I guess it took something heart breakingly sad to wake me from my writer's slump.
Many a Friday night or Saturday afternoon I've sat in a dark movie theater, and Robin Williams transported me to a different time and place. Certainly his comedic talents stood tall among all comics of my generation. His TV talk show appearances were frantic and brilliant. I don't remember watching any TV at all while away at college. But nearly every dorm room was tuned in for a half an hour to see what craziness Mork from Ork would bring us.
When Moscow on the Hudson came out I knew then that Robin had a gift, not just for comedy, but for the sad and sentimental moments as well. I love that movie.
One of the flickering images that stuck with me, was watching Dead Poets Society, not yet knowing a sucker punch was coming...............and then wincing when I realized I was watching the movie with a friend who lost a brother to suicide. I've seldom been more moved by anything in a movie. Yes, I know. A movie about suicide.
Awakenings, a stirring movie with Robert DeNiro, is one I always stop to watch. His nervous and shy portrayal of Dr. Malcom Sayer brought realism and depth to the role. Hopeful, tragic. He seemed drawn to these roles.
In 1991 Robin took me on wild ride. His frantic, troubled, yet hopeful homeless man in The Fisher King seemed a role he wore much too easily. There are moments in that film that make you hold your breath in their quiet beauty.
And I can remember like it was yesterday, the afternoon spent watching Hook in the theater. At a time when my life certainly needed some escape, and I, along with Robin's character, Peter Banning remembered what it was like to be a kid again. I wrote about that here. Hook.
His Academy Award winning role in Good Will Hunting for me, really defies description. Those scenes with Matt Damon are almost unwatchable at times. So raw, so pure. As if we really had pulled back the curtain on something we shouldn't be seeing, far too private, too personal. This is everything movies should be, can be.
Having in recent years lost a friend to suicide, the feelings are still raw. My friend too, was someone that no one ever suspected would leave this life that way. People build big images, big barriers around themselves to hide behind. My friend, built a facade of generosity, and doing good deeds, tirelessly at times. Robin it seems, built his facade with humor. His wall too, was manic and never ending. The comparison is not lost on me.
We make too much of our celebrities in this culture. Everyone seems to say so. But I think movies are ART. Not always, certainly not in uplifting ways all the time. But in Robin Williams I see a man who was able to take the medium of comedy, and then dramatic acting and make them mean something. Escape, wonder, joy, laughter, tears, empathy, sympathy and often sorrow. All things I value. All things I cherish.