I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Mysterious, Secretive, Lonely, Haunted

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Talia Shire is one of those actors that rarely get the limelight, yet in the right part they’re absolutely essential to the functioning of the film they’re in. Take Rocky, in particular: while Stallone works fantastically well (these days, it’s easy to forget what he could bring to a film), without Shire, the film wouldn’t work nearly as well. On Friday, Sam wrote about her contribution, to Rocky as well as to the Godfather films, and it’s a great reminder of Shire and her roles.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #45: Ripley vs Ripley – who’s the most talented?

For our June episode, we’re sending the cultural baristas on a holiday in sunny Mongibello, Italy, where rich, pretty young ex-pats spend their time and money on the beach – though there are others who may be less harmless… Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel The Talented Mr Ripley was turned into two films: René Clément’s Plein Soleil (released as Purple Noon in the English-speaking world, in spite of a distinct absence of purple-hued noons), starring a young Alain Delon, and Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation, which took the title from Highsmith’s book, featuring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Ripley is a fascinating character, a sociopath reflecting the identities of those around him back at them, and it’s fascinating to compare these two very different interpretations of the character. Join Sam, Julie and Matt as they sail the treacherous waters of the mid-20th century Mediterranean and compare the talents of the various Messrs Ripley!

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Anyone you can be, I can be better: All About Eve and The Talented Mr Ripley

I must have seen All About Eve at least half a dozen times so far. Its writing retains the sharp wit it had when I first saw it, its performances still shine: Bette Davis is perfect as Margo Channing and delivers Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ lines with relish, but the rest of the ensemble, just as central to the success of the film, is also top-notch. As a piece of filmmaking, All About Eve may not be as audacious as its contemporary Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder’s 1950 caustic tale of an ageing actress, but its appeal has not diminished. I had the opportunity to see it again a few days ago – while cinemas are open again in these parts, you’re more likely to find them showing older films rather than new releases – and it remains a delight.

It has taken me these half a dozen viewings, however, to come to the realisation that All About Eve shares some striking similarities to Patricia Highsmith’s thriller The Talented Mr Ripley (and, to a lesser extent, the film versions made of Highsmith’s novel) and that the title characters of the two works can be seen as mirror images of each other.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

Well, fuck. I remember a few years ago, just around this time, hearing about Heath Ledger’s death and believing it to be some internet-era hoax at first. Yesterday was very similar: I quickly go to check Facebook and see a handful of posts that Philip Seymour Hoffman had been found dead in his apartment, and my first instinct is not to believe it. He can’t be dead. He’s too good. This is some sad internet joker’s idea of a good joke.

If it’s a joke, it’s definitely one of the worst I’ve heard in a long time – or the Great Big Casting Agency In The Sky decided to up its game considerably, because Hoffman was one of the strongest, most unique and least vain actors to come out of Hollywood. Here’s hoping he’s sitting next to Maximilian Schell right now, going through his lines with that half-amused, half-exasperated half-smile of his.

In Memoriam Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

Like so many people, I first noticed Hoffman on my radar when I saw Magnolia. He’d been in earlier films and had a poignant part in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights that was indicative of the work to come, but Anderson’s Magnolia put him in one of the leading parts, and rightly so. There was something seriously weird about the performance, but not in the quirky indie style that we’ve become accustomed to; there was no trace of that cutesy self-centredness in him. Magnolia: now there’s a film that was almost impossible to act and act well, for all involved. In the wrong hands, its lines would be overblown melodrama. Its too-decent-to-be-true character Phil Parma, among many others, would fall flat. Not so in Hoffman’s hands.

By the time The Talented Mr Ripley came around, it felt like Hoffman had always been there. Even though it was only shortly after Magnolia, I remember looking forward to the film because, damn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of my favourite actors! The part was smaller, but it’s one of the most memorable performances in a film packed with unusually strong performances. And again, that weirdness: Hoffman could turn on the most disturbing brand of camp that shouldn’t ever work, but he made it work – more than that, he made it essential to the character and so right it hurt.

It would be difficult not to go through the man’s filmography and pick scenes from practically every single movie he’d been in; personally I’m partial to his shlubby teacher in 25th Hour, an underrated film and a beautifully judged performance, and he was fantastic in Almost Famous or providing one of the main voices in Mary & Max, but also in uneven and mediocre films like Red Dragon or Mission: Impossible 3. Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York is a film that works better on paper than on the screen, but when it works it’s because Hoffman made its central character inject an almost unbearing humanity into a story that constantly risks being tripped up by the meta Chinese Boxes it leaves lying all over the place.

For me it started with Paul Thomas Anderson, so it’s only right it ends with him. I’m sure Hoffman’s performances after The Master were as watchable as everything he’d done, but his Lancaster Dodd is all the proof that’s needed that American cinema has lost one of its most unique, generous and powerful voices – and while we have many indelible performances to choose from, it’s difficult not to be greedy and wish we could have had many more.

Rest in peace, Philip Seymour Hoffman.