Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams - RIP

In shocking news overnight, comedian/movie star Robin Williams has taken his own life. He was 63 years old.

Williams was one of the few remaining actors that have touched viewers for five continuous decades, whether on television, film, or live theater. Despite growing older, he still retained his comedic skills, employing expert imitations, super-fast speaking, and other child-like sensibilities.

His big break into the mainstream came from mega-producer Garry Marshall, who cast him as an odd little alien who visited the Cunninghams, in a one-off episode of Happy Days. The popularity of his appearance led to a spin-off series, Mork and Mindy, which lasted until 1982. Not content with just television work, Williams tried his hand in several film projects. Unfortunately, it took him awhile to successfully transition; his first films all had cultish appeal, including the fiasco turned semi-beloved live-action adaptation of Popeye and the adaptation of John Irving's The World According to Garp.

He didn't give up his pursuit for movie stardom, paying his dues in many forgettable comedies until 1987, when he portrayed Vietnam War DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam. He earned his first of many Oscar nominations for the role, which allowed him to crack open his insanely funny rambling humor on the big screen while also giving him a opportunity to widely show off his softer side. He followed the movie up with another Oscar-nominated performance as the "carpe diem"-whispering teacher in Dead Poets Society. The most dramatic role of his career, as a doctor who helps out his catatonic patients in Awakenings, was surprisingly snubbed by the Academy. The Fisher King gave him another opportunity to win Best Actor but again, he was left empty-handed, despite pulling off the difficult role of a delusional homeless man who believes himself as the white knight of New York City. It wasn't until 1997, with the indie juggernaut Good Will Hunting, that Williams finally got to walk up the stage and hold the golden man.

Of course, Williams didn't let his search for Oscar gold keep him from making people laugh. Hook gave him the "like a glove" role of an adult Peter Pan. Mrs. Doubtfire made him the most popular cross-dresser on film. He even help generate buzz for modern cult classics, such as Death to Smoochy and World's Greatest Dad.

His distinct voice and improv proficiency made him perfect for animated fare. He altered the entire landscape of the genre when he played The Genie in Disney's Aladdin, a role he didn't want credited for or marketed heavily during the film's promotion. The critical praise and fanfare for the character would eventually lead to more established actors taking up voice-over work in major animations.

There were some works where Williams didn't show off an inch of humor. His guest starring role as a grieving widower on a special episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets blew America away and help keep the struggling, realistic cop show off the chopping block. Dark turns as deranged psychopaths in Insomnia and One Hour Photo further showed that the actor should be taken serious.

Some of his endeavors were very poor, however: Jumanji, Jack, and Flubber were poor family affairs of the 90's; Father's Day and Bicentennial Man are unbearable to watch; Patchet Adams was an ungodly audience-friendly Oscar bait; and Jakob the Liar nearly killed his career. Recent examples such as Licensed to Wed, Man of the Year, and Old Dogs also didn't help his image.

Still, the man was an one-of-a-kind star. He leaves beyond a legacy of classics, several upcoming films, and a beloved family.

He will sorely be missed.

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