psh2I had one brief individual encounter with Philip Seymour Hoffman about three years ago during an audition for one of the plays he was producing with his company, the Labyrinth Theater. When I met him, he was encouraging, kind, and commented on the fact that we both had studied with the same people at Circle in the Square Theatre School. I am proud to have had the opportunity, however brief, to be in the presence of one of the people I truly looked up to as an actor. Without a doubt, he was, and still remains, one of my favorite actors.

I’m not going to delve into the addiction side of his death. That’s a separate article all together. However, I will say, that we all have our own demons and personal challenges that we deal with everyday. We never know what is going on with someone in their personal life, so the last thing I want to do is speculate and pigeon-hole him as an addict.While  that was the thing that led to his downfall, it in no way lessens the impact he had on those who admired his work as an actor and director.

That being said, we have to help each other. We need to listen to each other because at the end of the day, we all want someone to hear us. Rest in Peace, Philip Seymour Hoffman. You were truly one of the greatest actors. You will be missed.

Two things I learned while at Circle: that theatre matters, and that acting is an art form as great as any other. –Philip Seymour Hoffman.

At the beginning of our classes at Circle, Alan Langdon (with whom Philip Seymour Hoffman also studied) made us read the following aloud. To this day, I still recite it whenever I need to remind myself, that yes, I am an actor.

The Actors’ Vow
From Elia Kazan

I will take my rightful place on the stage
And I will be myself.
I am not a cosmic orphan, I have no reason to be timid.
I will respond as I feel; awkwardly, vulgarly,
But respond.
I will have my throat open.
I will have my heart open.
I will be vulnerable.
I may have anything or everything
The world has to offer,
But the thing I need most,
And want most, is to be myself.
I will admit rejection, admit pain, admit shame,
Admit outrage, admit anything and
Everything that happens to me.
The best and most human parts of me are
Those I have inhabited and hidden from
The world.
I will work on it.
I will raise my voice.
I will be heard.

Renée Zellweger & Vincent D’Onofrio portray writers Novalyne Price and Robert E. Howard in “The Whole Wide World” (1996)

Long before she won an Oscar for Cold Mountain and thanked Vincent D’Onofrio in her acceptance speech, Renée Zellweger worked with him on a little independent movie called The Whole Wide World (1996.) It was the movie she made right before her breakout role in Jerry McGuire and it was because Cameron Crowe saw this film that she eventually won the role that made her a star. Both D’Onofrio & Zellweger won acting awards  at several film festivals for their portrayals of writers Novalyne Price (Ellis) and Robert E. Howard.

The movie, The Whole Wide World (1996), was based on a  pair of memoirs written by Novalyne Price Ellis when she was 78 about her relationship with pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard, famous for creating the character of Conan the Barbarian. The two apparently had a tumultuous relationship until Howard’s suicide at the age of 30 in 1936. The movie tells the story of this relationship.  Novalyne Price Ellis didn’t become successful for her writing until she was nearly 80. Additionally, Robert E. Howard didn’t become famous for creating Conan until after his death.

Both D’Onofrio and Zellweger are fantastic in their roles as Howard and Price. Zellweger even went on to portray other writers in her films as well: Beatrix Potter had Peter Rabbit, Bridget Jones had her diary. Maybe Zellweger’s degree in English from the University of Texas has lent a hand to her playing writers so well. D’Onofrio, on the other hand, possesses the brute force of nature and striking resemblance to Robert E. Howard to bring him back to life again. The film itself was ultra-low budget, shot in Texas (Zellweger’s home state) and directed by Dan Ireland (who went on to direct Jessica Chastain in her film debut, Jolene.)

Due to the fact that it’s so simple, makes it one of my favorite films. Not only that, but films about writers can be sort of boring simply due to the fact that writing is a very solitary activity. The creative process of writing is a whole lot different than that of an actor. So, when an actor is able to portray the inner workings of a writer’s process on screen, it’s quite an accomplishment. Nicole Kidman won her Oscar for playing writer, Virginia Woolf and Philip Seymour Hoffman won his for playing Truman Capote. But it’s funny that a little film like The Whole Wide World led to a big break, that led to more movies, that led to an Oscar win for playing someone who was illiterate. And in the end, it came full circle because she didn’t forget how far she had come, and thanked the man who she credits with teaching her how to act. And if not for the movie itself, see it for Vincent D’Onofrio’s fake mustache. It’s quite a sight to see.

It’s Oscar weekend! YAY!! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you’re in the business or just an avid movie buff. For the sake of time, and so this article doesn’t go on forever, I am only going to focus on the major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay & Best Adapted Screenplay. And for fun…Best Cinematography.

Best Cinematography has always been a bit confusing to those who don’t really understand what it is. Basically, the cinematographer is responsible for the general visual look of the film. According to Wikipedia, they “could also be referred to as the film director’s main visual collaborator.” On a set, the cinematographer is generally known as the “DP” or “Director of Photography.” Essentially, they are the ones that the actor is going to have the most contact with (aside from the director) on the crew side. The DP can make you look amazing or make you look horrid (So don’t piss them off. Hehe.) The nominees this year run the gambit:
Nominees:

Anna Karenina (2012/I): Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained (2012): Robert Richardson

Life of Pi (2012): Claudio Miranda

Lincoln (2012): Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall (2012): Roger Deakins

My pick for best cinematography this year is Life of Pi. I think in terms of a visual look, Pi has this one locked. It’s a visually stunning piece. However, Skyfall could also be one to watch.

For Best Adapted Screenplay, this year especially, it’s difficult. There was so much great source material that helped make great films.
Nominees:

Argo (2012): Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi (2012): David Magee

Lincoln (2012): Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook (2012): David O. Russell

Argo might win this one because the source material is from a 2007 article in Wired magazine. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (my roommate’s favorite book,) Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and Lincoln were all adapted from books.

Lincoln, adapted by Kushner from the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, poses a issue with me, especially when it comes to the title. I know a lot of people who went into viewing the film thinking it was going to be a genuine bio-pic of Lincoln himself. However, a lot of people I’ve talked to were a tad disappointed because they thought the title was misleading. If one is going to have a film about a specific moment in history such as the passing of the thirteenth amendment, then why not call it “Team of Rivals?” The answer is simple. Daniel Day-Lewis is the star.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was adapted from a one-act play that Lucy Alibar had previously written, so difficulty of adapting it to the screen was rather slim. And Oscar voters seem to go for complexity.

My pick (simply due to difficulty of adaptation and a fantastic script): ARGO.

Best ORIGINAL Screenplay is another story all together.
Nominees:

Amour (2012): Michael Haneke

Django Unchained (2012): Quentin Tarantino

Flight (2012/I): John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom (2012): Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal

Zero Dark Thirty seems to be receiving a really bad reputation at the moment which I think is going to hurt the chances of it winning in both the writing and acting categories. I think it’s a toss up between Django Unchained and Moonrise Kingdom. Both are so unique and different from your normal cinema fare. But I think Quentin will take home the gold. If he doesn’t, I think the shocker would be if Michael Haneke took it.

Best Supporting Actress: Weep and Win?
Nominees:

Amy Adams for The Master (2012)

Sally Field for Lincoln (2012)

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables (2012)

Helen Hunt for The Sessions (2012)

Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Oscar voters and viewers love the “Give me my Oscar” moments. The only one who has been consistently winning throughout awards season in every major category is Anne Hathaway (and maybe DDL, but we’ll get to him in a few.) This brings me to a question that I am asking of all of the acting nominees (whether current or past): Do you need to weep to win? Crying, weeping, sobbing, hyperventilating…they all seem like viable things to do within a role to win an Oscar. Helen Hunt did it in 1998 with As Good As It Gets. And Sally Field won 2 Oscars for playing down on her luck characters. Now, enter Anne Hathaway…playing a down on her luck single mother. AND she does it within the first 30 minutes of the film. She cries, hyperventilates, acts AND LIVE SINGS her way to an Oscar nom…and to be honest, yeah, she’ll win. I didn’t really see any other actress in that category have a “GIVE ME MY OSCAR” moment…other than Sally Field playing well, every character she’s ever played. Ever. Only with a big poofy dress. Oh, and Helen Hunt spends 90% of her movie naked, Jacki Weaver plays a supportive mother, and Amy Adams helps Philip Seymour Hoffman jack off in the bathroom. I love Amy Adams, I’m a huge fan, but an Oscar nom for that role is kind of a joke.

My Pick: Anne Hathaway. Plus, I’m a little biased because I know the back story and actually met her. Whatever. She deserves it.

Best Supporting Actor: They’ve ALL WON BEFORE!
Nominees:

Alan Arkin for Argo (2012)

Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master (2012)

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln (2012)

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained (2012)

Alan Arkin does what he always does but his schtick got him an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, so he’s not all bad. However, if anyone in that movie should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, it should have been Bryan Cranston or John Goodman. I doubt the voters will give him an Oscar for doing the same work he’s always done.

Robert DeNiro steps out of his normal tough guy persona and plays a dad who just wants to help his son get back on his feet and delivers one of the best monologues I’ve ever heard. He truly had a “Give my my Oscar” moment. And I hope for his sake, it pays off.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorite actors. We studied at the same school with the same coaches. I love his work. But much like Amy Adams, I don’t really think he’ll win. Not because his acting was terrible, but because I honestly forgot he was nominated.

Tommy Lee Jones…you’ll probably win. If not you, then it’ll be Christoph Waltz.

Again, I’m pulling for Robert De Niro. I really want to see him win.

Now for the toughest categories (in my opinion.)

Best Actress:
Nominees:

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Emmanuelle Riva for Amour (2012)

Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Naomi Watts for The Impossible (2012)

First off, you have the oldest nominee ever (Emmanuelle Riva) and the youngest nominee ever (Quvenzhane Wallis) in the same category…in the same year… Then, you have nominees who won the Golden Globes in each of the lead actress (Drama & Comedy) categories: Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. Although it seems like the battle of Jess & Jen, I wouldn’t discount Naomi Watts. She was nominated in 2004 for 21 Grams which is an amazing film. If you haven’t seen it, put it in your Netflix queue. Now. Part of me feels like The Impossible should be subtitled The Impossible: Desperately Seeking Oscar. I felt like the whole film was Naomi Watts screaming for an Oscar. I have to say, this category is anyone’s game.

I voted for Jennifer Lawrence in the SAG awards. I think she might just take home that Oscar.

Best Actor:
Nominees:

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012)

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables (2012)

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master (2012)

Denzel Washington for Flight (2012/I)

Come on, even the nominees know they’re going to lose to Daniel Day-Lewis. But if anyone can beat him, it might be Hugh Jackman or Joaquin Phoenix. But seriously…do I even have to predict it?

Daniel Day -Lewis for the win.

And now for the most snubbed category: Best Director:
Nominees:

Michael Haneke for Amour (2012)

Ang Lee for Life of Pi (2012)

David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln (2012)

Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

I really hope whoever wins this decides to give it away to Ben Affleck. He got robbed. But if anyone were to win over him, I really want it to be David O. Russell. And as a side note, Spielberg…we know, you’re the best. Ben Affleck still deserved your spot.

Finally: Best Picture:
Nominees:

Amour (2012): Margaret Ménégoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz

Argo (2012): Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald

Django Unchained (2012): Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone

Les Misérables (2012): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi (2012): Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

Lincoln (2012): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon

Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

My money is on Argo. It’s an amazing film and if Ben Affleck can’t win an Oscar for directing this fantastic film, he better get one for producing it. Again, this category is filled with amazing films, but honestly…Argo for the win. Maybe Les Misérables if the voters are feeling particularly musical. Who knows?

HAPPY OSCAR WEEKEND!!!!