The Essential Robin Williams

The world woke up today with the unfortunate news that it is now a poorer place with the departure of Robin Williams, comedian extraordinaire. He had been a part of our lives through his films for over three decades. He made us laugh, made us cry, made us think, and in some ways changed the way of our life through some of his films.

Filmy folklore states that a lot of Robin Williams' on-screen antics were ad-libbed. This is quite plausible since any comedian is more confident/brilliant with his own material than with reading lines given to him by someone else. Robin Williams was exceptional in his stand-up. He was the best of them, he was brutal, he was unforgiving, and he made you laugh through it all : Have a look at the video below

I am bringing this up because this performance is from a time when his films weren't doing well. The only bits of old Robin Williams was evident in the The Night of The Museum series, the third installment of which would be unfortunately part of his swan song.

Robin Williams will be sorely missed, and today in his untimely demise we look back to celebrate his life with the best of his oeuvre.

1. Good Morning, Vietnam

The words war and comedy do not gel together (except that they should considering the farce that war in general is), this is one of the few films of this particular genre about Vietnam war. And in my opinion this is the best.

Robin Williams starred as Adrian Cronauer, a real life radio jockey who had been flown to Vietnam in 1965 to build up troop morale. Most of the Radio announcements that he made in this film were improvised, and the trademark 'Good Moooooooooooooooorning, Vietnam!' has been imitated by RJs worldwide.

2 Dead Poets Society

This is not a comic film. However this is a very inspiring film. It is about seizing the day, it is about breaking free and it is about ripping out a page from your text book because it does you no good.

John Keating is the teacher you still wish you had when you were back at school. And even today if you watch this film you would still be shedding a tear at Neil's suicide but would also be feeling uplifted overall, you would be tempted to write that story which you had been thinking about for a long time but could never get along to writing, you would want to  travel to that one destination which had eluded you to now, you would want to literally Carpe Diem, and all because of Robin Williams' performance.

3 Aladdin

The writers of the film wrote the character of Genie keeping Williams in mind. Robin Williams was already known for his impersonations, working as an animated character literally gave a freehand to his voice. It is said that he did more than 50 impersonations for this role, the genie anachronistically referencing Jack Nicholson and others, and the makers of the movie must have had a field day matching the genie to Robin Williams.

Like most of his better roles, this too was based almost entirely on improv responses to the situations in the movie. Genie remains one of the best animated disney characters, and tonight I wish to watch Aladdin again only to have a re-look at all of Genie's scenes.

4. Mrs Doubtfire

How did he do it? How did he transform himself for an entire movie into Mrs Doubtfire, how easily he convinced the audience (who wouldn't have been able to discern the man in the wig and make up if they hadn't been in the know). How did he take a formula already done by Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and make it better?

I remember watching this film for the first time when I was seven, and I remember laughing uncontrollably throughout. This was the movie which made me a fan of the actor (Aladdin released theatrically in India an year later) and even today given a chance I would chose this over many comedy films.

5. Insomnia

This is one of the most unlike Robin Williams roles that he has done in his life. This movie unfortunately set tone for him acting in a lot of serious roles thereafter, but in this particular film he was brilliant.

Directed by Chris Nolan and also starring Al Pacino and Hillary Swank, Insomnia gave Robin Williams a chance to showcase a side of him which his fans had never seen. And he did not disappoint. It is because he is such a good actor that he terrifies as the villain of the story. This was perhaps the last good film of his career where he had a starring role.

6. Good Will Hunting

For me, this is the best role of Robin Williams. Sean Maguire is the best guide and confidante that you can wish for. No words that I write here will do justice to the pure awesomeness of this film.

An icon of our childhood/growing up phase has passed away, we know there will never be another like him. The best we can do now is to revisit his films and relive a few of our memories. I am personally going to start with Good Will Hunting.


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