An actor’s death by heroin

On Monday, a complete stranger came up to me and said, “Hey, you know who you look like?”

“No,” I said.

“That actor who just died.  What was his name?”

“Philip Seymour Hoffman.”

It never occurred to me that we looked like each other, but maybe we did.  I have been lamenting his death–not because now he can’t play me in the movie of my life, but because I have long been so impressed with his work and it’s such a waste that he died because of his taste for heroin. [Read more...]

The real Osage County

I grew up in northern Oklahoma, so I’ve been noting with bemusement how Osage County all of a sudden has a presence in popular culture.  First there was Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman, whose show on the Food Network has introduced foodies to the cuisine I grew up with and whose blog about her life on the vast Drummond Ranch has introduced a wide audience to Oklahoma culture.  Then native Oklahoman Tracy Letts won a Pulitzer Prize for his play August:  Osage County, which was then turned into a movie featuring a whole army of A-list actors, such as Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, and (of course, since he’s seemingly been in every other movie this year) Benedict Cumberbatch. The film was shot on location, so all of these Hollywood superstars lived for two months in a condo complex in Bartlesville and shot the movie in a house in Boulanger, with scenes in Pawhuska and Barnsdall.  So I had to see this movie. [Read more...]

Ronald Reagan as actor

Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan.  In the articles commemorating the day, it is evident that even liberal scholars have come to appreciate the man and his presidency.

The Washington Post published a feature on “Five Myths about Ronald Reagan” by his biographer Edmund Morris.  I got a kick out of this one:

1. He was a bad actor.

Well, yes and no. Most of the movies he made as a Warner Bros. contract player are unwatchable by persons of sound mind. When he was president, it was easy to laugh at them. The spectacle of the leader of the free world, a.k.a. Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft, deploying an enormous ray gun against an airborne armada was especially hilarious in 1983, the year he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, that vaporizer of foreign nuclear missiles. “All right, Hayden – focus that inertia projector on ‘em and let ‘em have it!”

Even when Reagan believed he was acting well, as in “Kings Row,” he betrayed infallible signs of thespian mediocrity: an unwillingness to listen to other performers and an inability to communicate thoughts. Now that he is dead, however, one feels an odd tenderness for the effort he put into every role – particularly in early movies, when he struggled to control a tendency of his lips to writhe around his too-rapid speech.

Ironically, he was transformed into a superb actor when he took on the roles of governor of California, presidential candidate and president of the United States. Then, as never in his movies, he became authoritative, authentic, irresistible to eye and ear. His two greatest performances, in my opinion, were at the Republican National Convention in 1976, when he effortlessly stole Gerald Ford’s thunder as nominee and made the delegates regret their choice, and at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1985, when he delivered the supreme speech of his presidency.

I asked him once if he had any nostalgia for the years he was nuzzling up to Ann Sheridan and Doris Day on camera. He gestured around the Oval Office. “Why should I? I have the biggest stage in the world, right here!”

via Five myths about Ronald Reagan.

Post your Reagan tributes, critiques, and nuanced evaluations here.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X