best film:  Magnolia. While recent viewings of Punch-Drunk Love and The Master have complicated things I’m not yet ready to yield the mantle of best PT Anderson film to either of them (the closest contender is actually There Will Be Blood and PSH isn’t in that of course). The 25th Hour, The Big Lebowski, and Boogie Nights are right there as well. PSH is essential to Magnolia. Anderson’s sprawling ensemble doesn’t dote on PSH, and his achievement isn’t on the level of Cruise’s—that’s for sure—but he’s right there after Cruise along with Robards and a few others.

best performance: The Master and the main contender is Capote (which PSH won his Academy Award for). PSH’s Lancaster Dodd is a blending of Ron L. Hubburd and Orson Welles. He’s magnetic, smart and entirely haughty. As I said when discussing Phoenix- the processing sequence between the two gifted actors is one of the greatest displays of acting in the history of cinema. Phoenix is the lead- and his performance is stronger- but PSH’s achievement in the 2012 masterpiece may be above any other actor’s yet this decade. PTA shoots heavily in close-ups, in 70mm, letting the nuance of PSH’s face and performance play out front and center.  I would have no great debate with someone who opted for Capote as PSH’s single greatest achievement either. It is a total immersion– and the high-water mark (or close) of a truly gifted versatile actor.

stylistic innovations/traits: PSH is one of the 5-10 most truly gifted actors of all-time. He’s a chameleon who can disappear in a role, an accent, an embodiment of a character’s posture. PSH tragically died early from a drug overdose at age 46 but in his career he gave us 22 achievable films, was nominated for four academy awards, and was in a whopping six masterpieces. That means that from 1997 to 2002 – a total of 6 years—if you made a masterpiece there was roughly a 25% chance PSH was in it. Haha. Astounding. That said, he’s one of the harder actors to rank because for large portions of his career (this period to be specific) he’s a supporting actor, a scene-stealer—much like say Thomas Mitchell or John Cazale. However, unlike those two actors, he had big muscular leading performances along the way (Capote, The Master, Owning Mahowny, Synecdoche, New York). It makes it not only tough to rank PSH on this list (I feel good here at #24) but also tough to rank his performances. He steals scenes in one of the best comedies of all-time (The Big Lebowski) and then gives a nuanced larger performance in a weaker film opposite Meryl Streep (Doubt)—neither of which made his top 10—astounding.

directors worked with:   PT Anderson (5) and this is the key collaboration… Bennett Miller (2), Minghella (2) and then once with Spike Lee, The Coen Brothers, Lumet, Mike Nichols

Top 10 Performances:

  1. The Master
  2. Capote
  3. Magnolia
  4. Synecdoche, New York
  5. Owning Mahowny
  6. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
  7. The 25th Hour
  8. Punch Drunk Love
  9. Happiness
  10. Boogie Nights

Archiveable films

1992- Scent of a Woman
1994- Nobody’s Fool
1996- Hard Eight
1997- Boogie Nights
1998- Happiness
1998- The Big Lebowski
1999- Magnolia
1999- The Talented Mr. Ripley
2000- Almost Famous
2002- Punch Drunk Love
2002- The 25th Hour
2003- Cold Mountain
2003- Owning Mahowny
2005- Capote
2007- Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
2007- Charlie Wilson’s War
2007- The Savages
2008- Doubt
2008- Synecdoche, New York
2011- Moneyball
2012- The Master
2014- A Most Wanted Man