Exploiting the Archives: The Philip Seymour Hoffman Deep Dives
When I worked for The Dissolve, we had a column called Careerview, where we’d write about every film an actor or director made. It was an incredibly time and labor intensive endeavor and consequently it didn’t run very often. But I’ve never been one to shy away from either a challenge or an insane deluge of work so I was attracted to it.
From a cost/benefit perspective it makes no sense to write an article that requires this much time and labor and effort. Indeed, I was laid off about three months after this piece ran. I’m not sure that’s coincidental. I suspect the bosses would have preferred if I wrote 250 timely, potentially viral news pieces in the time and space it took me to write one very ambitious article.
My job was to help keep the lights on. I failed and I was fired. Everything about my time at The Dissolve is coated in a hard shell of rejection and failure and loneliness and aching sadness. I don’t think there will ever be any closure. Two and a half years later, I still haven't gotten over it. It still haunts me every day. It’s a psychic wound that stubbornly refuses to heal. Maybe writing about it here, even indirectly and succinctly, will be cathartic and help me finally start the healing process.
Ah, but enough of my cold grey sadness. Onto the cold grey sadness of PSH. For the Careerview I wrote for Philip Seymour Hoffman, for example, I probably watched something in the area of fifty movies. True, I could have written fifty articles about fifty films in that time but I pursued this Quixotic endeavor because I wanted to create something lasting, something enduring, something I could be proud of years later.
True, I was not able to track down Szuler, a 1994 Polish film Hoffman appeared in that, to my knowledge, is not available in any form, and I also missed 1993’s Joey Breaker because it’s similarly unavailable. But otherwise I saw everything. Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole? I saw that shit and wrote about it. Montana? I saw that shit. Patch Addams? Saw the fuck out of it.
It didn’t matter if Hoffman only appeared in a movie for a minute or two. If he was in a movie and it was available in any form, I was duty bound to write about it.
The Philip Seymour Hoffman Careerview was tough because of the enormous amount of work it entailed, but also because of the unrelentingly dark and pessimistic and sad nature of Hoffman’s work. He was in one brutal, tough, gutsy masterpiece after another. He was a fucking actor in the truest sense of the word, a man whose incredible body work helps elucidate the wonders and horrors of the human condition.
I came into the project with enormous respect for Hoffman as an actor and an artist. I finished it even more impressed. When you’re this immersed in someone’s career this way, you feel bonded to them in a way you do not with other actors. Anywho, you can read the article here.
I only got one article out of the often heavy and depressing 47 films I saw, but it’s a damn good article.
Actually, that’s not true. I got a second article out of it when Vulture asked me to write one of those lists where you rank someone’s films or songs or plays or haikus in order about Phillip Seymour Hoffman. So if you want to read a second, different list about the exact same thing, then this is your bag.
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