Tag Archive | Rolling Stone Magazine

Eight Favorite Acting Roles by Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous (with Patrick Fugit)

By now, everyone with an Internet connection knows that American Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died early this morning, February 2nd, 2014 of an apparent Heroin Overdose in his NYC apartment. He was just 46 years old. I am currently inconsolable over this tragic news. Hoffman was certainly among my favorite actors and I don’t think I ever saw film he was in where he didn’t blow me away with his ability to transform into his character. He was comparable to a male version of Meryl Streep when it came to his versatility. What a huge loss.

Here are a few of my favorite film roles Hoffman played over the years.

Almost Famous: Hoffman played the late Rock Critic Lester Bangs, who mentors a young William Miller (a character played by Patrick Fugit, and based on director Cameron Crowe) as he takes on a feature assignment for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Boogie Nights: Hoffman was totally believable as Scotty J., a shy, socially awkward, gay film assistant who has a hopeless crush on Porn Star Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg).

Magnolia: In Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble drama, Hoffman had the role of Phil Parma, a private nurse who attempts to bring about a reconciliation between his terminally ill patient (played by Jason Robards) and that patient’s misogynistic son (Tom Cruise).

Red Dragon: Hoffman was so good at playing slimeball Reporter Freddy Lounds, you almost hated to see him get brutally tortured and killed. Almost.

Capote: Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2005 for his flawless portrayal of the flamboyant author, Truman Capote.

Synecdoche, New York: Hoffman plays ailing theater director Caden Cotard, who sets out to stage a theatrical production of his life story that takes on a life of its own. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you are on LSD without actually taking any drugs, watch this movie.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: Hoffman plays Andy Hanson, one of two brothers (his costar is Ethan Hawke) who plan to execute a “perfect crime” that goes horribly, tragically wrong. The final film directed by Sidney Lumet; highly recommended.

The Master: Playing the part of a charismatic cult leader not-so-loosely-based on L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame, Hoffman earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role as Lancaster Dodd.

RIP and Godspeed.

Recommended Listening: The Sheepdogs

Sheepdogs Self Titled Album Cover

Back when I used to eek out a few bucks writing about music, one particularly hard ass editor accused me of being “not a real Rock Critic.” This was likely due to my unwillingness to indulge in the widespread practice of pondering the sociopolitical leanings of a band in the context of a record review rather than just basing my critique on how the music sounded to me. I never really got that approach. I’m not interested in reading paragraphs of turgid, impenetrable prose and rock-crit wankery. Just tell me how the music sounds so I know if I want to buy the record.

Along those lines, The Sheepdogs are a band that’s easy for me to write about, because their music sounds amazing. This Canadian Classic Rock quartet (who in 2011 won a contest making them the first unsigned act ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine) have three independent albums under their belts and an EP released on Atlantic last year, but this record is their major label debut (produced by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys), and it’s beyond impressive.

“Laid Back” and “Feeling Good,” the first two tracks on the disc set the tone for the entire album: This is an exceptionally great feeling album of groove heavy tunes performed by a band that embraces an extremely lyrical approach to their playing. Lead singer Ewan Currie (whose voice has been compared to The Guess Who’s Burton Cummings) delivers the kind of quietly confident, effortlessly powerful vocal performance that is the mark of true natural talent. Guitarist Leot Hansen is doing wildly innovative stuff on the guitar while paying homage to tone masters such as George Harrison (“Never Gonna Get My Love”), Duane Allman (“Javelina!”) and of course Jimmy Page (“Sharp Sounds”). He’s amazing. Drummer Sam Corbett varies his drum feels to serve the song and his rhythm section partner, bassist Ryan Gullen holds down the bottom end while layering in adhesive hooks. This means that The Sheepdogs are just as vibrant and tight live as they are on disc, and you can’t say that about many acts these days.

What’s most impressive about The Sheepdogs is the band’s ability to integrate their influences so seamlessly that the songs are instantly familiar without sounding derivative. “Is Your Dream Worth Dying For?” feels pleasantly infused with tiny reminiscences of Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light”, “While We’re Young” comes off like a revamped version of “Shapes of Things” and “In My Mind” captures the same kind of transcendent, euphoric quality as a song like Cream’s “Badge” without sounding anything like that song. As an aside, at least half these tracks indicate that The Sheepdogs should have a ready-made fan base in anyone who ever cited The Grateful Dead as a favorite band.

In their review of The Sheepdogs, Rolling Stone wrote, “Listening to the Sheepdogs is like having good luck finding classic rock stations on a long road trip.” I agree with that sentiment, but to me it feels fresher than that: as if it were possible travel back in time and actually hear new songs from a ‘70s band. It’s a refreshing reminder that the most vital benchmark of what constitutes good music is (or should be) that the music just sounds good.

Grade: A

Happy 68th Birthday, Jimmy Page!

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on the Cover of Rolling Stone Magazine

Led Zeppelin Guitarist Jimmy Page turns 68 years old today, having been born on Janaury 9, 1944. Happy Birthday, Jimmy! You still rock harder than all the rest!

All Right Now: Remembering Paul Kossoff

“Fire and Water Must Have Made You Their Daughter…”

On this Date in 1976: Free guitarist Paul Kossoff died of drug-related heart problems on a flight from Los Angeles to New York. He was just 25 years old. Kossoff was ranked 51st in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” What a shame to lose someone so talented at such a young age.

Like a Complete Unknown: What it Means to Write for Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone Intern

Back in March of last year, my friend and fellow rock journalist, Nicole, phoned me up to read me an ad she’d just seen somewhere on line. “You’ll never believe this,” she says to me – which is what she always says when she’s about to hip me to something that’s totally ridiculous. “Rolling Stone is looking for writers just out of college to intern at the magazine for some stupid REALITY TV SHOW!

The irony is, I didn’t have any problem believing it at all.

At one point in my career, when I was kicking the ass of the rock journalism world and editors were calling me at a fairly steady clip, I spent about three years writing CD reviews for Rolling Stone online. It stung a little bit that I was never able to penetrate the print publication, but once a couple of my friends started working at RS, I got over it. One woman, an intern who eventually cracked enough breaking news stories to secure a staff writer position, left after three years of banging her head against a glass ceiling. The other, hired as an associate editor, went out of his way to champion bands that actually wrote songs and knew how to play their instruments. He was fired after a couple of years when he refused to stop writing about good bands and just cover hip-hop “artists” and faceless, flavor-of-the-week wankers. I don’t know why I was surprised, considering the fact that I was once asked to remove the word “flanged” from a CD review because the editor did not know what the word meant. Another review of mine – a 50 word-count blurb on the latest Bettie Serveert CD – never ran because another editor felt I did not make enough references in my review to the band’s seven previous releases. In a fifty word review. Right.

And let’s not forget that Rolling Stone once fired the greatest living rock critic Jim DeRogatis, because he wrote a negative review of a Hootie and The Blowfish album. I wish I were making that up.
The Future of Music Journalism?

Here’s a brief encapsulation of what we’re likely in for on I’m From Rolling Stone, (Sundays at 10 PM on MTV) from Heather Havrilesky’s “I Like To Watch” column on Salon.com.

“Of course, how interesting would this show be if there were competent professionals involved? The first two episodes of I’m From Rolling Stone suggest that, just as spitty outbursts and drunken street fights are the main event on The Real World, any amusement we can find here is going to come from witnessing the flailings of young people about to bungle their first big job in a wide variety of ways. Russell, the only experienced reporter, is a smooth, intelligent interviewer and a solid writer, but he has a criminal history and it’s pretty obvious that they chose him because he appears to have a habit of slacking or quitting when the going gets tough. Krystal, a poet, not only seems likely to produce overwritten prose, but also romanticizes Rolling Stone to an extent that’s bound to make reality disappointing. Tika seems foolishly overconfident, Krishtine comes off as lazy and disrespectful, Peter seems to be a drunk, and Colin appears to have a pea-size brain and the poise of a nervous squirrel. In short, I’m From Rolling Stone is an exercise in sadism that’s so mean-spirited and condescending, it could only have been dreamed up by someone who works in the wild and wonderful world of magazines.”

Oh, awesome. Like we need another reason for people to not take journalists seriously. Honestly, this line of work is challenging enough with pathological douche bags like Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair fabricating news stories, getting fired from their respective publications and then getting book deals to reward them for their lack of character!

We don’t need Rolling Stone – a magazine I once worshipped and lionized to the point where writing for them was for many years my ultimate career goal – imbuing the TV viewing public with the indelible impression that we’re all a bunch of binge-drinking, air headed, unprofessional clowns. Jesus, way to shoot yourselves in the foot Rolling Stone!

My Top Ten List of 2003 for Rolling Stone

RollingStone.com: News: Our Critics Top Albums of 2003

Click on this link to read my list of the Top Ten Albums of 2003, complete with smart ass comments! (scroll down for my list because it’s in alphabetical order, of course).

Happy New year!!
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