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Saturday, 8 October 2016

My 10 Favourite Dustin Hoffman Characters/Performances/Movies

(*Last updated: 29 October 2017)

Dustin Hoffman has been known for his versatile portrayals of antiheroes, vulnerable characters, as well as unorthodox characters. This alone makes him one of Tinseltown's most iconic performers and actors of all-time and though he is mostly known for his dramatic roles, he occasionally dips his toes in light-hearted fare such as comedies and animated films. By doing so, he shows his depth and range by proving that he is not only a talented actor but a gifted and natural performer who can dabble in almost any genre of film; as best exemplified by the roles he has undertaken: both in front of the camera, as well as behind it via Kung Fu Panda

A sign of a great and all-round actor is one where despite being pigeon-holed or being renowned for dramatic and serious movies or for a particular genre of film, they have no trouble adeptly slipping in and out of different characters and different types of characters and aren't afraid of trying new and different things. Robin Williams is not just a funny comedian and comedic actor, he can and could do drama and play serious roles too; and with Dustin, he is an amazing serious actor, who is just as equally fun and entertaining onscreen in playful and whimsical comedies and family-friendly movies. 

These are my 10 favourite characters, movies and performances of Dustin Hoffman's: some of these may not garner the biggest round of applause or approval from critics and movie fans and fans of Dustin's alike, yet these are the movies and roles that I have personally enjoyed of his the most: 

Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels - Tootsie (1982) >> Mrs Doubtfire may be lauded by many people as their favourite or be it best Robin Williams film, but that effort has virtually little on Stanley Pollack's Tootsie: it is a drag comedy like no other, without the overly sentimental schmuck and still reigns as Dustin's best comedic role to date. He was funny, amusing, at times erratic and impatient as Michael Dorsey and his alter ego, Dorothy Michaels. Sure he lies and deceives his crush, Julie and annoys Sandy as Michael, but over the course of the movie he changes for the better, thanks in part to Julie. More to it, however, Dustin's depth and range as he transitions from comedy to drama all in one effort, is more profound and classy too. In the end, he won Jessica Lange's Julie's heart. Yet he also wins mine as well. If I had to pick my favourite Dustin Hoffman role and movie, it would have to be as Michael/Dorothy and Tootsie as my favourite film. 

Ted Kramer - Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) >> one of his most reserved and natural performances and the role that landed him his first Oscar win. His performance as a workaholic dad trying to juggle both roles was emotional, heartfelt, passionate and raw at times and so genuine, I was willing him on throughout. As Ted Kramer, he showed what a wonderful father he would be. It was a fantastic movie that was made all the more watchable, thanks to Dustin Hoffman. 

Captain Hook - Hook (1991) >> whilst Hook remains for me as one of the most critically and unfairly panned - no pun intended & misunderstood - movies of all-time, Dustin Hoffman, along with Robin Williams as Peter Pan/Banning, put on one of the best portrayals of the self-titled character in this Peter Pan tale. Dustin captured Captain Hook's qualities, his personality, his nastiness and his impersonation to perfection. Not only was he utterly convincing as the antagonist, but he also made Hook as one of the few interesting and at times likeable incarnations of that character as well by displaying his different layers, which weren't always entirely evil. 

Raymond Babbitt - Rain Man (1989) >> As a supporting actor to Tom Cruise, Dustin never shies away from Raymond's fallacies and emotional tendencies as an autistic brother. This is yet another heartfelt, emotional, dramatic and sterling performance that touches upon living with autism, whilst trying to build bridges with his relationship with his younger sibling. 

Master Shifu - Kung Fu Panda (2008 -) >> Master Shifu is a red panda and trainer of the Furious Five and Tai Lung. As Po's strict teacher, he pushes him harder to achieve the achievement of perfection. Like Dustin, though he is not very tall, Shifu is still a powerhouse, in addition to being a highly skilled master of Kung Fu. I think Dustin Hoffman was the ideal choice to voice this character: he has the right mannerisms, spirit & captured his personality to an absolute tee, the fact that Dustin is older and wiser and Shifu himself is the older and wiser master, makes his voice casting all the more appropriate. 

Mr Magorium - Mr Magorium's Wonderful Emporium (2006) >> as toy maker Mr Magorium, his take on death is both comforting and soothing when dealing with the issues of death and immortality. There is also a quirky and endearing quality to Hoffman's performance, as well as a charm that is likened to that of Gene Wilder's portrayal of Willy Wonka. It may be labelled a kids movie, but Mr Magorium's Wonderful Emporium is also a film that adults can take to as well.

Thomas 'Babe' Levy - Marathon Man (1976) >> one of the best thrillers ever made and one that gets overlooked in favour of the many other highly established and well-known popular offerings. As Levy, Dustin plays a student and marathon runner who finds himself getting caught up in a deadly game involving smuggled diamonds. This film had me on the edge of my seat: it is smart, well written, intense and well- conceived. The dental chair scene is so chilling that I cannot truly watch it in full, and yet Dustin is in terrific form; culminating in a tense and highly dramatic finale with a German nemesis. 

Enrico Salvatore ''Ratso'' Rizzo - Midnight Cowboy (1969) >> the bond between Dustin Hoffman's Ratso and Jon Voight's Joe Buck is strong in this one, as both actors turn in incredible performances. & as ever with Hoffman, he completely nails the role and is arguably the show-stealer in this one ahead of Voight. 

Jack Crabb - Little Big Man (1970) >> Little Big Man is and was a film that I didn't think I'd appreciate and enjoy, but this was a huge surprise. Dustin Hoffman's performance was fantastic as Jack: he was funny, warm, sincere and sweet both as old man Jack and young Jack. It's definitely one of Hoffman's under-appreciated and overlooked films that need to be seen

Benjamin Braddock - The Graduate (1967) >> timeless '60s classic and a movie that still gets mentioned a lot to this day forth and out of all the movies he has starred and featured in, it is thus The Graduate he will be remembered fondly for the most, as its success helped propelled him to future stardom. If Kramer vs. Kramer first established his career, then one would say it was this movie as an awkward young man who finds himself falling for an older woman, that in turn, put Dustin firmly on the Hollywood map.

Honourable mentions: Louis Dega (Papillon), Colonel Sam Daniels (Outbreak), Dr Norman Goodman (Sphere), Chuck Clarke (Ishtar), Carl Bernstein (All The President's Men), Max Dembo (Straight Time), David Sumner (Straw Dogs), Walt Teach (American Buffalo)

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