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February 04, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-02-04

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5 - Tuesday, February 4, 2014T iga

The Michigan Daily - michiganclaily.com

Folk Fest cautivates AA

Hoffman in his Academy Award-winning role, "Capote."

H offma s

Remembering one
of the greatest
actors of all time
ManagingArts Editor
In "Boogie Nights," Scotty J.
hesitates. It never really mat-
ters what he's doing, because
in the brief moments before he
does it, he pauses. Then shakes
his head. Then ruminates.
Then, after wading through
a quicksand of insecurity, he
pauses again. When he finally
opens his mouth, the jumble of
stuttered speech tumbling out
stinks of the timid self-doubt
Philip Seymour Hoffman, who
passed away Sunday, is trying to
pin on us.
We see the wheels turn-
ing in every scene. Over and
over again, Scotty fumbles in
his arguments. Over and over,
Hoffman paints an ugly portrait
of uncertainty inches from our
eyes, enunciating the slightest
brushstrokes, making sure we
all have some sort of answer to
that intriguing question of what
makes Scotty J. tick.
The technique builds in
weight until Scotty's memora-
ble confrontation with his love
interest, and our protagonist,
Dirk Diggler.
And suddenly, it all topples.
The bricks clutter down and
reveal why one of the biggest
reasons this scene sticks out is
we don't see the wheels turning.
There's cruelty in having the
Band-Aid ripped off so quickly,
in watching Scotty gamble on
his emotions for the first time
- only for it all to go so wrong,
so abruptly. For once, we see the
aftermath, and in that littered
aftermath, we glimpse Hoff-
man's genius.
Small traces of that remark-
able performance are visible in
every brilliant, indelible role he
took after. Despite the variety
of characters he portrayed in
his twenty-plus years on screen
and on stage, Hoffman gravi-
tated toward a common thread
of vulnerability. Project after
project, he became the mae-
stro, far-removed from center
stage, puppeteering the band of
unhinged misfits living in the
darker recesses of our imagina-
From pedophilic Jacob Eln-
sky in "25th Hour" to wealth-
obsessed Andy Hanson in
"Before the Devil Knows You're
Dead," Hoffman lived for that
one make-or-break scene in
which he'd lay it all on the table,
daring his audience to show
sympathy. And when we inevi-
tably did, like all great actors,
he'd have us reeling, sifting
through our own notions of
He .thrived in the grayness
between right and wrong.
Unlike so many others of our
generation, Hoffman had the
unique ability to expose weak-
ness without coming off as a
panderer. He did it through
honesty. If you look - really
look - at Hoffman's face when

he's acting, you'll be struck by
how little he gives away. In
"Capote," regrettably his only
Academy Award-winning per-
formance, listen for the pal-
pable gulps he pauses to take
after delivering his lines in that
high, rattling rasp - little cues
gently sheathing the decisions
he's making on camera. More
so than any other actor I've
ever seen, Hoffman, through
those seemingly insignificant
tics, forces his audience to
hold out for the intense release
in emotion that accompanies
a deep, raging tantrum or an
extended, impactful inhalation
of air. Even his irrelevant eye-
rolls and half-mocking smiles
in "The Talented Mr. Ripley"
do more to convey a suspicious
sense of unavoidable doom than
anything else in the script.
I don't remember the first
Hoffman movie I saw, not
because of his inconspicuous
appearance or because he was
playing some throwaway bit-
part, but because the depth of
each and every one of his por-
trayals defines my most basic
understanding of performance.
It has to. He started acting two
years before I was born. I grew
up watching him. I saw him
steal scenes in many of the most
meaningful movies of my life -
movies that piqued my interest
in film and will forever char-
acterize my appreciation of it.
He wasn't just one of the most
accomplished actors Hollywood
has ever seen. He was among
the first great actors my genera-
tion had ever seen.
And without so much of
the love or appreciation he
deserved, he died alone, in a
Greenwich Village apartment
after a heroin overdose. He was
46 years old. The expected out-
pouring of support from fans

and peers alike is there, but
the fact of the matter remains:
We've lost a legend, our legend.
In a 2008 interview with
The New York Times, Hoffman
recounted a story from his first
few years as an actor.
"In my mid-20s, an actor told
me, 'Acting ain't no puzzle,' "
Hoffman said. "I thought: 'Ain't
no puzzle?!?' You must be bad!"
He laughed. "You must be really
bad, because it is a puzzle. Cre-
ating anything is hard. It's a cli-
ch6 thing to say, but every time
you start a job, you just don't
know anything. I mean, I can
break something down, but ulti-
mately I don't know anything
when I start work on a new
movie. You start stabbing out,
and you make a mistake, and
it's not right, and then you try
again and again. The key is you
have to commit. And that's hard
because you have to find what it
is you are committing to."
One beautiful thing I've
noticed about cinema is how
often that commitment compels
bravery - bravery in being so
inexplicably tied to a craft that
you're willing to stake your life
on it. Bravery in facing the tor-
ture of striving for greatness.
And ultimately, bravery in let-
ting go.
Like any number of the
greats, Hoffman will live on
in his work, as he should. Like
many others, I'll remember him
in the lilting charisma of Tru-
man Capote, that melancholy,
high-pitched self-assuredness.
And years down the line, I hope
he'll still be there, peeking at
me through those horn-rimmed
spectacles, martini and ciga-
rette in hand. And in that brief,
magical moment, I'll be grate-
ful - grateful for the laughs
we shared through an invisible

Daily Arts Writer
The festival had every type of
folk a good folk festival should
have. It had bluesy folk and
romantic folk, country folk and
funny folk, big-smiled energetic
folk and mellow folk. Men and
women folk. And, of course, the
3,500-some folks of all kinds in
the audience.
Friday and Saturday were
nights full of gorgeous harmo-
nies, bizarre stage get-ups, multi-
instrumentalists and remarks
from musicians like "what a nice
place, this folk festival." The sold-
out Ann Arbor Folk Festival, total-
ing nine and a half hours, featured
fourteen incredible musicians,
more than a few Pete Seeger trib-
utes, and one generally pleasant
emcee, Seth Walker, who helped
cleanse the palette between sets.
The Ark, for its 37th year in a row, Folk rocks the Hill.
brought together a refreshing mix
of musicians: from the young and As Justin
obscure to the old and Grammy wrapped up and
award-winning. close to 10:15, the
Friday night's line-up focused grind of being a
on the obscure and the edgy, the festival is tru
starting with a local band, Apple- ance, where on
seed Collective. Between a fierce devoted and p
mandolin solo and Katie Lee's But, that's part o1
seriously mystifying stage cha-
risma and vocals, the band prop-
erly introduced the audience to
the folk festival mentality with a So fo
high-energy performance.
The night also included Thao pheno]
& The Get Down Stay Down,
a dissonant, spunky, electric
indie-pop group infused with
blues, folk and rock. Pearl and
the Beard, a folk-pop trio with Iron & Wine's
passionate synergy, was also fea- onstage with a
tured - their music consists of a quickly declared
brilliant roaring cello played by Arbor and his "b
Emily Hope Price, and a fantastic erman's," which
beard (bearded guitarist, Jeremy in a way onlyBea
Styles, walked on stage and the pen. While the as
man behind me exclaimed, "Oh ... been searching f
I get it!"). typical acoustic:
Willie Nil cme on stage 2010 appearanc
looking like Lou k. ed from his Beam could ser
Transformer day. dutifully and anythinginhis c
unexpectedly play. g an aston- pering voice, and
ishing cover of "Sweet Jane" mals, they'd dev
dedicated to Lou. Nile revived sounded fullerv
the crowd, bringing a serious and retained their b
genuine energy to an audience cism.
that was quickly deflating. As the audien
Neko Case brought her sweet Hillon Friday nil
and thin vocals (and skeleton tion spoke volum
pants and wild red hair), enchant- faction, because
ing the crowd with backup singer Hill Auditorium
Kelly Hogan and a mix of hit more.
songs and lesser known ones. Jus- The crowd ot
tin Townes Earle, the tall, lanky, was radiating. 1
country-influenced musician who Griffin, IngridI
had spastic moments of excite- Jeff Daniels p
ment, followed after, playingeasy- larly entertainin
going acoustic music - a sharp Crane Wives, Big
contrast to Neko Case. Rite Boys, PigPe
Even Hogan remarked on her pany, and John
"theater crush" on Hill Audito- audience's hearts
rium, adding, "we'll play a make PigPen Thea
out song dedicated to the the- band made up of
ater." That was a common theme who met at Carn
among musicians. S as Neko versity, came on
Case played, Thao Nguyen, from ticular energy t
Thao &The Get Down Stay Down, students can coi
watched dreamily from backstage all sang, they sou
while musicians lined the wall. choir, and when t
For as big as Hill Auditorium real- witty banter1
ly is, for the night, it felt that much laughs erupted ft
smaller. Similarly,


Townes Earle charmed Hill Auditorium. making
d the clock came everyone wish they were part of a
audience felt the musically talented. happily mar-
passionate folkie; ried folk duo. With their seamless
ly a test of endur- vocals and touching lyrics ("the
.y the extremely carpet still holds the shape of your
assionate thrive. feet / from the last tineIsawyou
f the fun. when you walked away from me"),
the crowd unabashedly offered a
standing ovation.
Keeping the audience excited,
1kin' Jeff Daniels put a goll trophy
on the chair next to him and
mnenal. launched into "I Got an Eonny,"
immediately making the room
laugh wholeheartedly. Eventu-
ally, Daniels also made the whole
room sing, "How 'bout we take
Sam Beam came our pants off?" over and over
full band and Not too long after, Ingrid
his love for Ann Michaelson led the 3,500-strong
elly full of Zing- crowd in "We Shall Overcome"
sounded poetic to honor Pete Seeger - a feat that
m can make hap- brought chills (and tears) to some
udience mayhave in the audience. Michaelson had
'or Iron & Wine's prefaced the tribute with "fe OK,"
sound from their "The Way I Am," self-deprecating
e at the festival, humor and memories of previous
ve the audience Ann Arbor shows, prcing herself
risp, gentle, whis- a crowd favorite.
I like hungry ani- Finishing the festival, Griffin
our it. His songs kept the balance of weirdness and
with a band and expected traditional songs, liyp-
eauty and poeti- notizing the crowd with her small
frame, huge guitar, and incredible
ce poured out of liveliness. But it wasn't only her
ght, their exhaus- hour-long set that reminded the
tes of their satis- crowd of the uniqueness of the
the next night, Ann Arbor Folk Festival -- for her
was full once encore, she came on stage with the
other musicians from the night
n Saturday night (and some from Friday, as well) to
Headliners Patty sing "on Top of Old Smokey" with
Michaelson and the audience.
layed spectacu- Only in Ann Arbor would 3,500
g sets, while The folks feel so passionately about
Sandy & His Fly- music that they spend close to ten
mn Theatre Coi- hours in Hill Auditorium over the
nyswim stole the course of 48 hours. Only in Ann
S. Arbor would musicians walk on
tre Company, a stage and immediately remark on
seven young men the greatness of the city (and on
egie Mellon Uni- Zingerman's). And, only in Ann
stage with a par- Arbor would an event like the Folk
hat only theatre Festival happen, where more than
nvey. When they 3,500voicessingbothspiritualand
anded like a small silly songs without shame, where
they interspersed people trudge through snow and
between songs, sleet to arrive, and where a whole
om the audience. auditorium lingers on the sound of
Johnnyswim a sole guitar.

E-mail arts@
com to request an
MIRAMAX a tication today!
Hoffman's legacy resides in the powerful characters he has portrayed.





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