Oscar History

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Vidiocy Karina Longworth on the great Pauline Kael vs Meryl Streep wars
In Contention London Film Critics choose Cate Blanchett and Barkhad Abdi for honors (among others)
The Guardian on the Australian Oscars basically being one long party for The Great Gatsby (which won nearly every award it was up for)
Tom & Lorenzo what Cate Blanchett was wearing to that same event

Thompson on Hollywood TIFF is laying down the law with studios/filmmakers -- no more sloppy seconds due to Telluride "surprises"
Vulture how hot is Anna Kendrick? Improv class hot 

More on Philip Seymour Hoffman
TFE Amir already honored him here in case you missed it.
Kenneth in the (212) covering every major newspaper
Punch Drunk Critics told us that Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal for depression era creepy drama Ezekiel Moss...but this was the day before P.S. Hoffman died so who knows what will happen now. Sounds like a good project though
E Online tells that he hadn't yet finished filming his scenes for the two Hunger Games: Mockingjay films.

Slate strong piece positing that one particular scene in Boogie Nights made the actor a star
The Atlantic has a piece on PSH's talent that fascinated me. It's very well written but its thesis is EXACTLY the opposite about how I always felt about him as an actor, claiming that his greatest gift was understatement. I think he almost never understated anything... which is why he thrills people so much in big moments but also why I did not like his performance in Doubt at all (way too bold when that role needs exceptional restraint to cloud the issues, hence the title) and why my three favorite performances of his I consider very atypical because they have these lovely quiet non red-faced & screaming layers and subtle details. But it's a really good read. 

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Reader Comments (16)

I'm sad that in all these tributes for Philip Seymour Hoffman, no one even mentions Twister, which I find to be such an enjoyable and loose performance, and one if the only times he ever played pure comedy.

February 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJtagliere

I remember reading an article where an interviewer read some of Pauline Kael's cruel comments to Isabelle Huppert, who (obviously) just brushed it off as if she were indifferent to them. Personally, I think that Kael just didn't really go in for cold, impassive performers, but good read either way.

February 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Oh, how I miss Pauline Kael, the woman who taught me that if the writing is great, it can overcome any difference of opinion.

February 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

The truth is that PSH was somewhere in between. I certainly don't think his gift was understatement, but I admired the way he was able to weave under and overstatement. I found all his performances so complicated that way. He was chosen in a lot of Hollywood films to be the schlubby, scene-stealing supporting character quite often (ie, 'Charlie Wilson's War', 'Ides of March', etc.), and those roles definitely play into the critique that he was an over-actor (though I still enjoy those performances, personally). But in his best work ('The Master', 'Talented Mr. Ripley', 'Capote', I can go on forever), he mixed it so beautifully and timed his explosions and his simmers so brilliantly. He was definitely one of the best actors working right now and he earned that distinction because he was not tied down but any one characteristic whether it be understatement or overstatement.

As for 'Doubt', I did find that to be one of his least interesting performances, even though I don't also have the play as something to compare it to since I've never seen it performed. But to say he never understated anything? That's a bit unfair, I think. I'm also super sensitive to PSH criticism right now. :(

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames C.

I love that I guessed which scene Slate was going to choose the moment I saw the title. I saw Boogie Nights only once, several years ago, and I remember exactly like, three scenes from it, and that is one of them. Poor, poor Scotty.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

I'm with James. A lot of PSH's roles, particularly the more recent ones, are very shout-y, yes, but it wasn't like he was phoning in between the shouting--I always found the non-shouting parts complex and interesting enough to give the actual shouting weight and meaning. Perhaps that's what they mean by "understated"--all the best actors can derive eloquence from silence, and I honestly think that PSH was able to do so as well.

He also had a presence that could feel relentless and oddly innocuous at the same time; hence I love and agree with all the characterizations of PSH as a kind of oddity, a character actor who could also somehow, when needed, slip into the shoes of a star. Even his Oscar record speaks to that--a Best Actor win and the rest nods for Supporting.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

Oh, Pauline in snippets or said in secondhand could probably enrage but read her pieces in whole and there is something to understand, even if you disagreed, of which I did. Y'know not until Armond White did I see male contrarians get as much crap as she did and Mr. White is not on Pauline's level as a critic.

Nobody cares about her adoration and raves for performers as Jane Fonda and Paul Newman. Those raves of performers, much like actually writing good reviews, are harder to articulate in precision. There's a danger in hyperbole but there is something in when she raved about something felt incredibly right because she knew the ways in which something worked in a context.

But let's be real, she had preferences and she much preferred stuff that moved and performances that were along those lines too. She wasn't Sarris/people into auteurs who were into muses so I always felt those like Huppert never had a shot.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Kael's evisceration of Streep is so effortless and precise. I feel like I'm in a horror movie. You know those characters who know the truth but continue to be seen as unstable and unreliable -- that's what it's like calling Streep out for being the blandest bitch to ever be greatly praised for existing in an artistic medium of any kind.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Nathaniel it's interesting that you think PSH used to be over the top at times, I agree his work in Doubt was a misfire (but a part of me wants to blame the direction in that film, I actively disliked Adams in the film, and Streep's performance in it is not a favourite), but the other things I've seen PSH I thought he was very precise when he needed to be, and the big moments / fury etc came because of all the precision he gave those characters.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Another sad and shocking news. Legendary brazilian filmmaker Eduardo Coutinho (80 years) was assassinated by his own son yesterday.


February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPedroPet

Too much ink (Internet or otherwise) is spilled over Pauline Kael.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Rami -- I agree.

We can always watch Capote or Magnolia again and again, but the fact that we won't get any new work is so depressing.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Yeah, you know what, your criticism of him don't make a lick of sense to me. I'm not saying Hoffman was perfect, the greatest ever or immune to criticism. But those things you mention seem to be random attributes that annoy you and are somehow detrimental to the art of acting.

How in God's name does "shouting" prevent viewers from having doubts about his character in that dreary Meryl Streep movie? It sounds like you make those rules in your head: "no good actor should shout, and I don't even care if the script asked for it or if that would be a reasonable reaction in the context of the scene." Kudos to you if you think infinite patience and understatement are the way to go when facing that bitch of a nun played by Streep.

This fixation with "subtle" underperforming seems to come from the mistake of confusing any kind of emotional exaltation with gross exaggeration.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo

Kael is god. And I agree with her that Streep was overpraised (though also, I must admit, often genius) but for different reasons. I certainly don't agree that she acted only from the neck up. (Though I would argue she often overacted from the neck up.)

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran


This fixation with "subtle" underperforming seems to come from the mistake of confusing any kind of emotional exaltation with gross exaggeration.
that's an interesting point and could very well be true in other contexts -- in fact it probably is a dangerous shadow side to enjoying subtllety -- but I'd argue that that's not the least bit true in the case of DOUBT. That whole narrative hinges on its title. You're not really supposed to know. You're supposed to draw your own conclusions. They famously do not discuss (or at least did not discuss) guilt or innocence of the characters in productions leaving the actors to decide and play their own version of what happened for themselves. But PSH's performance cues the priest as so guilty (Streep also overplays) that's it's really impossible for it to read in any other way which basically kills it as a drama . Unless all your after is the ham in which case that movie is fully alive.

February 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat: Agreed on the film of Doubt and how, for that context, both are ridiculously overbaked. It's probably THE MOST "in by default" for Streep, Adams or Hoffman.

February 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

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