Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top Fives: Phillip Seymour Hoffman Movies (you may not have seen)

In response to last weeks list I thought I'd compile another one on Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This time trying to select his lesser known roles that really deserve to be seen.

It's difficult to know what people haven't seen. That's tough aspect number 1, tough aspect number 2 is narrowing down his awesome performances. The man really is that talented.

I have left off a few that may or may not be that obvious; Savages was thoroughly depressing for me and Sydney/Hard Eight because he's barely in it, but that doesn't mean that Paul Thomas Anderson's debut isn't worth viewing.

1. Happiness

Todd Solondz tends to divide opinion but this powerful film about the underside of suburban life features strong performances all round and an unflinching look at controversial material.

2. Love Liza

Philip Seymour Hoffman as a desperate man coping with the death of his wife by slowly killing himself by sniffing glue. A role made for him and the pairing with Kathy Bates as his mother-in-law makes interesting viewing.

3. Punch-Drunk Love

Possibly Paul Thomas Anderson's least known movie and certainly Adam Sandler's best performance. A slightly surreal romance opposite Emily Watson with Hoffman adding his weight to the main undercard. Up until There Will Be Blood this was my favourite movie from PTA.

4. Jack Goes Boating

Hoffman starring in his own directorial debut, a role that seems completely written for him and his usual socially awkward performances. This was originally a play featuring Hoffman also. Just to demonstrate his immense and diverse talent.

5. Synecdoche, New York

Possibly the most obvious choice on the list what with it being the directorial debut of indie superstar screenwriter Charlie Kaufman but Hoffman stars and if you haven't seen it yet those two facts alone make it must watch in my eyes.


  1. I didn't love Happiness (particularly one or two scenes), but PSH was awesome in that movie. Ditto for Punch Drunk Love. You're right about not having seen the others. Synecdoche, New York was on my Netflix queue somewheres, though...

  2. I have seen Happiness, Punch-Drunk Love and Synecdoche, and I loved them all (well, not so much Synecdoche). I thought Hoffman was flat-out fantastic in Happiness; just the way he played his character made us both feel disgusted with him and sympathise.

  3. I have to say I absolutely despised Synecdoche, NY. Easily one of the dullest and most painful movie I had to sit through. Nonetheless, Hoffman does give an excellent performance. He was also so much fun in Punch Drunk Love!

  4. You are right I knew little of these films!! The only one I have heard of, but not seen is the PDL.

    It is Thursday right? I better get my list up too!!

  5. I came here to say Hard Eight. Glad it at least got an honorable mention.

  6. Alan - as casor mentioned, synecdoche could be seen as an experiment in cinematic naval gazing so isn't necessarily one for everyone but I think love liza is well worth a watch.

  7. tyler - you're absolutely right, thus the genius of PSH. but also do you tend to find that solondz makes you feel that way about all of his characters?

    castor - i'm actually surprised at the mass negativity thrown towards SNY (not just from you obviously) you're more of a blockbuster type guy through right? i'm also surprised at the amount of love PDL gets, back when i saw the dvd it had seemed to slip under the radar. perhaps i shouldn;t have included it?

    SL - Pick one and watch it sometime my friend, PDL is probably the most accessible for a family man like yourself. Happiness may just make you angry.

    i love that you forgot which day it was. i do that too, all day at work im asking my customers what day it is. the pleasures of not working a 9 to 5.

    BT - i think everyone should watch all of PTA's movies. I was definitely going to include it but i barely remember seeing PSH in it.

  8. Funny that a friend of mine was talking about Happiness yesterday. My favorite one I've seen is Synechdoche...the concept of that is incredible...

  9. Nostra - funny indeed. I've noticed it quite often in the lambs in my short time as a member, some movies have a run of a week or so when they get mentioned seemingly everywhere. Did you see happiness?

    The concept of synecdoche makes my head hurt to think about.

  10. No, never watched Happiness.

    I should spend more time at the LAMB, but I think the site isn't always as browsable as I would like to...

  11. nostra - i also am rarely at LAMB itself, it seems to lend itself to checking out the newest posts only. i just meant the other members blogs.

    i won't tell you that seeing Happiness is essential as it's one of those movies that can cause great upset in the viewer. it's definitely an uncomfortable 2 hours but in my opinion an incredible and powerful piece of cinema.

  12. Nice choices. I would have also included Owning Mahowny, the 2003 based-on-a-true-story film where Hoffman plays a gambling addict. But yeah, the dude is amazing in everything he does.

  13. eric - its interesting that you mention owning mahoney, i seriously considered throwing it in instead of synecdoche but the major problem was that i hadn't seen it yet.

    was it a good movie or just a good performance?

  14. Both. Hoffman is incredible as usual, and the movie is worth seeing. It's pretty depressing, but very well-made. I actually wrote about it last year:

  15. cool. thanks eric. i will check that out now i finally have a day off work.

  16. Love Liza was the first movie I saw him in and I was blown away. So moving.