Robin Williams, 63, RIP

[NB: I wrote this yesterday morning, but didn't get a chance to post it until now.]

I just heard that Robin Williams passed away, and it's suspected to be a suicide. In a way, that's not a huge surprise; I don't know much about Robin personally, but depression is very common for comedians (ironic, huh?).  I know, too, that he had some drug problems, but I don't really know any details about them.  That certainly doesn't help with mental stability.

I'm pretty sad, because even if he hasn't done much lately (or maybe I just haven't heard about it), and he did have a few dogs, he was a fantastic comedian. Really, one of the very best at improv. I think I'm going to seek out some Mork and Mindy (which, I'm told, was largely filmed with Robin improvising), and maybe watch the genie's opening sequence from Aladdin (which was also Robin improvising, I've heard). I wish I could listen to the half-inning of commentary of a Mets game that I've heard Williams and his friend Billy Crystal did when asked, cold, by a producer who saw them in an adjacent box.

I don't know if I can stand to watch one of his most beautiful and touching ones, though, What Dreams May Come [It's well worth getting in HD, although it appears not to've been released on blu-ray yet.  If you still have HD-DVD, seek that out]. It just might touch too close to home, with his apparent suicide. It's one of the most visually stunning movies I've ever seen, beautifully melding painting and real life. But it was about a man who died, went to heaven, then watched his wife go to hell for suicide. And, like Orpheus, he chased after his Eurydice to save her. Not sure if I can take it. I'd recommend watching it, though.

Mrs Doubtfire was another fairly serious movie of his, though one that I never really liked.

I saw Dead Poet's Society when it came out. Williams played an iconoclastic firebrand of a poetry teacher in a New England boarding school, who tries to bring more emotion than analysis to his classes. When I saw it, I had just read the Post's review, and immediately realized that the reviewer had missed the point of the ending. He saw Williams' firing as a depressing loss, missing that the kids' "O Captain, My Captain" was his victory. Very good movie, though not one I've ever wanted to re-watch.

Good Will Hunting was another of his that I liked a lot. Mostly it was driven by Damon's "unrecognized genius", but Williams was a more-than-capable life teacher for Will.

Most of the rest of what I've seen from his was more outrageous comedy, perhaps with a serious side thrown in.

Toys, despite the protestations of Joe Posnanski, is one of my favorites. Like Totoro, it explores some of the wonder of childhood, but does have some seriousness to it. I must admit it's been a while, though; I didn't know who Donald O'Connor was, last time I saw it.

Aladdin also wasn't deep, but is a lot of fun to watch. I'm told that Williams refused anything more than SAG wages for that one, because he wanted to do it for his kids (after seeing its success, Disney supposedly gave him a Picasso or something similar).

I saw Hook once, around when it came out... I didn't think much of it, although I liked the idea of revisiting Peter Pan, years later. I'm tempted to watch it again, just to try to figure out why I didn't like it.

Good Morning Vietnam had Williams in Vietnam, during the war, as a forerunner of modern shock-jocks. I haven't seen it since it came out; I remember it being hilarious (and again, I wouldn't be surprised if much of it wasn't Williams improvising), but not much more than that. I do remember reading that the original Cronauer said that he'd have never gotten away with half of what Williams' character did in the movie, and I believe that.

He was in Happy Feet, where he was a hilariously over-the-top wannabe womanizer named Ramon and a funny pretend guru named Lovelace. They were both supporting parts, but both managed to completely steal scenes. There was a sequel, which I have yet to watch.

He also had some pretty good scenes in the Night at the Museum movies, where he played the supporting role of a statue of Teddy Roosevelt.

And he had a significant role (I can't remember whether it was lead or supporting) in the "board game alters reality" film of Jumanji. I didn't see that one until years after it came out, but it was pretty funny.

And now that I'm looking at his filmography, I see that there are a hell of a lot of things he's done that I haven't seen. I'd especially like to find some of the improv shows he did with Whoopi and and Crystal.

Resquiescat in pace, Robin, as you were unable to do in life.

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