Columns / Discourse / February 24, 2009

Joan River’s lament

It’s not that I care about fashion. I don’t consider myself a great connoisseur of couture, I don’t even brush my hair, but sometimes you just have to play along.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (or is it Seymour Philip Hoffman, Mr. Arkin?) does not play along. This week Mr. Hoffman wore a fashionable black tuxedo, matching black shirt, vest, and tie to the 81st Annual Academy Awards. He was accompanied by what can only be described as a knit beanie in a corresponding shade. The 41-year-old actor appeared to be unshaven, unwashed, and (in my personal opinion) undeserving of the best supporting actor award for which he was nominated.

It isn’t just because I still have some sort of Heath Ledger phantom limb, the pangs of which hit me hardest during the awards season. Despite criticism to the contrary, my support for Ledger is due neither to the residual effects of his death or my fondness for the Joker, the embodiment of dear Heath’s swan song. Don’t get me wrong, I love Philip Seymour Hoffman. So what if he’s chubby? So what if his daughter’s name is Tallulah? He’s a stupendous actor by all accounts. But, at the risk of sounding like runway hag Joan Rivers, that little black hat was a big old faux pas.

With his five o’clock shadow and the comfortable affectation with which he settled his girth into his rich and luxurious seat in the Kodak Theatre, it was hard to watch Hoffman without embellishing the renowned character actor with certain traits that may or may not have been present on Sunday evening. I saw Hoffman swollen and grunting, lodged into no less than three seats, immobile but for his left hand, which traced again and again a track from his gaping oozing mouth to a large bowl of tiny squealing squirming rodent-like snacks.

Just imagine if he’d won! He’d have to Jabba the Hut up to the stage, all ooze and Doritos crumbs; I guess the damage to the carpeting just wasn’t worth it. And I mean, do I really want to give a gold-plated statuette to someone whose pallid and unwashed hand I wouldn’t even grasp with my own for the sake of pleasantry? Where would poor Oscar even end up? A pile of rancid socks perhaps, all gamy and covered in bacteria? Or in a few weeks time our dear gilded Adonis might find himself thrust into inescapable wickedness, Barbie’s boy toy when Ken’s not around only to be found out by the plastic hunk and beaten to scrap metal.

“Honey! Have you seen my Oscar?”

“No, dear. Why don’t you check Tallulah’s room?”

Oscar is a blue blood, unused to the slovenly ways of his all-too-mortal recipients. Just look at his homeland. The Kodak Theatre literally drips with crystals on Oscar night. Even if Hoffman’s hair was in disarray because he’s in the process of filming a new flick (I am not completely insensitive to the concept of loyalty to the craft) he could have found head wear that was a little less (please, forgive me Philip) homeless-chic.

There exists a degenerative disease of the social acceptability. It runs rampant amongst big name celebrities. Take Johnny Depp, for instance. A mild case of the sickness, but a good example. A pretty nice, normal guy during 21 Jump Street. A little quiet maybe, but no dodgy facial hair or pseudo-fedora (another hat).

But Johnny Depp has still not crossed the bridge to preposterousness and neither has Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sophia Loren presented at the Oscars and she looked like a Gorgon. That’s fine! Joaquin Phoenix’s recent bearded antics? Dandy! Go big or go home, I say, and the Academy seems to agree.

Sarah Colangelo

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