The 1990s were a pivotal decade in my life as a movie-lover. It was during this time that I became associated with directors like Joel and Ethan Coen, Paul Thomas Anderson and Spike Lee, but also the talented character actors that populated many of their films. These ranks included Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Peter Stormare, John C. Reilly and John Turturro, among others. Then there was Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Hoffman's early roles could've easily been background fodder, but he made them each indelible. Look at his performances in Hard Eight, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, 25th Hour, The Talented Mr. Ripley, State and Main and Happiness; each explored the inner workings of complex men crippled by guilt and weakness with an almost seamless ease. He went on to give great starring turns in films like Owning Mahoney, The Savages, The Master and Capote, for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor.
On Sunday, Feb. 2, Hoffman died in a New York City apartment of an apparent heroin overdose, sending a shockwave of sadness across the film landscape. It's not without some hint of irony that on a day when simplistic rowdiness and aggression is celebrated ad nauseam, we lost one of our finest actors capable of infinite emotional nuance.
In the coming weeks, more information will undoubtedly be revealed about the circumstances of Hoffman's death. We'll read remembrances, witness video tributes and see clips of his finest work. Maybe I'll revisit Almost Famous and marvel at his infectious characterization of rock critic Lester Bangs. As a young writer, I would have followed him anywhere. Still, I'm not sure any of these attempts at closure will dull the epic sadness I'm feeling for the loss of a truly titanic American film artist. He is gone far too soon.
Brightest Star: A listless young man (Veronica Mars’ Chris Lowell) realizes he hasn’t gotten over his college girlfriend, even though she’s already moved on. Then he meets a wisecracking coffeehouse singer who sets this whiney man-child straight. Screens through Feb. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Love is in the Air: The French know romance, and here we find a soon-to-be-married woman falling in love with a traveling playboy when they are seated next to each other on a flight to Paris. Screens through Feb. 13 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Attorney: This Korean film follows a slick and corrupt lawyer who’s hiding a damning professional secret and must defend a local teenager who’s falsely accused of a crime, beaten and tortured. Screens at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
The Lego Movie: That movie adaptation based on a classic toy set you knew was always coming but didn’t think would actually get made. Well, it did, and it’s here.
The Monuments Men: A museum art historian (George Clooney) recruits a platoon of unlikely soldiers to rescue art masterpieces from the Nazis. Co-stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman.
San Diego Jewish Film Festival: Featuring more than 60 feature films, this 11-day festival event beginning Feb. 6 will showcase the best in Jewish cinema from around the world. The opening-night film is Ari Folman’s surreal The Congress, a part-animated and part-live-action depiction of the hellish future of movies. Get details at sdcjc.org/sdjff.
One time only
Groundhog Day: Bill Murray repeats a fateful day in February to gain the attention of a woman. Bill Murray repeats a fateful day in February to gain the attention of a woman. Bill Murray repeats… Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Rising from the Ashes: An inspirational documentary that follows the development of the national cycling team of Rwanda and how this group reflects the progress made since the African nation was torn apart by genocide in 1994. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
How to Marry a Millionaire: Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall star in this classic romantic comedy about three women who set out to find eligible millionaires to marry, only to discover the meaning of true love. Screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, at Arclight La Jolla.
Dallas Buyers Club: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are both nominated for Oscars for their roles in this biopic about a Texas rodeo hand who establishes an illegal pharmaceutical drug trade in the 1980s to help people suffering from HIV. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7 and 8, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Casablanca: It doesn’t get much more romantic than Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman trying to escape the Nazis and their breaking hearts. Screens at 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, at Arclight La Jolla.
Magic Magic: When a naïve young tourist embarks on a road trip across Chile, her journey becomes a waking nightmare. Directed by Sebastián Silva (The Crystal Fairy). Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
When Harry Met Sally…: The ultimate romantic comedy about two friends who risk their platonic relationship when they let their physical urges overwhelm their common sense. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
An Affair to Remember: Cary Grant woos Deborah Kerr on an ocean liner and the two agree to meet in six months at the Empire State Building after they’ve cleaned up their love lives. Screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Arclight La Jolla.
At Middleton: Two strangers from very different backgrounds (Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga) meet on their children’s campus tour at a quiet East Coast college and develop a strong bond in a short time. Screens at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp.
Gloria: Paulina García plays a divorcée attempting to stay vital despite the rapid changes happening in her children’s lives. When Gloria meets an older man who’s still seriously connected with his ex-wife and family, she’s thrust into a potentially heart-breaking scenario.
Labor Day: An escaped convict (Josh Brolin) holes up with a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her 13-year-old boy during a long weekend in Jason Reitman’s romantic drama.
Oscar Nominated Shorts: See the films in the category no one ever guesses right: Live-action and animated short films nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. Opens on Friday, Jan. 31 at the Ken Cinema.
That Awkward Moment: When a friend is devastated by a recent breakup, three young men (Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan) vow to stay single for as long as possible. Of course, since this is a romantic comedy, things don’t go according to plan.
I, Frankenstein: Frankenstein’s monster (Aaron Eckhart) gets turned into an action hero caught up in a centuries-old war between different clans of immortals.
The Invisible Woman: Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) secretly courts a young actor (Felicity Jones), sending a shockwave of melodrama through the streets of Victorian England.
Devil’s Due: Newlyweds experience a lost night on their honeymoon thanks to good ol’ Lucifer, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy and a potential Antichrist scenario. Call in Father Merrin!
The Great Beauty: A disillusioned novelist traverses modern Rome looking for epiphany in Paolo Sorrentino’s gorgeous and surreal art film, which is a testament to physical surfaces and emotional depth.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: Tom Clancy’s favorite CIA analyst turned action hero gets his very own origin story, which involves a Russian plot to take down the U.S. economy. Chris Pine assumes the role made famous by Harrison Ford and denigrated by Ben Affleck.
The Nut Job: No nuts, no glory. So goes the tagline for this animated film about an outcast park rodent who must survive the harsh realities of the city after being banished from the park. It was only a matter of time before the squirrel population was properly represented in Hollywood.
Ride Along: Has Kevin Hart fatigue set in yet? The pervasive comedian stars in this action comedy with Ice Cube playing an angry cop and his future brother-in-law out to test his masculinity.
August: Osage County: A dysfunctional Texas family reunites when its troubled patriarch (Sam Shepard) goes missing, uncovering a barrage of dark secrets and regrets. It’s based on the play by Tracy Letts and stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper.
Her: A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his new operating system (voiced by Scarlet Johansson) in Spike Jonze’s tender and moving sci-fi romance.
The Legend of Hercules: Action director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2: Die Harder) brings the origin story of Hercules (Kellan Lutz) to the big screen in not-so-glorious post-conversion 3-D.
Lone Survivor: Four Navy SEALs are behind enemy lines in the mountains of Afghanistan, fighting an army of Taliban insurgents. It’s based on the failed Operation Red Wings of June 2005 and stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster.
The Past: An Iranian man (Tahar Rahim) returns to Paris to finalize his divorce from his French wife (Bérénice Bejo), only to uncover a series of hidden secrets. Master dramatist Asghar Farhadi once again focuses on the devastating ramifications of past trauma.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: A young man (Andrew Jacobs) begins experiencing strange phenomenon before realizing he’s been marked by an evil spirit. It’s the latest entry in the popular found-footage horror series.
47 Ronin: After their master is killed by a ruthless shogun, a band of samurai set out for revenge. Why they asked Keanu Reeves for help is still a mystery.
Grudge Match: Two aged boxers (Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro) are coaxed back into the ring in order to capitalize on their longtime rivalry. Call us crazy, but we don’t think this film will live up to Rocky or Raging Bull.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Ben Stiller revamps the 1947 Danny Kaye classic with a bigger budget and a bigger emphasis on the healing power of corporate products.
The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese’s sprawling comedic look at the rise and fall of Wall Street huckster Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who became an infamous figure in New York City in the 1990s.
American Hustle: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in David O’Russell’s retelling of the infamous Abscam sting established by the FBI in order to capture corrupt politicians and gangsters in the late 1970s.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Infamous San Diego newscaster and lothario Ron Burgundy (Will Farrell) brings his motley crew of wacky colleagues to New York City in hopes of making it big on a national television channel.
Inside Llewyn Davis: Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest odyssey is set in 1961 Greenwich Village, where a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac) comes to grips with his failure as an artist and a human being.
Saving Mr. Banks: Marry Poppins scribe P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) travels to Los Angeles to discuss a potential film adaptation by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in this whimsical biopic about two artists struggling to compromise.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Bilbo (Martin Freeman), please meet Smaug, fire-breathing dragon and protector of all things gold. Have a nice three hours together.
Nebraska: Aged retiree Woody (Bruce Dern) is determined to collect his winnings after receiving a phony sweepstakes letter, eventually dragging his reluctant son (Will Forte) on a road trip that’ll change both of their lives. Alexander Payne’s latest is a melancholic ode to family and the Midwest.
Philomena: Comedian Steve Coogan takes on a more serious role as a cynical journalist who ends up helping an elderly woman (Judi Dench) search for her long lost son. Oscar nominations are a certainty.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself once again fighting to survive the titular death match that has become a necessary evil in the dystopic future.
Dallas Buyers Club: In 1985, a drunken rodeo clown Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughy) learns he has HIV. Seeing an opportunity to stave off his own death and make some money, he begins smuggling unapproved drugs in from Mexico.
Thor: The Dark World: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) once again brings the hammer down on Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in order to save the human race and sustain the fragile balance of his own kingdom.
12 Years a Slave: Abducted and forced to work on a Southern plantation, free man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejifor) experiences the horrors of slavery in Steve McQueen’s stirring period-piece drama.
Hubble: Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this journey into space allows the viewer to experience what it’s like aboard the famous telescope while also giving a history of its legacy. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Coral Reef Adventure: Local filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall directed this lush documentary that takes viewers to the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, from Tahiti to Rangirora atoll. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Rolling Stones: The iconic band performs live during their “Steel Wheels / Urban Jungle” tour in glorious IMAX. Some musical satisfaction is guaranteed. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Mysteries of the Unseen World: This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Cosmic Collisions: So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.