Oscar Watch: Philip Seymour Hoffman

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It would take an actor of Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman’s mettle to square off against the Queen of acting, Meryl Streep. In Doubt, for which he’s nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, Hoffman’s affable, kind priest, Father Brendan Flynn, faces a dark demon in the form of Streep’s vicious, unrelenting nun, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, who suspects him of having inappropriate relations with the only African American child in the school.

While Streep’s character represents the old ways of the church, Flynn is forward-looking. In a scene where Streep and Sister James (Amy Adams) discuss the upcoming Christmas play and weigh whether or not to include secular songs, in this case, “Frosty the Snowman,” Flynn pleads with the clearly disapproving Beauvier. “That’d be jolly to include a secular song.”

“Secular,” says Beauvier skeptically, and watches as Flynn writes in a notebook. When she asks what he’s writing, he tells her it’s an idea for a sermon. Impossibly nosy, she inquires, “What is the idea?”

“Intolerance,” he says, his voice breaking ever so slightly. We think he’s having a laugh at her expense. But looking at Hoffman’s eyes, we know it. It’s an effortlessly comic, wry delivery, made masterful by an actor in command of his chops.

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