Philip Seymour Hoffman- A Tribute

Anybody who knew anything about films loved Philip Seymour Hoffman. The impact his passing will have will be just as huge as the news of his sudden death was shocking; nobody expected this, and it really is an incredibly sad moment for the world of cinema. He was an extraordinary performer. Easily one of the finest on screen talents of the past decade, he was a marvellous character actor, playing a wide range of roles with complete authority and conviction. He could have played anyone, anything, and he would have had you on the edge of your seat; he was a remarkable on-screen presence and his casting in a film would make many immediately want to see it. I expect everyone who is even slightly interested in the film industry will miss him deeply. I know I will.

From comic roles to horribly sad performances, Philip Seymour Hoffman could have done it all. There are so many of his performances that stand out for me personally, but one of his most under-appreciated roles that I remember as one of his best was as the butler Brandt in the Coen Brothers movie The Big Lebowski; although it really is a minor role, it is an exquisitely funny one. Every reaction to the Dude’s sloppiness, every little hand movement and every forced laugh is side-splittingly funny. I can watch that performance over a hundred times and it will always make me laugh out loud; he had the ability to steal every scene he was is in. My personal favourite role he played was in the 2006 masterpiece Synecdoche, New York, a breathtakingly beautiful film where he played a depressed theatre writer who when granted a genius grant creates a play the size of a city, with actors living out 24/7 performances of real people. It’s a wonderful movie, and Philip Seymour Hoffman produces the finest performance of his career in heartbreaking style, depicting the fall of a man who loses everything and pours it into a piece of work which may or may not just be a figment of his imagination. It’s hard to describe how good his performance really is in it; as he gets lost in the character, so does the audience. It is from watching this again that I will miss Philip Seymour Hoffman the most, his talent was unlimited and his relatively short career will be paraded for years to come.

As I type this, I realise how strange, and how sad it is that we will never see a new Philip Seymour Hoffman performance; there was always a thrill of seeing him tackle a new role, of him taking up another challenge and hitting one out of the park. He was a unique talent, a wonderful actor who never failed to light up a movie with a performance, whether it was incredibly powerful, or whether it was laugh out loud funny. He was a master of his profession, a genius on the screen and every film fan will greatly miss him.

Rest in Peace.

Inside Llewyn Davis- The Review

The opening of Inside Llewyn Davis is an incredibly immersive experience; you feel as if you are actually in that musty, pale bar, watching the title character sing. All the music in the film was done live, melting you into the scene with a serene touch that only the Coen Brothers could pull off to this extent. The title character, Llewyn Davis, is a failing folk singer, sleeping on friend’s sofas every night and desperately trying to promote his new solo album after the death of his old singing partner. He is practically homeless, only one friendly rejection away from living on the streets in winter. Although Inside Llewyn Davis can be extremely funny, it is ultimately a tragedy, as the Coen’s explore the untold stories of failed singers and aspiring musicians, vaguely talented but not enough to get noticed. It is set just before Bob Dylan arrived on the scene, and there is an unforgettable sense throughout the movie that Llewyn Davis is trying to board a ship that has long since sailed. It’s a beautifully told tale that deftly mixes dark comedy with extreme sadness, much like the previous Coen Brother’s masterpiece A Serious Man. Both depict a man absurdly down on his luck; the Coens already explored the possibility of divine punishment with Larry Gopnik, now they explore Llewyn Davis, a man who seems to thrive off being a complete failure. It’s such a thrill to see such wonderful film makers on the top of their game, confidently expressing a comic but tragic tale through the shimmering world of the 1960’s. It isn’t the Coen Brothers’ best film, but it is mightily close.

There is so much brilliance to be found within this film. The lead performance is a haunting but likeable portrayal of an often morally ambiguous character; Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn Davis with a sympathy that must have been hard to find in a script where he does very little right. Isaac is a good singer, and the musical sections are convincingly done, but brilliantly enough, you always get the sense the character will never conquer the market. He’s good at what he does, but not to the extent when he has a chance in an impossibly competitive industry. Outside of the singing, Isaac proves to be both an impressive comic and tragic actor, which eventually helps build a very strong lead character, one that sometimes does the wrong things for the wrong reasons, but his struggle to make a living and his stubbornness to quit the music makes him respectable enough for the audience to care. He says at one point that music for him is just a job, just a way to get by. His hypocrisy is fascinating, as later on he expresses his feelings and his struggle through the power of music, confirming him as a man it is right to admire.

Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn Davis with a sympathetic but disproving eye.

Isaac’s performance is terrific, as are the supporting cast, including Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and Coen Brothers regular John Goodman. They all put in terrific shifts, in particular Timberlake, who is mightily impressive in his role (the scene where he gets Isaac to record a cheesy number called ‘Please Mr. Kennedy is the highlight of the movie). It is absolutely remarkable that the academy has snubbed Inside Llewyn Davis for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor; it is more beautiful, more haunting and more heartbreakingly funny then films like American Hustle could ever hope to be. Although it would struggle to win in any of the categories it deserved to be nominated for (I would personally like 12 Years a Slave to run riot at the Oscars), it definitely deserved to be recognised as one of the best films of the past year. It hurtles past the standards set by American Hustle, and I think it even beats some terrific other nominees, such as Dallas Buyers Club and Her. The Academy has got it disastrously wrong; Inside Llewyn Davis is a wonderfully crafted masterpiece.

Best Bit

The cheesy pop number ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’ is unbearably catchy, and the scene where Isaac performs it with Timberlake in a recording studio is absolutely brilliant. It’s not only brilliant for the brilliant song and exquisite direction, but also for the acting. Timberlake hams it up to thrust with every beat of the song, and Isaac has resentment labelled on his face; it is almost as if Llewyn Davis would rather fail doing what he wants then succeed doing something he hates.

Worst Bit

The only issue with Inside Llewyn Davis is that you may be expecting a dark comedy, and be surprised when it makes you incredibly sad. It may be one of the most heartbreaking and emotional films the Coens have ever done, and some people might be surprised at the almost hopeless mood of the film. People shouldn’t be put off by this however; to miss Inside Llewyn Davis is to be denying yourself one of the best cinema experiences from the past year.

Overall

Inside Llewyn Davis is a privilege to watch at times, the Coen Brothers have presented another masterpiece that immediately becomes a movie to crave and to cherish. Everyone who is a part of it is on the very top of their game, and the Oscar nominations should have been flying in. It is a haunting movie, a wonderfully made film that stayed with me long after the credits rolled. The Coens have created a film that is both incredibly funny and desperately sad all at once; a beautiful cinematic accomplishment.

5/5