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My 10 favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances

Philip Seymour Hoffman was always one of my favorites. It always seemed to me that he didn't make bad movies, and I've always attributed that to a belief that Hoffman's talent elevated everyone around him.

Like a lot of appreciators of film, upon hearing Sunday's awful news, I took a stroll through Hoffman's IMDB page and relived some of his truly great performances in some of the best movies of the past 20 years. Both in range of role and film, he was an almost unparalleled talent.

But what are my favorite Hoffman roles? Here are my top 10.

 

10. The Master

Hoffman earned his most recent of four career Oscar nominations playing the leader of a religious movement/cult known as "The Cause". His scenes with Joaquin Phoenix are phenomenal.

 

9. Doubt

One of the best casts in recent film history (Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Viola Davis), Hoffman plays a priest questioned about his relationship with a young boy. Another Oscar-nominated performance, the final scene with Streep and Hoffman is a work of art with two all-time acting heavyweights going toe-to-toe.

 

8. Moneyball

It's a smaller role as he cedes most of the screen time to Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, but I appreciate Hoffman's turn as Oakland A's manager Art Howe and how he radiates disdain and disbelief for his front-office adversaries. A case study in subtlety.

 

7. The Big Lebowski

Anyone in anyway associated with the Coen Brothers cult classic is going to end up on almost any movie list I make. Hoffman plays Brandt, the manservant to the millionaire title character, in one of the most quoted movies of all-time. This is my favorite line from Hoffman's character: "He believes the culprits might be the very people who, uh, soiled your rug, and you are in a unique position to confirm or disconfirm that suspicion."


6. Magnolia

One of the more unusual films in Hoffman's filmography, he brought great compassion and sweetness to the role of Phil Pharma, caretaker to a dying man. He ensures the dying man's son (played by Tom Cruise is a very non-Tom Cruise role) gets to his bedside before the man's death.

 

5. Boogie Nights

Hoffman's breakthrough role was Scotty J., a boom mic operator in the porn industry struggling with his own sexuality. His most memorable scene: Attempting to kiss Marky Mark.

 

4. Capote

Hoffman's transformation into Truman Capote earned him the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actor. His Oscar acceptance speech showcased Hoffman's supreme sweetness and good heart.

 

3. Synecdoche, New York

Undoubtedly the strangest film in Hoffman's canon, the movie and his performance stick with you long after the final credits. Translating director/writer Charlie Kaufman's crazy-as-all-get-out vision onto the screen is a monumental achievement by Hoffman. It's one of the most underrated/underseen movies of the decade.

 

2. Owning Mahowny

I'm a sucker for gambling movies and this is maybe the most depressing gambling movie out there. Based on a true story, Hoffman's Dan Mahowny embezzles more than $10 million from his employers to feed his gambling addiction. As that compulsion implodes his life, Hoffman perfectly captures the sad, descent of a man's life.

 

1. Almost Famous

As rock journalist/mentor Lester Bangs, Hoffman steals every scene he's in. This gem of a line is my single favorite Hoffman movie quote: "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool."

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