reflections from major critics who analyzed his work. As stated, I didn’t see this on HBO, but since there are no commercials other than their own promos…they couldn’t even hit an hour?

There are bonus features including extended interviews with Pacino and director Israel Horowitz (Cazale acted in several of his theatrical productions) as well as a commentary and two short film projects from the 60’s, so it’s not as if this DVD isn’t a good value. Despite my comments above, I’m thrilled to own it and will watch it again. But I guess when all is said and done, what I really wanted was more John Cazale…and maybe that’s the whole point of this portrait.

He was the perfect actor; he had no public persona that would  cloud your impression of the character he put on the screen. As good an actor as George Clooney or Morgan Freeman or Clint Eastwood are, when they first appear in a film, a little voice in your head says “there he is“. But when John Cazale entered a scene, you saw Fredo or Sal or Stan. John disappeared.

Cazale died in 1978 at the age of 42. For his friends and colleagues, there is a wealth of great personal experience and memories. For me, who never met him, there are but five timeless films…and now, this tribute.

No fish today, Fredo.

John Cazale Wiki page

Cazale on IMDB.

Oscilloscope Films

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T.G.I.F. – Ten for Philip Seymour Hoffman

 

Happy Birthday to one of the finest actors of his generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Skilled in comedy and drama, a dynamic actor, producer and director, Hoffman has forged an incredible career on stage and in film and is still a relatively young pup at forty-three. 

Capote – The perfect intersection of artist and role. 

I now live in his hometown and can tell you that the entire place went batshit the night he won the Academy Award as Best Actor for Capote, a personal project he brought to the screen with two close friends. And since my girls went through the same drama program with the same teacher at the same High School, I can play the Kevin Bacon Game and connect in two moves

With future production whiz Eli

But first and foremost as a film lover, I see what people around the world see – an actor’s actor who respects his craft and delves into his roles with complete immersion. It’s why I put any project he’s involved with on my must-see list; like Kevin Spacey or Guy Pearce, he’s versatile and usually uncompromising in his choices. (Well, okay…maybe Patch Adams was a compromise…) 

So for this week’s TGIF, here are ten great film performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman. There are many more beyond these; memorable supporting roles in Twister and The Big Lebowski; hell, his part in Punch Drunk Love made me like an Adam Sandler movie for the first time since The Wedding Singer.  There are also poignant and dark moments in Love Liza and Flawless as well as highly touted roles in Doubt and yes, some big budget cheese like MI3

He’s already worked with most of the best directors and actors of his era, and has solid credibility throughout the film and the theatre industry. You should know most if not all of these films, but if any are new to you I give you my full Prescription promise that you will thank me for pointing you to them…except Patch Adams, of course. 

 

Almost Famoussteals the movie as Lester Bangs

Owning Mahoney – like many of his roles, a double life. 

The Talented Mr. Ripley – larger than life Freddie, who sees through it all. 

Before The Devil Knows You’re DeadAndy is a bad, bad man. 

Happiness – disturbing, desperate and shattered Allen

“Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Ultimately, if you stick to your guns, you have the career that you want. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good payday and I’ll do films for fun. But ultimately my main goal is to do good work. If it doesn’t pay well, so be it.” 

Magnolia Phil Parma, porn-loving caretaker. 

State And Main – Nervous writer Joseph Turner White

Charlie Wilson’s War – rockin’ the stache as Gust

Along Came Polly – egomaniac Sandy is blind to his failures. 

Boogie Nights – the incredible, uncomfortable Scottie J

And keep your eyes peeled for Jack Goes Boating this Fall. 

 

Hoffman at Wikipedia and IMDB. Oh, and this! 

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Music Flicks

After writing about The Boat That Rocked the other day, I thought about other music-related movies that I really enjoyed and found that I had several favorites that I could watch over and over again and enjoy almost as much as the first time. These aren’t concert films – those are obvious repeat performers – but movies about pop music. I’m also focusing on the more modern era (forgive me, Sal Mineo). Plus the movie has to be good (sorry, Tommy) . A few are obvious commercial favorites (is there anyone who doesn’t quote Spinal Tap?) but a couple of these must be off the path; I find most people have never heard of them, let alone seen them.

But hey, that’s a large part of why I do this, to share information about what knocks me out and hopefully expose people to a great band, film or book they might have missed. I highly recommend every single one of these, and hopefully there’s at least one you haven’t seen that you will take a chance on. Enjoy some great movies with great music, whether it’s a library rental, a used copy on Amazon or circling the listing in TV Guide when you see it. Without further ado (you’ve had just the right amount of ado so far, right?) and with apologies to The Committments and The Rutles, here they are in alphabetical order…

Almost Famous : Cameron Crowe drew upon his own story to craft this brilliant peek behind rock’s curtain, from the groupies (sorry…Band-Aids) to the roadies and the madness that is rock’n’roll. Great music and wonderful performances from the leads and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s great turn as Lester Bangs.

A Hard Day’s Night : The Beatles. Need I say more? “I’m a Mocker”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch : Absolutely the best rock opera ever. John Cameron Mitchell’s brilliant performance and Stephen Trask’s music are a perfect match, and both the musical and the movie soundtracks could stand on their own as great music. But the film is phenomenal.

The Idolmaker : Ray Sharkey should have won the Academy Award for his performance as a teen idol Svengali. Great performances from Paul Land, Joe Pantoliano and Peter Gallagher.

A Mighty Wind : The Spinal Tap of folk music and another perfect movie from Christopher Guest. Tremendous performances from everyone, but Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as “Mitch and Mickey” were brilliant. How did this song not win the Academy Award?

Rock and Roll High School : The Ramones. Need I say more? “Things sure have changed since I got kicked out of high school”.

Spinal Tap : Absolutely hilarious, with pitch perfect performances from the three leads and an amazing array of bit parts and cameo roles, like Paul Shaffer as Artie Fufkin and Bruno Kirby as the Sinatra-loving limo driver (the extended deleted scenes are priceless). Here’s a song so good I like it even though it’s parody.

Still Crazy : I think the common thread in all these movies is perfect casting. Bill Nighy is wonderful as the fragile lead singer and you can’t go wrong with comic geniuses Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall. But the story is as heartwarming as it is funny and the music is phenomenal.

That Thing You Do : Tom Hanks nailed the screenplay about a one-hit-wonder band and even wrote many of the songs that the other acts in the “galaxy of stars” performed. The main songs benefitted from pop wizards like Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Mike Viola, but the perfect casting was only exceeded by the movie’s heart. One of my favorite films of all time in any genre.

Velvet Goldmine : Glam fans will lap this up – an Eddie and The Cruisers type plot in the world of glitter and decadence, with Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as thinly disguised Iggy Pop and David Bowie plus great performances from Christian Bale and Eddie Izzard.

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Rock The Boat

 I’m looking forward to a few movies this summer – Johnny Depp as John Dillinger in Public Enemies is a no-brainer, and yes, I’ll even line up for the latest Harry Potter. But my love of rock’n’roll and combined with my respect for anything Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy do makes me most geeked to see this movie.

It’s the classic “us against the squares” plot line merged with great music and a superb cast. As Johnny Depp would say…”pirate!”

boat that rocked

Trailer for The Boat That Rocked.

The real Radio Caroline.

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Things I Learned From Award Shows, Part One

It’s a guilty pleasure, I must admit. And when both the Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards occur over the same weekend, well…that’s a lot of couch time. And snack food. (And snarky observations).

Independent Spirit Awards

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...no caption could do this justice.

Faux Christian Bale and Joaquin Phoenix as co-presenters...brilliant!

  • Eric Roberts Is The Man
  • Emily Deschanel is pretty hot in Bones, but Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous) is even hotter.
  • It’s hard to think of Woody Allen as “independent” when everyone else in the room seems to have financed their movie on a relative’s Visa card. But although $15 million (Vicki Cristina Barcelona’s budget) is an unthinkable fortune compared to Frozen River’s $1 million, it’s still a pittance in an industry where you would have to dig even deeper just to pay a Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon to ruin your movie.
  • Someone has to explain “business casual” to Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • I don’t know what Rosie Perez is doing career-wise, but her amicable smack-down of Penelope Cruz should be in her highlight reel.
  • Ditto Penelope Cruz’s story about Woody Allen
  • The “musical numbers” for the Best Picture nominees might be an idea stolen from Billy Crystal, but since the Academy isn’t letting Billy Crystal host the Oscar telecast, I’m glad to see these guys picked up the ball. Which of course, leads to…
  • Rainn Wilson Is The Man.
  • Michael Bolton can be the punch line of a joke that is funny and has nothing to do with his singing, and he can be a good sport about it.
  • Jason Bateman and Ellen Page need to take their act on the road.
  • Is there anyone more comfortable in his own skin than John Waters? Then again, he’s probably comfortable in yours, too.
  • IFC likes awards shows without interruption of any kind – commercials, censors, or otherwise. AMC has editors (and presumably, viewers with more sensitive ears).
  • Steve Coogan is no Ricky Gervais, but then, who is? Nice job, mate.
  • If you didn’t already think Charlie Kaufman was one odd dude based upon his screenplays, listening to him speak should seal the deal for you.
  • I know why Mike Myers wasn’t there last night.
  • The only thing that would have made Melissa Leo‘s acceptance speech better was if she gave a shout-out to the cast of Homicide.
  • Nothing would have made Mickey Rourke‘s speech better.

Full list of winners here.

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