Philip Seymour Hoffman: In Memoriam

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Philip Seymour Hoffman

I returned home from the village shop this evening to be confronted by Mrs Evangelist. For some reason, I’ve not been seeing my texts recently when they come in, so I’ve missed a request for shopping or to pay the window cleaner. Got back to the house just over an hour ago, to discover she’d been frantically trying to text me again. “Did you get my texts? Have you heard? Philip Seymour Hoffman’s dead.”

This isn’t an attempt to be facetious, or to diminish the memory of possibly the finest actor of our generation, but when my wife couldn’t wait the ten minutes needed for me to get home it shows both how shocking it is to have an actor of such talents cruelly taken away from us at the age of just 46, and that even my wife and her more general knowledge of film is aware of what a rich talent Hoffman represented and means to the likes of film fans like myself.

I’ve been writing this blog for three and a half years now, and in that time this is only the second time that I’ve been moved to write a tribute to an actor who’s just died, the other being Leslie Nielsen. While most losses of actors are deeply saddening, and it feels no time at all since Paul Walker was also killed at a young age – heck, it feels no time since we lost Heath Ledger well before his time – Philip Seymour Hoffman was something else, one of the most versatile talents of our generation and the pain feels so much greater for the knowledge of all of those film opportunities now lost to us forever.

Part of the reason I write tributes so sparingly is the feeling that so many others, often those who knew him personally and had worked with him, have the opportunity to express their feelings through news media and the internet in ways more meaningful and often more profound than I can manage. But just occasionally, someone who’s had such a dramatic effect on my own consumption of film needs to be celebrated.

He won an Oscar for Capote, of course, but he elevated pretty much every film he was ever in. I first came to know him as Twister’s Dusty and Boogie Nights’ Scotty, and he was at home in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson – including Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and his imperious performance in The Master – as he was in blockbuster like Mission: Impossible 3 and the Hunger Games series. He’s been at the core of some of my favourite films of the past few years, from Mary And Max to Synecdoche, New York and he was always a standout in solid movies such as Doubt and Charlie Wilson’s War. As I’ve started to catch up on films I’ve missed over the years, it’s always a delight when he turns up, and his career spans Almost Famous to The Big Lebowski and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead to Moneyball. I could carry on listing films for two or three more paragraphs and there isn’t a duff note among any of the performances.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, thank you. You will be greatly missed.

The Half Dozen: A Tony Scott Tribute

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I awoke this morning to tragic news; Tony Scott, one of the finest film makers of a generation, has taken his own life at the age of 68 by jumping from the Vincent Thomas Bridge near Long Beach, California. I’m sure that the media of the world will pore over the possible reasons for this devastating act in weeks to come, but nothing will ever replace him for friends, family and millions of movie lovers around the world.

When I started this blog, I tried to settle on a name which captured my intentions, to encourage others to watch films and to watch them in a cinema. When settling on the name “The Movie Evangelist”, not only did the name roll off the tongue better than “The Film Evangelist”, but it also captured that sense of what drove my love in the first place. While I’m as happy with the art house as I am with the blockbuster these days, it was my love of genuine movies, the thrill ride best enjoyed in a dark room on a big screen with a large audience, that has fuelled my passion and sees me where I am today, desperately sad that we’re deprived of any more works from one of action cinema’s greatest talents.

But while he spoke the language of action movies fluently, he also worked with some of the best casts of the last thirty years: the likes of Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman and Christopher Walkman cropped up regularly in his films, and it was the combination of great acting, excellent scripts and his unique direction, which was undervalued in his lifetime but already seems to have touched so many as news of his death circulates. In addition, his production company Scott Free, set up with brother Ridley, had also started to produce some real gems in the past few years, and his impact on everything from music videos to big budget films will last for a long time to come.

While I don’t know that I can find fitting words to pay tribute, what I can do is share trailers for some of my favourite Tony Scott movies. I hope watching some of these will inspire you to get out the DVD or the Blu-ray and put them on sometime this week. Normally I would limit myself to a strict half dozen, but to try to sum up such a career in six films seems barely sufficient, but I’m sure you’ll not mind on this occasion. Tony Scott, rest in peace.

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