Yesterday saw two impacts to our media world: one positive (maybe) and one decidedly negative. I will open with the impressions of Super Bowl XLVIII: the showdown between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. In my lifetime, I have been blessed to see many spectacular NFL championships: from the New England Patriots’ dramatic upset of the St. Louis Rams back in 2001 to the even more unpredictable Super Bowl XLII. Whether my team won or lost: those games were phenomenal. Last night… was not one of those games. The Seattle Seahawks scored five points fewer than the total number of Super Bowls while Denver quarterback, Peyton Manning, had an evening that had previously only existed in his worst nightmares. There isn’t much else to say about the actual Super Bowl game itself: a disappointing, one-sided blowout to end an exciting, up-and-down NFL year. But since when has the Super Bowl been about football?
111.5 million people tuned in to watch Super Bowl XLVIII. The NFL event has become the largest opportunity for television advertising in history and rest assured: companies brought their “A” game. Toyota, Doritos, Budweiser and even Stephen Colbert. Every big product was present last night, taking advantage of the air time while it is still profitable. It is no secret that the world of television advertising is dying. For many people, internet streaming has rendered commercials irrelevant. The media circus that is the Super Bowl represents the last night that television is still king. For that reason alone, it is interesting to watch. Television and the NFL: two American enterprises facing a world of challenge and change in the 21st century.
In terms of movie advertising, those claiming that Hollywood is bereft of originally get another example to add to their evidence. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: the Winter Soldier, and Transformers: Age of Extinction represented three movies that might very well be among the highest grossing for the year. The obscure Need for Speed adaptation also deserves mentioning as it demonstrates Hollywood’s continued inability to see video games as a source of serious revenue (seriously, we’re getting that before Bioshock or Halo?). Anyway, those are the Super Bowl highlights: enjoy or criticize at your leisure.
The other, much more important, event that occurred yesterday was a tragedy. Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, passed away at the young age of 46. The Oscar-winning actor was found dead in his New York home from apparent heroin overdose.
I’m always unsure of what to say when these incidents occur. There are many out there who will argue that this death is no more tragic than any other that occurred that day, and that the media glorifying one man misses the larger scope of everyone else who lost their lives. That is true: every death is a profound loss. In some ways, Philip Seymour Hoffman is no different than the countless other heroin addicts who have lost their lives to this unfortunate drug. In some ways. In others: the difference is night and day.
Obviously, I did not know Philip Seymour Hoffman personally, but that did not stop him from having an impact. He was a character actor. Not the most physically attractive human being, or someone from a well known family: this is a man who ran on talent. When Hoffman spoke, he did so in a calm and intelligent manner, reflecting someone who put a great deal of thought into what he did. From Capote to Moneyball, to most recently The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and A Most Wanted Man, there is no film that he simply “appeared in”. Philip Seymour Hoffman left presence and personality in every one of his movies.
If his life can be seen as a tragedy, it can also be viewed as a triumph. Hoffman’s drug problems began early on, before any of his films. He rose past them. Not only that: he became famous, a name to be known around the world. Philip Seymour Hoffman is an inspiration to what heights lives can reach, as well as a caution against the human struggle with past mistakes and substance abuse. Yes, in some ways he was just a man: one of many. What makes him worth remembering is what he did with those humble beginnings.