I really wish I didn’t have to write this. However, although 2014 is still young, we’ve already lost some important people in the world of visual entertainment. I was initially not going to devote a whole post to this topic after James Avery’s death, but when his passing was quickly followed by those of Justin and Philip, I felt it would be terribly avoidant of me to not say…..well, something, especially since two of these deaths were particularly sudden and tragic.
This is not going to be in any particular order. There is no structure to this. I’m not informed enough to offer a detailed analysis of the legacies of these individuals, or to provide an overview of their work as a whole. Like with my tribute to Roger Ebert last year, this post will just be my thoughts on each of these great men. My words on them won’t be terribly detailed, but they will at least be honest. I pray that each of them, in their own way, have found rest and peace. May God bless them and keep them forever.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)
The role that will always define Hoffman, for me, was his powerful turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master in 2013, for which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (and for which, in my opinion, should have won). I know he’s remembered by so many others from The Big Lebowski, and by others for Capote, but since that was the first time I really saw him in a lead role, that is the performance of his that will always be the most iconic for me. I had already started to get excited about seeing his earlier works and awaiting his next projects when I heard of his passing, and like the loss of any great talent, it’s heartbreaking that he will no longer be around to create more works of great art for us. Thank you for the inspiration, good sir.
Justin Carmical, aka JewWario (1971-2014)
Justin was one of the producers for That Guy With The Glasses that I never really followed on his own. My only exposure to his style and humor were in his crossovers with others on the site, along with his roles in the anniversary movies Kickassia, Suburban Knights, and To Boldly Flee. The ones that will always stick out the most to me, however, are his contributions to Suede’s series of reviews of the Pokemon movies (a series which, sadly, may now no longer be continued). Seeing someone much older than me who could still be so passionately enthusiastic about Pokemon was immensely uplifting for me, and actually inspired my current efforts to revisit my childhood obsession. Even if Suede and Linkara decide to discontinue the series, those few reviews will remain some of my favorite works on the site, and through those and many others, I know Justin will continue to live on in the hearts of our community. Thank you, Justin, for contributing to that world.
James Avery (1945-2013)
Out of the three deaths being lamented here, this one had the most personal meaning for me. There was a several year period during high school where NickatNite was, effectively, my entire weekend- I would spend hours each night, sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning, watching the channel’s reruns of old sitcoms; The Cosby Show, M.A.S.H., Three’s Company, Cheers, That 70’s Show, and, of course, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (along with many others). And Fresh Prince, along with M.A.S.H. and The Cosby Show, still ranks among my favorite TV shows of all time. Looking back, I realize that while I was initially drawn to the show for Jeffrey’s wry snarkiness and the raw energy that Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro brought to their roles, I was also slowly able to appreciate the more serious and adult (but still hilarious) emotional balance provided by Uncle Phil, who was perfect as both the stern disciplinarian antagonist in some episodes, and as the loving pillar of parental support in others. Uncle Phil- his rages, his affections, his flaws, and his jokes- were a significant presence in my life during those years, and like all my other favorite roles and characters, will always be a part of me. Thank you Mr. Avery. Thank you so, so much for all the laughs, and all the memories.
Thank you as well to those of you who read this. These wonderful people, as flawed and as beautiful as any of us, are gone. We can’t change that, however much we wish we could. However, we do have the power to make sure that they and their work will not die, that their contributions to our world live on in our hearts and in the hearts of others. So let’s keep spinning people. As we go on creating new art, let’s the time every so often to re-appreciate the old.
Until next time.