I guess I’ll be watching the Super Bowl tonight — confession: Sometimes I knock out Monday’s blog on Sunday afternoon — but I’ll be thinking about Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom I suspect was just Phil to his friends. (The three-name thing is probably a quirk of the Screen Actors Guild, because there was already a member named Phil Hoffman. Same with race horses.)
Anyway, I agreed with this observation by David Weigel, that what made Hoffman so great was his versatility:
He was the rare actor who could be cast in a key role without giving away what kind of character he was playing. …You see James Woods in a movie, you know he’s going to end up wearing the black hat. You saw Hoffman — and you had no clue.
That’s right. Lots of people mention “Capote,” but that one didn’t stick with me; it was so much about the voice. Truman Capote was sort of a human cartoon, and as with any cartoon, it’s mostly painted in primary colors.
My favorite Hoffman roles are far darker, with “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” at the top of the list; he plays a traitorous son who betrays his parents for money, a real train wreck of a guy, but as with all his roles, he half makes you root for him. There’s a scene in that one where he visits a high-end drug house — drug apartment, this being Manhattan — that serves as an oasis for well-to-do users. You pay not only for the dope, but for the shooting services and a room to nod in. We see him stretched out on the bed in his underwear (Hoffman had no vanity about his lumpy body), staring at the ceiling with dope eyes, and honestly, it’s all I could think of when I heard the news.
But there was also “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” and “The Big Lebowski.” He played a feckless WASP in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and a WASP-hater in “Charlie Wilson’s War” — see his big scene in the Dave Weigel link, above. Also, “The Savages” and “Moneyball,” and he was the only thing that made “Pirate Radio” worth two hours of your time. Like Chris Cooper, he brought authority to his parts. I saw Cooper play, in the course of a few years, an oil wildcatter, a horse trainer, an FBI agent and an orchid thief, and if I’d met him on the street outside the theater showing “Seabiscuit,” I’d have asked him how to get a horse to bend to the right. Put Hoffman in a baseball uniform, and oh, hey, I didn’t know you were manager of the Oakland A’s, Phil.
Goddamn fucking heroin.
Remember when Super Bowl halftime shows were put on by Up With People? Deadspin remembers.
Meanwhile, it looks like another character-builder of a week. It snowed half the day Saturday, then switched to rain, a lot of it. The new wet snow, the melting of the old stuff and the rain left huge slushy puddles everywhere, and then what happened? The temperature dropped, and will stay low all week. Which means what we thought was icy lumpy fuck? This is icy lumpy fuck. It’s awful.
But every day, the days get longer. And now it’s February. Onward.