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The Lucky 13: The Best Roles of Philip Seymour Hoffman

February 2, 2014

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It breaks my heart to learn of the sudden death of one of the best American actors of our generation. Philip Seymour Hoffman had a plethora film career, the roles he played ranged from the bizarre to the heartfelt & empathetic. He could play the sad sack piece of shit character in one film, or a vicious baddie in another. His range was spastic, and at times surprising, but more importantly, his roles were always memorable. Today, I look back at the roles of Hoffman, the ones that were truly memorable and great.

Lets begin…

13. Chuck Bronski, “My Boyfriend’s Back” – By all means this is a bad flick, I’m just putting that out there. But, damnit, this cheap, low-grade B movie featured a young Hoffman as the high school bully. Whose limits to bullying go as far as axing the recently zombified Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery)! However, be that as it may, this cliche bully is a bit of a dunce, and manages to not only miss Dingle, but axe the back of his own head. At that moment, it’s a feast of brains for Johnny.

12. Max Jerry Horovitz, “Mary & Max” – Hoffman lends his incredible voice in this animated indie cult classic, about two pen pals who’re live worlds apart (NY & Australia). Max is a character that many people can empathize with. He’s a lazy schlub, that doesn’t know what his purpose in life can be. It takes the young, meek, Mary (Toni Collette) to reach out to him, and help him change his perspective. Mary is also a flawed person, and the fact that two flawed individuals can help each other, simply through words on a piece of paper is truly inspiring.

Available on Netflix Instant

11. Owen Davian, “Mission: Impossible III” – This was certainly a role I never expected Hoffman to pull off as well as it did. In this third outing of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) meets his match with the ruthless Owen Davian goes straight for the jugular, first killing Ethan’s protege (Keri Russell), then subsequently kidnaps his wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), and holds her at gunpoint for Ethan to see, helplessly. This was a hard role, I never imagined there could be that much intimidation in a performance by Hoffman, but my god, there are some damn good scenes with his villainous Davian. He doesn’t play it too cartoony, or villain of the week, but manages to find that common ground. Meanwhile, the rest of the movies overall plot is one big eye roll, still it had Hoffman and that made it watchable in my opinion.

10. The Count, “Pirate Radio” – Richard Curtis’ period comedy about an illegal radio station set out to the seas of England, playing non-stop rock ‘n’ roll. Hoffman plays the masterful disc jockey known simply as The Count. Its a role of his I smile at because he’s someone I could chill with for hours on end, talk nothing but rock. Being a love of all things rock, this was a character I could identify with. It’s a shame barely anyone talks about this film, I think it’s heavily underrated.

9. Lester Bangs, “Almost Famous” – Lester is the voice of reason for Cameron Crowe’s William Miller (Patrick Fugit), William is naturally based on Crowe himself, a young, hungry rock journalist, whose dream is to write for Rolling Stone magazine. Lester gives it to William as it is, no bullshit, if you wanna make it in this world, sometimes you have to play dirty, even if you don’t want to. My favorite line from Lester, that truly says it all, is, ‘You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong. They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool.’

8. Sandy Lyle, “Along Came Polly” – This movie is one of my guilty pleasures, honestly I watch it for the to best scene stealing supporting characters; Alec Baldwin’s Stan Indursky (Ben Stiller’s characters boss), and Hoffman’s Sandy Lyle, the best friend character to Stiller. Sandy is an out of work actor, whose heyday came from being known as one of those classic 80s brat-pack/John Hughes actors. Hoffman plays it so fucking well, and so funny! It’s probably my #1 favorite comedic performance by him, the scene where hogs the light during a shitty production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” always has me in tears. But, the BEST scene has to be when Sandy covers for Reuben at his place of work, now that’s comedy! Plus, his character reminds us why pizza grease can taste so fucking good.

7. Brandt, “The Big Lebowski” – Another scene stealer discussion, in the beloved cult Coen brothers classic, Hoffman plays Mr. Lebowski’s personal assistant Brandt. A man who simply follows orders and has a big smile on his face regarding the matter. He’s so empty headed at times, it’s a miracle wondering how he ever met this Big Lebowski fellow. That infectious laugh when he’s giving the Dude a tour of Mr. Lebowski’s home is probably every fans favorite moment of his, not to mention that witty line, ‘Hahahah, that marvelous.’

6. Scotty J., “Boogie Nights” – I fucking love the awkwardness of Scotty J. Here we have a movie set during the highlighted times of the pornographic industry, we get an inside look of what it takes to make these kinds of ‘films’, how the crew essentially works, and you always have that assumption that there’s one guy on set who’s there simply to be the weirdo of the group. Scotty J is the shy, overweight, fair haired gay member of Jack Horner’s (Burt Reynolds) motley film crew. Scotty mostly works as a boom operator, but his continuing pursuit of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) is extremely priceless.

5. Dean Trumbell, “Punch-Drunk Love” – This is one of my quint-essential favorite P.T. Anderson characters Hoffman has played. In the film, we follow psychologically troubled novelty supplier, Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), who’s life is being pushed to the bring of pure insanity. And mostly the people he’s come in contact with don’t really match up to his anger abilities. Then we meet Dean, the manager of a phone sex services, that’s played Barry like a flute. Dean, isn’t afraid of Barry, nor will he take his shit…that is until we get the tense final showdown between these dynamite foes. Everyone loves the ‘shut up scene’, but it’s that final confrontation between Barry & Dean that holds up for me.

Available on Netflix Instant

4. Phil Parma, “Magnolia” – Again, another P.T. Anderson role, it’s hard to compare and contrast these performances, because something about Hoffman & P.T.’s collaboration, Anderson manages to bring out this side of Hoffman where he can out-act everyone he’s paired with. In this film his reactions are the silver lining moments, from ordering porno magazines by phone, to Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise) threatening to drop-kick dogs. But the greatest moment in this film is when he listens to Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) final words, before giving him a final dose of morphine and sending him on his way to the pearly gates. Damn fine acting, and a damn fine performance.

3. Truman Capote, “Capote” – We knew we’d come to this, but there’s no denying that this Oscar winning performance of Hoffman’s deserves a big mention. There’s always that rare film you go out to see, the one where you know there’s an actor hidden in that role somewhere, but all you see is the defining character they’re playing. It’s harder for real-life based characters, but when you see this film, you don’t see Hoffman, you see famed/controversial writer Truman Capote. That right there is a testament to the craft of acting, and Hoffman’s ability as an actor.

2. Lancaster Dodd, “The Master” – In my personal opinion, this was the role that should have garnered Hoffman his second Oscar. Like I’ve said, before, when he and PTA team up, something kinetic ignites. This is a movie certainly not for everyone, story wise that is, but on a performances level this movie is rocking on all cylinders, not just Hoffman, but from Joaquin Phoenix & Amy Adams. There will always be that running meme saying that Philip Seymour Hoffman is ‘The Master’, well folks, he’s earned that title for a reason, this movie pretty much sealed the deal.

1. Allen, “Happiness” – But alas there has to be one, I feel that not only Allen is probably his career defining best, but it’s a role many I think are simply unaware of. The popularity status for Todd Solondz “Happiness” is minimal at best. It has a small cult following, but nothing I’d say as substantial as…“The Big Lebowski”. I wonder, why hasn’t this movie earned that recognition. We’re dealing with colorful, engaging, not mention fucked up individuals here. Allen is probably the essential form of what a low-life loser one can turn into. Allen, along with every other character in the film is a licentious human being, whose only seeking what every American is seeking, happiness, but the problem he faces is that he has a lack of a moral compass.

R.I.P. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN

1967-2014

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