Top of the Morning, Feb. 15, 2014
On Thursday, the Art Theater Co-op in downtown Champaign is paying tribute to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman with a double-feature hosted by News-Gazette film critic Chuck Koplinski: "Capote" at 5 p.m. and "Synecdoche, New York" at 7:30. We asked Austin McCann, the Art's general manager, for the best of Hoffman in a supporting role:
It's been well reported in the obituaries that Hoffman brought a kind eye to outcasts, creeps, perverts — marginal characters. His performance as Scotty is pathetic in the true sense of the word. His lonely, closeted character exudes such raw vulnerability in this dark, excellent film.
"The Big Lebowski" (1997)
Even though I've seen this film dozens of times, I always forget that it's Hoffman playing Brandt, a dweeby sycophant who makes the word "dude" sound about as uncool as can be. His awkward laugh by the pool is a highlight: "Ah hahahahaha! Wonderful woman. We're all — we're all very fond of her. Very free-spirited."
Hospice nurse Phil Parma might be my favorite Hoffman performance. In this P.T. Anderson film, we see him sharing the last hours of a dying TV executive — mostly trying to find the man's estranged son. I'd like to think Hoffman looks so exhausted in this film because the whole mess of humanity is resting on his shoulders. His compassion, his grace, are artless and devastating and perfect.
"Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999)
In Anthony Minhella's 1999 film, Hoffman gives a truly sinister performance as creepy aristocrat Freddie Miles. In a movie full of tense confrontations, Hoffman slowly stalking Matt Damon around his Rome apartment has stuck with me most.
"Punch-Drunk Love" (2002)
Hoffman never used his intensity as a performance to funnier ends than in P.T. Anderson's 2002 weirdo comedy, in which he plays an unscrupulous mattress salesman and phone sexline operator. His phone confrontation scene with Adam Sandler — the two of them screaming obscenities at each other — is one of the great nonsense fights in cinema. And their eventual face-to-face confrontation is just perfect — "That's that, Mattress Man."