Marlon Brando

The Sad Truth about Philip Seymour Hoffman

Addiction wasn't incidental to his talent: It was its essence

It's tempting to say that Hoffman overcame his addiction in order to act. But it just isn't so: His addiction fueled his great feats of acting. 

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Graham Greene published his novel Brighton Rock in 1938 and over the years he categorized it as one of his “entertainments.” Nobody should fall for that coyness. The novel is dipped in cruelty, wrapped up in bogus debates over faith and guilt (the Roman kind), and it is about as entertaining as being trapped in a corner by a cobra and feeling you must stare it down to avoid the venomous strike. The novel was filmed in England in 1947, with a twenty-four-year-old Richard Attenborough giving one of the best performances of his life as the monstrous Pinkie Brown.

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The best starting point for understanding the bizarre controversy surrounding Anthony Weiner is this great 2001 Vanity Fair story about the culture of interns and exploitative sex on Capitol Hill: The women are heckled as they enter. “Tell us your name and where you are from,” says one of the men. As if on a game show the women comply, one by one. When Caroline says she is an intern, the largest of the group, a white-haired man with a big belly and big laugh, roars, “We’re afraid of interns.” He throws his knife at a lean man named Mike, at the other end of the table. Mike is unamused.

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Kazan on Directing Edited and with commentary by Robert Cornfield (Knopf, 368 pp., $32.50) If anyone wants to make the case for Elia Kazan as one of the outstanding twentieth-century Americans, there is a famous text to call in support. I refer to A Life, Kazan's autobiography, published in 1988 at 848 pages (it was cut to make it a reasonable length), and one of the most forceful and engrossing books ever written about a life in the arts or show business.

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Departure, Arrivals

Paul Newman Stranded: I've come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains (Zeitgeist Films) Let the Right One In (Magnet Releasing) Three kinds of performers appear in films: actors, stars, and star actors. Some very good actors lack the looks and personality to become stars. Some stars, iconic though they may be, have just enough talent to get by. Then there are the actors who have both talent and charisma.

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Two Prisoners

Monsieur N (Empire) The Woodsman (Newmarket)  When the stars fade, when the cosmos darkens, there will still be one spot of light on planet Earth. That light will be a film studio where they are shooting another picture about Napoleon. Napoleon's effect on the world's publishing industry is unnerving: the number of books about him is beyond fantasy. His effect on the film world is certainly not comparable; still it looms. This country made nine films about him before sound arrived; since then he has been played by Charles Boyer and Marlon Brando. Just two years ago Britain sent us The Emperor'

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The Rescuer

A Race Against Death: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust by David S. Wyman and Rafael Medoff (The New Press, 269 pp., $26.95) Twenty-five years ago, while researching Holocaust history for the Joint Distribution Committee in New York, and as I was preparing to immigrate to Israel, I came across a clipping from The New York Times from 1936.

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To Die For

Celebrity, spectacle and violence in the Hollywood drama of Robert Blake and Bonny Lee Bakley.

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Two for the Road and Accident—very chic, clever, skillful and with the very latest in color and time-and-memory techniques—give us the La Notte view of marriage. Boredom, desperation, resignation. Both Frederic Raphael, who wrote Two for the Road as an original screenplay for Stanely Donen, and Harold Pinter, who adapted the Nicholas Mosley novel Accident for Joseph Losey, get a laugh with the same gag: men so self-centered that they don't remember the existence of their own daughters—Caroline in one, Francesa in the other. Great minds travel in the same TV channel?

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