I've written about this idea before. Our society is packed with cynicism. And nothing is more cynical than film critics. These are people who make their living by finding fault with other people's work. What's more though, an ethos has arisen around their work which suggests that a film critic must be jaded and cynical if they are doing their jobs correctly. This is because they need to project themselves as smarter than everyone else, as attuned to the nuances that normal people miss, and you can't do that if your tastes are seen as common. The problem is that most of them just aren't that deep. They don't get nuance. They have no greater understanding than anyone else. Even experience hasn't enlightened their path like you would expect. So they fake it: they favor films the public will hate and then claim to find deep meaning within them. This is the modern version of "The Emperor's New Clothes."
As a result of this, almost the entire profession worships the negative. They have no praise for comedy, the most difficult type of entertainment requiring the most skill and craft. They have no praise for joy. To the contrary, they dismiss joy as hokey or "sentimental"... as if that were a bad thing. They don't care for love either. What they praise is angst... pain... desperation... the twisted and the depressed. That, to them, is the only true measure of an actor: "Can they make me feel their suffering." It never occurs to them that suffering is easy, and what they mistake for drama is melodrama.
In any event, what a sick soul these people must have to worship at that alter. It reminds me of the people who think religion is about learning who to hate and then spend their timing looking for people to victimize.
Anyway, what triggered this was the following quote from Scott about the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman:
Up yours. First, of all, the ugly side of humanity is not beautiful, and if you think it is, then you're an idiot who doesn't understand either good or bad. There is simply no beauty to be found in a bully beating an over-matched victim to a pulp, in a skinhead terrorizing a Jewish or black family, in a child molester destroying a young life, in a thug killing a random victim, or a Soviet work camp for those the state fears. If there is beauty in these moments, it is in those who stand up to the bad and the ugly, it is never in the ugly itself. A-hole.“He had a rare ability to illuminate the varieties of human ugliness. No one ever did it so beautifully.”
Secondly, I find it amazing that of Hoffman's entire career, this is how Scott sees him. I first noticed Hoffman in Twister where he played a good guy with a cool hobby, and he always struck me after that as a rather good-natured fellow on screen, even when he was the villain. Sure, he had some creepy roles, but nothing that ever left me thinking, "Wow, I understand evil like I never have before." I don't think he specialized in ugly either. Some of his characters were good, some bad, but his bad was just as often done in action films (Mission Impossible III) where the villain is always a caricature or in comedies (The Big Lebowski) where his "ugly" was hilarious.
I think Scott's quote tells us nothing about Hoffman except that Scott wanted to give him his highest praise, and the fact that this is Scott's highest praise tells us volumes about Scott.