Posts tagged with “Philip Seymour Hoffman”
THE MASTER (IN THEATERS/2012) Set in the post-war 1950s, this masterful work, which has already won major prizes at the Venice Film Festival, is Paul Thomas Anderson’s 6th film and his first since 2007’s “There Will Be Blood.” They say you should really see this movie twice before reaching any conclusions about it, but I’m ready to tell you that it’s absolutely spellbinding. To begin, the images you look at on screen are startlingly clear and perfect. Credit to the cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. who composed gorgeous shots and to Anderson as well, who decided to shoot the movie on 65mm stock, a format not used for several decades. Credit also goes to production designers Jack Fish and David Crank, and to costumer designer Mark Bridges, who recreate the 1950s for us down to every detail and show us an amazing array of ties, shoes, hats, dresses, you name it—all making the film visually stunning. And then there’s the acting. It’s almost impossible to describe the brilliance and range of Philip Seymour Hoffman as cult leader Lancaster Dodd and the scary intensity of Joaquin Phoenix as Dodd’s protégé and guinea pig Freddie Quell. The story, written by Anderson, takes its inspiration from L. Ron Hubbardand his creation of Scientology during roughly the same time period. Dodd is the head and creator of a movement called “The Cause.” He presents himself as a brilliant man, or a shaman, or both. It doesn’t matter—his followers hang on his every word. Freddie, coming out of WWII where he was an “able bodied seaman,” is clearly damaged and due to his restless and violent nature, is unable to hold down any job. He is also a raging alcoholic and the most creative moonshine maker you’ve ever seen—using ingredients that will make you groan. Ultimately, he lands on a boat where Dodd’s daughter is about to get married. Dodd takes him in and welcomes him to The Cause (and also welcomes Freddie to make him some excellent hooch).
The two go round and round for the rest of the movie, almost like dancers on a stage. Amy Adams appears as Dodd’s wife Peggy, perpetually pregnant but a real force behind the Master. She disapproves of her husband’s attachment to Freddie and often the camera catches her critical eye as she sits in silence. Other actors in supporting roles are solid as well, including Ambyr Childers as Dodd’s daughter Elizabeth, Jesse Piemons as his son Val, and Laura Dern as one of Dodd’s devoted (and wealthy) supporters. As any number of others have noted, don’t go to this movie expecting to find the answer to Scientology or how it works. The movie is really a combination of character study and examination of large issues–man’s very nature, for example, and his need to believe in and belong to something, the search for meaning, and ultimately, for Freddie, the inability to exert control over base needs. An exceptional film, in every respect and well worth one or many viewings.
I KNEW IT WAS YOU: REDISCOVERING JOHN CAZALE (2009/DVD) You might not know John Cazale’s name, but you know his face—he was poor, whiney Fredo in the first two chapters of The Godfather trilogy and crazy-eyed, tragically funny Sal in Dog Day Afternoon. He starred in just five films before his death at 42, but all were nominated by the Academy for Best Picture and are generally considered to be the finest of the ‘70s (rounding out the list are The Conversation and The Deer Hunter). Though not particularly widely known until recently, Cazale is respected in thespian circles—an actor’s actor whose name is often cited for cred purposes. (Which is how Brett Ratner became involved in producing the long-overdue film—director Richard Shepard was having a terrible time finding financing and happened to read an interview in which Ratner mentioned Cazale. Shepard contacted Ratner, who made a phone call to HBO, and a release was quickly secured—almost making up for the Rush Hour trilogy!) His characters are all quite different but share a vulnerability—he’s the forgotten middle child, or the kid who was always getting picked on but also kind of asked for it. Read more »
PIRATE RADIO (2009/DVD) (British Title: The Boat That Rocked)
Forget those swimming goggles from Jack Goes Boating! In Pirate Radio, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays The Count, an American DJ broadcasting on Radio Rock—a station that really existed during the 1960s in Britain. Thanks to a ban on rock and roll by the BBC, dedicated DJs were forced to broadcast all that fabulous music—much of it coming from their own artists no less– from boats floating just beyond British territorial waters. Set in 1966, this movie, written and directed by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill) introduces us to all the crazy characters on a single Radio Rock boat and offers something of the same feel as his film Love Actually—lots of characters played by familiar British actors, plenty of plot but without much depth, a few good laughs, a little pathos and a wonderful soundtrack. We see the film largely through the eyes of Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) who has been sent aboard the boat in question to spend time with his godfather (Bill Nighy, playing the slick floating station manager). While on board, Carl experiences the highs and lows of life at sea—one particular high occurring when a boatful of ladies comes aboard. Kenneth Branagh is cast as the stuffy bad guy from the BBC, intent on shutting the ship down. Rhys Ifans is wonderful as the British counterpart (and challenger) to The Count. Emma Thompson makes an appearance as Young Carl’s mom and even January Jones shows up as the much sought-after Elenore (really). I particularly liked the scenes of the DJs doing their thing, with cut-aways to shots of young and old fans back on shore listening to the broadcasts. The period costumes, posters, etc. throughout are spot-on and combined with the music, make you feel that you were there. As I recall, this film received plenty of less than positive reviews when it appeared, but trust me (and Be), it’s a fine rental and will make for a fun night. The soundtrack alone ensures that!
JACK GOES BOATING (2010/IN THEATERS) The ending credits for this sweet little indie pic tell you what you already knew from the previews (“Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman”) and what you suspected half-way through (“Based on the Play by Bob Glaudini”). Aha! Like all good plays, this story is focused on four main characters and much of the action takes place in a one-bedroom NYC apartment, particularly in its kitchen. There are two men: Jack (Hoffman) and Clyde (John Ortiz), best friends and limo drivers for Jack’s uncle, and two women: Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), Clyde’s hot wife and Connie (Amy Ryan), her very shy coworker. Clyde truly loves Jack who is muddling along in life with only his one friend and his walkman full of reggae for company. Lucy suggests they set Jack up with Connie over Chinese take-out and wine in the little apartment—an early scene of wonderfully awkward conversation. Nonetheless, the two misfits are drawn to one another and over the course of the movie get closer and closer in a lovely, quiet way—with the ultimate goal of going boating in the park six months later (thus the title). Meanwhile, their friends, Clyde and Lucy, move further and further apart, in anything but a quiet way, literally destroyed by her past infidelities and his inability to forget them. The play on which all of this is based was produced by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz in 2007 and both starred in it along with Rubin-Vega during its brief off-Broadway run. The movie version is Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut and he is getting solid reviews as an actor’s director. Of course, he is wonderful in his part and now we understand why he was wearing that knitted hat during the awards season last year as Jack sports dread-locks not intentionally but probably out of sheer neglect. Hoffman has added some terrific outdoor shots and scenes (many featuring classic NYC slush and snow, all too realistic!) as well as my real favorites in the movie, filmed at the swimming pool where Clyde is teaching Jack to swim. Wonderful, hilarious underwater shots! So while Clyde is helping Jack to move his life forward– teaching him to swim, finding him a cooking coach—unfortunately Clyde cannot get over the past and so by the end is alone as Jack and Connie walk off together. Bittersweet.
BTW: The big cooking scene is worthy of Julie and Julia—will make you hungry. And trust me, you will see where the scene is going and be groaning in anticipation.
Trivia Note: The beautiful Italian woman in Jack’s limo who is on a “dress for success” shopping excursion is Lola Glaudini, daughter of the playright.
DOUBT (2008/DVD) This gripping period drama about a crusty/bossy New England catholic school principal/nun (Meryl Streep, showcasing another flawless accent [snore]) accusing a new hip Vatican II priest (Philip Seymour “Butz” Hoffman) of child molestation circa 1963 makes the transition from stage to screen with flying colors, and by that I mean with no colors at all. ‘63 was a drab year, people—colors were the last of these folks’ problems, the first being feelgood buddy priests wining kids and using their sinister network of fellow pastors to keep it on the DL. An actor’s showcase with stellar, deeply felt performances—including a dowdy Amy Adams as an impressionable new teacher/nun turned whistle-blower and a knockout performance from Viola Davis as the victim’s desperate mother—only slightly marred by an emotional explosion in the last 30 seconds that seems to be coming from another movie altogether. A much louder, dumber movie with way over-the-top, out-of-control Acting. (Called “Notes from a Scandal.”)
Grade: B+ (Knocked down a bit for ham-fisted overuse of symbolic winds of change and that eye-roller finale.)