Wednesday, 13 August 2014
Welcome back to the Ephemeric! We are taking a break from the painstaking preparation of our annual guide to the new Premier League season in order to bring you an urgent message.
Late last night we said goodbye to Robin Williams, a legendary figure in pop culture, and without doubt one of the funniest men to ever have lived. But to refer to Williams simply as a funny man fails to recognize the incredible dramatic talents he possessed, producing serious performances that are just as, if not even more memorable than the comic roles for which he is well known.
An Oscar winner, and an inspiration to many in Hollywood. But rather than simply mourn such a tragedy, we at the Ephemeric want to take this moment to celebrate the remarkable life and career of one of the 20th Century's greatest artists. Here for your consideration, appreciation and enjoyment are the five best Robin Williams movies.
5. Good Will Hunting
Of course no list of Robin Williams films can be complete without mentioning the one for which he finally claimed his Oscar.
His turn as therapist Sean Maguire is Williams' most sensitive and nuanced role, demonstrating better than any of his other work that he can keep his eccentricities in check and deliver a subtle performance of the very highest quality.
Largely a supporting role, that Williams manages to steal the show from the sidelines is remarkable in itself. Touching monologues are brilliantly delivered Other actors have done the "kindly mentor" schtick well, but Williams' performance is one of uniquely human quality.
4. Dead Poets Society
Some have suggested that Williams' Oscar win for Good Will Hunting represents something of a consolation win following other, more deserving nominations. One such nomination is for the Dead Poets Society.
Williams is in full earnest mode as inspirational English teacher John Keating in this powerful look at art, both as a form of expression, and as an essential value of human purpose.
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."
So highly did Disney value Williams as a performer that they designed their character of the Genie entirely around his brand of humour and style of comedic delivery.
When at first Williams was not interested in doing a cartoon, Disney animators simply threw together a quick animation sequence of the Genie doing one of Williams' stand up routines. Williams reportedly "laughed his ass off", and signed up.
His performance in this movie goes down as one of the all time great voiceovers, and great cartoon characters. Once he was on board, Williams put his full genius into the role, ad-libbing and improvising to bring the full character of his comedy to the role. Allegedly so much of the Genie's dialogue was improvised that Aladdin was denied eligibility for a screenplay Oscar nomination.
2. Mrs. Doubtfire
Arguably the film for which Robin Williams is best known with today's generation, and also one of his very funniest performances.
Mrs. Doubtfire is the type of film that if it were made today, or perhaps just with any other lead actor, it would be terrible. The core concept of man dressing up as old British lady to win back his estranged kids sounds like the fare of a bad Martin Lawrence in a fatsuit movie. But in these deftly comic hands, and with Robin Williams on song, it was magic.
As enjoyable for adults as it is for children, Doubtfire largely succeeds on its star's talent for physical comedy and rapid-fire delivery, but also touches on issues of divorce and family in a way that relates to audiences as with few other films. Such is the charm oozing from this movie that it has permanently ingrained itself upon the pop culture landscape.
1. Good Morning Vietnam
But the top prize goes to what is often seen as Williams' breakout role. For Good Morning Vietnam Robin Williams earned his very first Oscar nomination, at a time when he was still see mostly as a comedian. Disney/Touchstone took a chance on his ability as a dramatic actor, and it truly paid off.
What makes Good Morning Vietnam the greatest of all Robin Williams films is its ability to showcase both sides of Williams' talents. Williams brings to the screen the real life story of Adrian Cronauer, a popular military radio broadcaster for the Americans during the Vitenam war. Williams' irreverent portrayal, fast paced ad-libbing and pitch perfect impressions bring the laughs, but is constantly set against the backdrop of suffering and horror. It's a juxtaposition that adds great poignancy to the humour and set a template for storytelling that is still used frequently as an inspiration in movies and television alike.
There are few actors at any point in history who could have so convincingly straddled such humour and tragedy in one setting, but such was the remarkable depth of talent of Robin Williams that even roles of great complexity come off with the greatest of ease.