Take Five: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Local Hero.

He was known professionally by three names, but around these parts he always seemed to have four: “Fairport’s Phillip Seymour Hoffman.” We put our hometown celebrities on pedestals just like they do everywhere else, but Hoffman – who died today in his New York City apartment at age 46 – seemed unusually deserving of regional chest-thumping. You didn’t have to actually be from Fairport to feel a kinship with the guy … or to feel, on this day, like our cultural fabric has experienced a tear that can’t easily be mended.

My next column will be devoted to Hoffman’s career and legacy, but for now here’s a list of the five best performances in a career stuffed with great ones.

Almost Famous (1997) – As the real-life rock critic Lester Bangs, Hoffman offered the sage wisdom that effectively summed up Cameron Crowe’s best film.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) – It would have been easy to play his character, a craven embezzler, as a cartoon bad guy. Instead, Hoffman showed us the humanity behind this villain.
Boogie Nights (1997) – People were still getting used to seeing Hoffman in films when he showed up in P.T. Anderson’s porn-in-the-’70s epic as a misfit hanger-on. He stole the show – and not for the first time.
Synechdoche, New York (2008) – The actor provided quietly suffering ballast as an ailing theater director whose commitment to his craft consumes his life – literally – on a stage that swallows its actors whole.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) – Hoffman dripped venom as the privileged snob who sneered one too many times at Matt Damon’s anxious antihero. It was a drop-in role – more a cameo than a supporting performance – but the actor showed us who Freddy Miles was, and made a brilliant film that much richer.