Anthony Lane’s piece on Philip Seymour Hoffman is in the current issue (Feb. 17 & 24, 2014) of The New Yorker. Below, a few excerpts:
Leading man, character actor, supporting player: really, who gives a damn? Either you hold an audience, so tight that it feels lashed to the seats, or you don’t. That is why the distinction between Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, at the Academy Awards, grows ever more ludicrous — essential, of course, to the smooth structure of the night, but untrue, in the long run, to the way in which we feed on film, or store it away for lavish future consumption.
Here’s the scene-stealing actor in a Feb. 5, 1991 episode of Law & Order called “The Violence of Summer”:
Ryan, a young man charged with rape, was led into the court, followed by two co-defendants. One made no impression, but the other, though granted less time on camera, drew the eye. Casting a wicked smirk over his shoulder as he came in, he then sat down. He was dough-soft and putty-pink, with hair and eyebrows of muted orange. Viewers had a few seconds, at best, to size him up. If asked, they would have tagged him as one of nature’s punching bags — the porcine type who gets himself bullied, every recess, in a quiet nook of the playground and no longer bothers to complain.
And then he exploded. This little pig went ape. He stared across at Ryan and his finger tapped the table. “We know what you did, OK? You hear me, Ryan?” he said. He rose to his feet, and his voice climbed, too, by an octave. He pointed at his own face, and roared, “Look at me!” The scene played out, the law fell into disorder, guns were drawn, the plot hared on, but the instruction had been unambiguously issued, and from that moment, until Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, we obeyed. Philip Seymour Hoffman told us to look, and we did.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.