RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman – reminiscing on the many great performances of the talented actor

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I was planning on finishing up my Monthly Roundup post the afternoon I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s passing at a young age of 46.

It’s one of those times where I’ll always remember where I was when I heard about something. I was in line at a Target check out when I fired up my Twitter app and saw the news. I didn’t get a chance to find out how he died, so I presume it was a heart attack or something, it never occurred to me that it was substance abuse related, though I knew he struggled with prescription drugs addiction and went to rehab last year. Of course later in the day I found out the cause of death… that he has died from an apparent drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment. Undoubtedly, my shock turned to grief. Yes I know he’s just an actor whom I don’t know personally, but I still can’t help feeling saddened by this. He also died the exact same age as my late mother (who also have three children), though the circumstances were entirely different, they both were gone way too soon 😦

SeymourHoffman_CapoteI have to admit I don’t know much about his life as an actor or otherwise. Apparently Hoffman is a pretty busy guy, completing 40 films in the span of a relatively short 17-year-long career as well as working as a creative co-artistic director of LAByrinth Theater Company. On top of winning a Best Actor Oscar for Capote, he was also nominated for two Tony awards for his stage work in True West and Long Day’s Journey into Night.

This quote from the NY Times gives us a glimpse to how he approaches his craft as an actor:

“In my mid-20s, an actor told me, ‘Acting ain’t no puzzle,’ ” Hoffman said, after returning to his seat. “I thought: ‘Ain’t no puzzle?!?’ You must be bad!” He laughed. “You must be really bad, because it is a puzzle. Creating anything is hard. It’s a cliché thing to say, but every time you start a job, you just don’t know anything. I mean, I can break something down, but ultimately I don’t know anything when I start work on a new movie. You start stabbing out, and you make a mistake, and it’s not right, and then you try again and again. The key is you have to commit. And that’s hard because you have to find what it is you are committing to.”

Seems that he often ‘lost himself’ in a role…

“…I’d finish a scene, walk right off the set, go in the bathroom, close the door and just take some breaths to regain my composure. In the end, I’m grateful to feel something so deeply, and I’m also grateful that it’s over … And that’s my life.”

There are many essential PSH films I still need to see. In fact, I’ve only seen a paltry 9 films from his stellar resume, but I feel compelled to write this tribute to him as he’s always been very impressive in everything I’ve seen him in. Starting with Scent of A Woman where he played an unethical classmate of Chris O’Donnell, out-acting the protagonist effortlessly. Through a series of supporting roles, he’s always memorable no matter how small his role is. I equate him to someone like Stanley Tucci, Paul Giamatti or Chris Cooper in that he always makes the best of whatever role given to him AND his performance is usually one of the best (if not the best) part about the film. In the Ides of March for example, his portrayal of a grizzled campaign manager is one of my favorite parts of an otherwise so-so political drama. Even in popcorn action films like Mission Impossible III, he still gives a compelling performance as the ominous villain. He’s threatening without turning his character into a caricature. He seems to be drawn to antihero/flawed type of characters, whilst somehow make them sympathetic and intriguing, i.e. A Late Quartet as an adulterous married man.

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The latest performance I saw him in was in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and I said in my review that his Plutarch is my favorite character. I couldn’t wait to see more of him in the final film of the franchise as his character arc is easily the most interesting. Alas they might have to re-cast his role unless they’re done filming his scenes.

I hope to catch up on more of his films such as Magnolia, Capote, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Jack Goes Boating, etc. For sure I’ll watch the yet-to-be-released John le Carré spy thriller A Most Wanted Man where Hoffman played a German civil-rights lawyer, complete with a German accent. I couldn’t find a trailer, but here’s a clip:

My heart goes out to his longtime partner, costume designer Mimi O’Donnell and their three children. Rest in peace Mr. Hoffman. You will be sorely missed.


What are some of your favorite performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman?

[Arctic] Weekend Roundup & Quick Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It’s truly one of the c-cc-coldest weekend ever. It’s way too early to have an arctic weather conditions here and it lingers way too long!

CurrentWeatherMplsWe’re talking about several degrees below zero (Fahrenheit that is, so it’s a few dozen degrees below zero in Celcius!), with Wind Chill Advisory issued by National Weather Service when the wind chill is low enough that it poses a threat to human health and life if adequate protection is not taken against hypothermia and frostbite! Now, where I live, I don’t just look at the temp, but the ‘Feels like’ part is far more important, and so it feels like -21˚ out there right now. This is the time I ask myself time and time again, ‘Why the heck do I still live here?!’ 😉

Well, we didn’t stay cooped up inside because of the snow and frigid temp, so we did see Catching Fire on the big screen, finally!

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Now, my friend Ashley has written a full review of this last week and I agree with her praises on the movie. I enjoyed the first film but I’d actually give this one more of an edge. I had only read the first book so going into Catching Fire, I tried not to read any of the plot points so it was a pretty different experience. I must say I like being surprised, and there are some moments here that made me go WHOA!

Here are some of the things that I enjoyed from the sequel:

  • The darker themes explored more boldly that shows just what’s at stake for the characters, especially Katniss. Director Francis Lawrence was bolder in showing the brutality of the oppressive Panem regime (well as much as PG-13 would allow for it, that is), such as the whipping scene and the Hunger Games itself. I like political intrigue and the casting of Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch add so much gravitas to the story.
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  • In regards to Hoffman, I feel that he elevates the film every time he appears. I sure hope he would have more screen time in the third film given what we now know about his character.
  • Speaking of supporting actors, besides Sutherland and Hoffman, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci are equally memorable. Tucci never fails to entertain no matter how over-the-top his character is, if anything he makes the games’ host Caesar Flickerman so darn amusing.
  • I’ve warmed up to Peeta in this movie, seems that his character is more fully-realized and Josh Hutcherson is given more to do in the role. I like that he’s more assertive and confident with himself, but yet he’s got this inherently likable quality about him that won me over. Hutcherson has a more effortless chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence here, and I could see how Katniss is even more torn now between him and her childhood love Gale.
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    The brief scene where Peeta comforts Katniss when she has nightmares is one of my favorites. It shows just how much the stress of these brutal games take a toll on these kids.
  • All the hoopla about Jena Malone‘s scene-stealing performance as fellow tribute Johanna Mason is justified, especially the elevator scene which is a hoot! Sam Claflin is convincingly slimy as Finnick Odair, perhaps a little too convincing, ahah. Glad to see him show his chops as he’s so bland in Snow White & The Huntsman, but then again look who he had to act against, ahah.
  • Speaking of costumes, as atrocious as some of them are, the Mockingjay dress is pretty darn cool. Ok so it seems to be inspired by Black Swan but man, when Katniss twirls and the white *wedding* dress turns to black I literally gasped [I think costume designer Trish Summerville ought to be nominated for her work] Btw, when President Snow saw that and his expression immediately soured, it was a pretty chilling moment.
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  • Interesting to see the likes of Jeffrey Wright as one of the tributes. I guess it made sense that some of the tributes are older as they’re picked from a pool of past victors.
  • The set pieces are fun to watch. The arena where the tributes are being introduced to the crowd reminds me a lot of the chariot scene in Ben-Hur.
  • I like how the ‘circus freak-y’ character Effie Trinket’s humanity is revealed more in this film. I think there’s a glimpse of it in the first film but it’s more apparent here. I think Elizabeth Banks did a fine job here, and she barely gets a mention other than for all the crazy costumes and makeup she wears.
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  • The games itself is beautifully-shot. I didn’t see it at the IMAX but my pal Ted who saw it there said it was marvelous. I was pretty caught-up in the games and it reminded me just how vicious and unpredictable it can be!
  • Last but not least, Jennifer Lawrence still owns the role as Katniss Everdeen. She is a heroine worth rooting for as she’s as vulnerable as she is bad ass. No doubt that a large part of the franchise’s success is due to her casting and it’s easy to see why.
    CatchingFire_KatnissEven in her already illustrious career long before she even hit 25, I think Katniss would be regarded as one of her best roles. It’s interesting to see her effortless acting alongside people close to her age (Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth) but she looks just as comfortable in the presence of veteran actors like Sutherland and Hoffman. She has the confidence of someone well beyond her years but there’s also certain nuances that she brings to the role that I notice more now that I’ve seen more of her work.

Ok, there are lots to love here but I’m not saying the movie is perfect. I thought the pacing was off in the first hour. I actually glanced at my watch a few times as it felt rather long. I’m not fond of Willow Shields as Katniss’ sister Prim and their scenes didn’t quite resonate with me. There are also very little character developments with any of the tributes. Yes I know this story is more about Katniss and Peeta, but the tributes are almost an afterthought here that by the time the games begin, it felt like the games was actually lesser in scope than it’s supposed to be in the book. Also, am I the only one creep-ed out by Finnick and Mags at one point of the game? It’s just bizarre and not in a good way.

CatchingFire_GamesStartThe games itself isn’t as gripping as I expected, though there’s a big tense moment at the start of the game when everyone got dropped to the island. But overall it just wasn’t as riveting, and the fact that Katniss had so many allies right off the bat seems to lessen the gravity of the games, if you will.

That said, I’m still looking forward to the third film. Boy that ending made me wish Mockingjay will be released next month instead of a year from now!

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4 out of 5 reels

This weekend I also watched Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (read my review)


So that’s my weekend roundup folks! Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Or you can also share what you watched this weekend.

FlixChatter Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Hi everyone! We’ve got another review from FlixChatter’s newest contributor Ashley Steiner. Check out her bio if you haven’t already.

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To make a long story short, I loved it! Wired.com is calling The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the The Dark Knight of young adult films. Let me liken it in a different way. Catching Fire is to The Hunger Games as Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2 were to the Harry Potter films. This is the point in the series were the themes, actions and motivations of the characters make the “young” in young adult, disappear. Gone are the poignant heartfelt scenes (e.g. Katniss singing Prim to sleep after a nightmare, Katniss volunteering in Prim’s stead and Katniss’ reaction to Rue’s death). This film means business. It’s darker, grittier, and meatier.

Now that Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award winning actress, I had my reservations about how her performance would live up to her newly acquired title. I wasn’t disappointed. She greatly improved upon her character from the first film and really dug deep to pull off the tortured, traumatized and, quite frankly, pissed off character that is Katniss Everdeen.

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The film gave a respectful nod to the world Gary Ross built in The Hunger Games; however, new director Francis Lawrence wasn’t afraid to bring his own interpretation—and it paid off. I think fans of the series will sleep better knowing Lawrence (director) will be returning to finish his work for the remaining two films. It’s truly regrettable they couldn’t secure him from the start.

 One of the biggest critiques from Ross’ direction was the lack of a love story between Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Plus, let’s not forget the not-so-wise shaky camera syndrome. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ll admit; I’m Team Peeta, but watching their chemistry, or lack thereof, unfold in the first film was a joke. Ross didn’t help Lawrence and Hutchinson foster enough of a relationship for the audience to even understand there was an internal struggle for whom Katniss should love. That’s not the case in Catching Fire. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) definitely gets a run for his money! Attaboy, Peeta!

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I understand the director’s choice to be cognizant of children killing children, but the novel already laid out all of the horror this entails. Out of the dark, darker and darkest themes from the novel, it just seemed Ross was afraid to really show the inhumane corruption of the government, and, instead, chose to focus on the themes of poverty, hunger and deprivation. To be fair, his tributes were all noticeably much younger children; whereas, in Catching Fire, we are dealing with previous victors, that are mature adults (some well into their 60s), with the exception of Katniss and Peeta.

I could tell the other audience members had a great respect for Lawrence’s (director) choices as well. There were no, “That wasn’t in the book!” shrieks from 15-year-old girls, or squeals whenever Gale (Liam Hemsworth) came on screen. People were watching this movie with such anticipation and anxiety, almost as if they were watching a stand-alone non young adult film. There was drama, intrigue and perfectly timed comic relief. However, once in the arena, it was almost hard to catch your breath after repeatedly getting hit over the head with roadblocks and new psychological challenges.

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Now let’s talk about the brilliant editions to the already rock star cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Jena Malone (Johanna Mason), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), and Sam Clafin (Finnick Odair). The first film primarily cast no-name actors—and it worked. However, this film covers significantly darker subject matter, and I’m not sure that’s something inexperienced actors can pull off in a film of this magnitude. Nonetheless, this cast was amazing! A special shout-out to Jena Malone, who, if she’s anything like her character, needs some serious mental help.

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Jenna Malone as Johanna Mason, Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, Donald Sutherland as President Snow & Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee

While we were introduced to the bizarre and frightening world of the Capitol in the first film (e.g. crazy neon hair, skin mutations, out-of-this-world makeup, and Oompa loompa-ish costumes) the makeup and costume designers went above and beyond. Katniss’ hair was purposely darker (almost jet black) and her makeup was more bold and daring to match the darker themes of the film. It was almost as if you were watching a fashion show of nightmares.

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Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci are back as Effie Trinket and Caesar Flickerman

All in all, Francis Lawrence and the cast really hit this one out of the park. I encourage you to see the film—even if you aren’t a HG fan. I’m already planning when I can see this again.

four and a half stars out of five
4.5 out of 5 reels

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So folks, did you see this movie? Would love to hear what you think!