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Four essential Philip Seymour Hoffman performances

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I am very shocked and terribly saddened to hear about the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman on Feb. 2, 2014.

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Hoffman, a brilliant character actor, always brought "it" (whatever "it" was) to the table in every performance.

Whenever Hoffman played a supporting role, I usually remembered him doing something memorable, no matter how small or brief the scene.

For example, who could forget the scene as an assistant for a Rated X production company in "Boogie Nights" (1997) - wearing a white t-shirt three sizes too small - making slow-witted small talk and hitting on Mark Wahlberg's Dirk Diggler.

A year later, in "The Big Lebowski" (1998), Hoffman played Mr. Lebowski's wound-too-tight assistant and delivers one of most unique nervous laughs in recent memory.

Of course, he could carry a movie too and won the Best Actor Oscar in 2006 for "Capote" (2005).

At your leisure, I strongly recommend to go through www.imdb.com, peruse through his list of credits and pick up some movies to watch on a Friday or Saturday night.

You will find terrific Hoffman performances in "Boogie Nights", "Magnolia", "Charlie Wilson's War", "Jack Goes Boating", and "The Master", to name a few.

On July 23, 2012, I wrote an article - on Hoffman's 45th birthday - titled "Four memorable Philip Seymour Hoffman performances you should see right now".

Here is the content of that article. R.I.P. Mr. Hoffman.

"Four memorable Philip Seymour Hoffman performances you should see right now", July 23, 2012

Philip Seymour Hoffman celebrates his 45th birthday today, and this great American actor and Oscar winner certainly leaves an impression in seemingly every role he has played over the past 21 years. There are so many films to choose from, but these four Hoffman performances stand out to me as his most memorable.

“Scent of a Woman” (1992) 4.5 / 5 stars - Al Pacino rightfully won the Best Actor Oscar for his unforgettable performance as Lt. Col. Frank Slade.

Slade - retired from the U.S. Army - lost his sight in an accident and begrudgingly lives with family, but spends his idle time drinking while suffering a deep depression.

Charlie (Chris O’Donnell), a good-natured prep school student, takes a job over Thanksgiving break as Slade’s caretaker, and this unlikely pair embark on a slow, but absorbing journey.

The performances elevate this well-written film to classic status, as Slade’s and Charlie’s clashing relationship develops into a genuine friendship.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a small, but key, role as a slimy fellow student who talks Charlie into a hugely problematic situation, and later tries to weasel his way out.

This was a breakthrough performance for Hoffman, as his character memorably provides the “devil whispering in your ear” role toward the previously squeaky-clean Charlie.

“Owning Mahowny” (2003) 4.5 / 5 stars - In one of the very best performances of 2003, Philip Seymour Hoffman completely mesmerizes as Dan Mahowny, an ordinary Toronto bank executive with an extraordinary gambling problem.

Director Richard Kwietniowski takes us down a torturous path as we watch Mahowny compound his problems solely through his addiction.

While watching his painful descent, you’ll literally scream at the screen for Mahowny to snap out his constant and never-ending hunger to place his next bet.

Hoffman plays Mahowny as a quiet, nondescript and paunchy office dweller who shows little emotion, and even during big money swings - in either direction - his mouth his closed, his head slightly tilted and pointed down while constantly adjusting his glasses so they don’t slide down his face.

Dubbed the “Ice Man”, he’s a welcomed guest by any casino manager like Victor Foss (John Hurt) because Mahowny only really cares about his next bet.

You know what they say in the gambling world: the house usually wins.

Or in this case, does it?

“Capote” (2005) 4 / 5 stars - Based upon the life events of author Truman Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman transforms himself into the man in this involving picture, and in the process, he won a Best Actor Oscar.

Capote - a New Yorker magazine writer - becomes fascinated with a senseless murder of a Kansas family, and travels to the American heartland to write a story, but finds something more when he believes the defendants' lawyer does not harbor their best interest in mind.

Director Bennett Miller’s picture works as twisting character study as we watch Capote’s involvement in the process potentially compromises the best interests of the local residents, and Capote’s own conflicting thoughts on the case.

Hoffman pulls off the genuine internal turmoil of Capote’s own creation as he positions himself as a beneficiary while watching the emotional damage the players surrounding the case - including the two main defendants - suffer.

“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007) 4.5 / 5 stars - Legendary director Sidney Lumet’s orchestrates a jewelry heist gone horribly wrong in his last and one of his best films starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, and Albert Finney.

This is a dark and twisted crime film - told in a non-linear fashion - in which the immoral and desperate aforementioned crime can only be matched by the flawed human beings - with years of preceding mistakes - who concocted it.

Two brothers, Andy (Hoffman) and Hank (Hawke) are at the center of the storm.

Andy is a white-collar executive married to a beautiful woman (Tomei), but with misery at work, a dysfunctional marriage and huge financial pressures, the only devices pacifying his anxiety are smoking packs of cigarettes and drinking lots of 11:30am cocktails.

Hank possesses massive problems of his own, and his severe case of arrested development isn’t helping anyone.

Lumet places these two in a massive pickle and forces us to watch the damning act and its ugly aftermath.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic

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