(I only learnt of the news earlier today, so this is a bit impromptu, you'll have to excuse any spelling mistakes)
As the world continues to come to grips with the sudden news of Robin Williams' death, I decided the best way to celebrate his life by reflecting on how his films has impacted mine. So for my tribute, I decided to recommend you five of his films that has left a mark in my own journey.
The very first film that I saw which had Robin Williams in it was his role as the genie in Aladdin. I was too young at the time to have a theory of mind about actors and actresses in Hollywood; I just remembered having fun watching an energetic puff of blue smoke that really added a layer of engagement I never had with other Disney movies. Interestingly, I only learnt that it was Robin Williams doing the voice when I watched one of the sequels which wasn't voiced by him. Needless to say, this is one of my all time favorite Disney films, and in terms of Robin William films, I think he singlehandedly made possible pop culture in-jokes in animated features, thus giving birth to like-minded filmmakers like DreamWorks Animation.
I don't really need to talk more about this one because I'm sure most of you have already seen it.
This film is the anti-Forrest Gump. It isn't one for the casual moviegoer but definitely a must watch for anyone who enjoys good drama. It is a story of a genius-level abuse victim being treated by a Robin Williams psychologist while working for a Mathematician who recognizes and wishes to grow his talent for science. This film touches on issues of isolation, fear, identity, meaning and love, which really struck me as I have gone through many of the struggles the main character does, and while my solution didn't come from just talking to a psychologist, I felt a thread of hope through watching this film. I realized I'm not alone in my isolation, or unique in the problems I faced.
GWH fetched a well earned Oscar for Robin Williams, and also cemented itself to be one of the most important movies of 1997, and perhaps the decade. It may not be the popcorn entertainment most people prefer, but it certainly is Williams' best dramatic performances on film. No joke.
I owe my career choice in Computer Science and my passion in Sci-Fi literature to this film, well, in part at least. It was the first adaptation of a work by Isaac Asimov I have ever seen, and despite the lukewarm critical reception when it was released, I think it is better than most remember it.
It is a warm film about an android who exhibits true intelligence and becomes self-aware, embarking on a 200 year journey through the eyes of his owner's family through four generations. The music is beautiful, the ethical dilemmas are presented but not thrown in your face, and Robin Williams was able to convince me of a robot's humanity; that is no small feat back in 1997! If you every wondered what a Hallmark Card would look like in film form, this may be as close as you'll get.
Robin William plays a political TV show host who actually runs for presidency with grassroot movement support. It is half a stand-up comedy routine and half an actual political commentary. This film is a bit of guilty pleasure of mine, because I would be first to acknowledge how flawed it really is and how much they held back on the political knife throwing they could have done with their setup. I'm not enthusiastic about the IT company glitch subplot that drives the events of the story, but the character development was surprisingly absorbing, and I think it is a decent film that shows the difference between criticizing politics and actually participating in politics.
Whenever I'm doing chores or was procrastinating from my exam prep, this one always seems to be the one I end up watching. It is centrist, liberal and reformist all at once. If you are the type that gets emotionally invested over government failures and prime ministers breaking promises, you may enjoy this film as the fast food of politics, it certainly was my first taste of the P word.
I was too young at the time to have been able to watch this film in theaters, so I only discovered it as an adult. Also it didn't make a very large international debut so only (mostly) the American movie-going audience older than me would be aware of its existence and have seen it.
In this film Williams portrayed a grown up version of Peter Pan who has chosen to leave Neverland, but by doing so has lost all memory of the Lost Boys, his child-like playfulness, and by proxy loses sight of his own children and their needs as well. It is both a heartfelt sketch about adulthood, parenthood and a gentle wink to the source material.
For those of you wishing to do some sort of tribute marathon of Robin Williams films, I highly recommend you find this one and add to the playlist as well.
So these five films doesn't fully sum up Williams' legacy, but I think it's not just about remembering the man's work; it's about understanding what he stood for. Williams was always very vocal about how crazy his dreams and desires are, and that the joke is in seeing that reality is even more so. Perhaps he understood this more than most, which is why he had the power to amuse and impart a sense of wonder on others. Perhaps he was happiest living in the imagined wonders themselves.
With that, I leave you with one of his lines from Dead Poet Society:
Rest in peace, Robin. Your voice will never be forgotten.