Archive for Nostalgia

Nostalgia Neverland: In Which A Writer Remebers His Childhood Through Robin Williams

Posted in Nostalgia with tags , , , , on August 19, 2014 by verbalirony
Robin Williams, circa Jumanji

Robin Williams during the filming of the movie, Jumanji.

The death of somebody you know is never an easy thing to deal with. I’ve been a very privileged individual when it has come to things like that. I never knew my mother’s parents and my grandmother on my father’s side is still alive and scolding me for my poor dietary choices from childhood. My immediate family is all still with me, and I’ve not had any close friends and/or even just people I know get into fatal accidents. I can’t imagine the heartache and pain people must go through when such a tragedy happens. That having been said, it’s never easy for me to hear when a famous celebrity that I grew up watching and effected my life in such a positive way has passed. When Bob Hoskins died earlier this year, I was devastated. This was a man whose films from The Super Mario Brothers to Who Framed Roger Rabbit that I loved as a kid (Well, okay, Super Mario Brothers not so much), and that I would watch whenever I was feeling down or needed a good pick-me up. Similarly, when Eileen Brennan, the actress who played Mrs. Peacock in the movie Clue, died last year of cancer, I was incredibly upset. However, while these to deaths were very tragic, both Hoskins and Brennan were well into the later part of their lives, being 71 and 80 respectively. That doesn’t make their deaths any less devastating, but they weren’t nearly as shocking as the deaths of others. I was completely taken off guard last Monday afternoon when I found out about the passing of Robin Williams, both in that he had died at such a young age, 63, but that it was also by his own doing. I’d not know that Williams had suffered from depression, especially given the long time career of uplifting and often times goofy films that he had behind. I’ve had many friends in the past who have suffered both short-term and long-term bouts of depression, and I know how greatly it affected their daily routines and their overall psyche. It amazes me that a man who brought joy not to just me, but millions, if not billions, of fans throughout his years as an actor. That just goes to show how truly devoted to his work this man was. I don’t want to glorify his suicide in any means possibly, because that would send out the wrong message to others struggling with the same issues that Robin Williams was. Instead, I want to do my best to sign lights on the things this man did while he was still alive that inspired me as a kid. I’ve always loved humor and absurdity, two things that Williams jam-packed into his roles, but with splashes or sometimes waves of serious drama and emotion. I want to remember the best of what this man offered because his death is the most tragic passing of a comedian that I can remember during my time.

Shots fired, Alan Moore.

Shots fired, Alan Moore.

Robin Williams’ roles in film and television were exceptionally brilliant to me, and a handful of them were some of my favorite things to watch over and over again. In memory of his passing, I want to recap the works of his that I watched in the past that made me appreciate and love the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Robin Williams.

"Oi! 10,000 years will give you such a crick in the neck!"

“Oi! 10,000 years will give you such a crick in the neck!”

The Genie of the Lamp (Aladdin, 1992): My first and earliest memory of watching one of Robin Williams’ movie is one that is often times people’s first introduction to his work. Growing up, my family loved watching Disney’s animated movies, and from an early age on, I was seeing them regularly both in theaters when they were initially released and on VHS at home whenever I could. Even though I don’t remember seeing this in theaters (probably because I would have been two at the time), I do have fond memories involving watching this over and over and over again. For the longest part of my childhood, I believed Aladdin to be my favorite Disney movie, which has since moved on to become Beauty and the Beast. And let’s face it, if you watched Aladdin, pretty much your favorite or least favorite parts of the movie was the Genie of the lamp. And that’s pretty easy to see why. Robin Williams really sells the Genie as a cheeky but good-natured entity of power who grants wishes to whoever rubs his lamp. When he isn’t just mugging his various celebrity impression as a voice actor, Robin Williams actually brings a lot of compassion to the character. The parts where he is freed from his chains and when he reveals his wish were to no longer be trapped by the lamp he is confined within. He really sells the Genie as a very sympathetic character. However, the Genie is mostly remembered for the character voices that Williams pulls out every few minutes. They’re not all celebrity impersonations, such as when he turns into a bee to help Aladdin flirt with Jasmine, or when he just becomes a stylist or flight attendant for Aladdin.

"No Substitutions, Exchanges, Or Refunds"

“No Substitutions, Exchanges, Or Refunds”

But, let’s face it, the more memorable impersonations are the ones of celebrities. And, I’ll admit, as a kid, I didn’t understand that any of these voices were suppose to be impersonations. I mean, what kid (other than my older sister who loved old timey time films) was going to catch a Grouch Marx reference? Not too many kids even knew who Ed Sullivan was, let alone know that the Genie was pretending to be him for a schtick that realistically only the adults in the audience are going to understand. Which is apart of the appeal of the Genie to some people. He’s just a ridiculous character with pop culture reference after pop culture reference. Of course, this turns some people away as well, since this realistically is just Robin Williams doing a bunch of different goofy voices/impressions for 90 minutes. But to me, the Genie was always more than just that, and I love his performance here. He’s always present in the film and he steals the scene a lot, but he always contributes to the plot and entertains the audience. Overall, I think Robin Williams did a really fantastic job in integrating his style of comedy into such an odd concept of a character. Also, “Ain’t Never Had A Friend Like Me” is amazing in every single way possible. It is easily my favorite song from this movie, and Williams’ singing voice is pretty sweet. Definitely a classic performance for a classic movie.


More terrifying than Williams on Law and Order: SVU

Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire/ Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993): My memories of Mrs. Doubtfire are not nearly as fond as Aladdin, probably because this movie is just in general far creepier than Aladdin. In fact, for an actor who was in at least two different suspenseful thrillers/horror movies and went on to cameo on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit as an anarchist/  protestor, this is still legitimately the most horrifying roll I can remember Williams taking during my childhood. It doesn’t surprise me at all that people have taken the trailer for this movie and edited it to look like a horror film, because the concept of this movie is just really horrific. At the same time though, Robin Williams puts his voice work to good use once again here and does his great British old lady impression. I’ll admit, the comedy here isn’t the strongest, but some of the slapsticky stuff involving Williams having to disguise the fact that he is a dude are pretty funny. I especially love the scene in the restaurant when he finally gets caught by his wife and boss when his disguise begins to slip away after he saves James Bond from chocking. I also like that this move doesn’t attempt paint Daniel Hillard in a completely positive light. He gets punished for his negligence and only gets rewarded by his ex-wife out of the court, but for the most part, the character doesn’t completely get away with his crime.

Probably because he didn't have phenomenal cosmic powers.

Probably because he didn’t have phenomenal cosmic powers.

More than anything though, I love the interactions with the kids and Robin Williams, especially little Mara Wilson. Again, what I’m really nostalgic about is Williams’ ways of bringing joy and happiness to people, which is really highlighted but how entertaining he attempts to be when partying and playing with the kids. It’s very heartwarming, and while this isn’t my favorite film of Williams’ filmography, I certainly like the little moments of hope and inspiration they bring, especially the closing scene with the narration from Mrs. Doubtfire.

"It's the Law of the Jungle Sarah. You'll get use to it."

“It’s the Law of the Jungle Sarah. You’ll get use to it.”

Older Alan Parrish (Jumanji, 1995): Jumanji really begins to bring back a lot of memories from my childhood, even more so than Aladdin. Even though I watched Aladdin a lot more during my childhood, I can remember seeing Jumanji for the first time when I was a kid and just being totally captivated by all the crazy jungle animals and random events that were occurring. Having watched this movie very recently, I can say I have no idea what kind of drugs I was on when I was a kid, but the CGI and puppetry in this movie range from passable to laughable. The monkeys and spiders from this movie are quite terrible. The lion in particularly makes me laugh so much now seeing how cheesy the puppetry is during the movie. There’s also a lot of laughable acting coming from all the actors, Williams included. The most egregious of these scenes is when Alan traps the lion in Aunt Nora’s room and finds Peter and Judy hiding in closet. Everybody starts screaming, including Robin Williams, and his almost unemotional reaction while screaming at the children cracks me and my family up each and every time we see this movie. At the same time though, while this movie is pretty terrible in terms of acting, I can’t help but still love watching it. When I was young, this was actually one of the first videos I bought with my own money. I must have been like 5 or 8 when my mom gave me the cash I earned with good grades in school to go ahead and buy this movie at Wal-Mart.

"Did Somebody Say Five or Eight?!?!?!?!"

“Did Somebody Say Five or Eight?!?!?!?!”

Even just hearing the music from this movie makes me a little bit nostalgic. I remember watching this movie for the first time all the way through and getting totally pumped. And Robin Williams plays a huge part in that. I’ll be honest, the few sections of this movie with young Alan and the Peter and Judy’s house adventures before finding the board game drag a little bit. But once Robin shows up, the movie picks up. The comedy and action Williams shows, from fighting a lion, to wrestling with a couple of crocs, and fighting a huge plant with a fucking sword all demonstrate how badass Robin Williams was in this movie. Of course, these are juxtaposed against him yelling “Monkeys! Monkeys!” in the middle of the street. But I still have a lot of positive memories with Jumaji. If anything else, it made me interested in board games, a hobby which continues to this day, showcased my love of exotic animals, and of course made me appreciate Robin Williams ability to adapt to different genres. He isn’t just a comedy guy, he showed how he can be actiony and dramatic here too, no matter how hammy it comes across. All in all, I love everything about this movie, from the rhymes that set up the events of the game to the crazy hunter and his antics and of course, the energy that Robin Williams brings to this movie.



Peter Banning/Peter Pan (Hook, 1991): Far and beyond my favorite movie involving Robin Williams and also one of the most nostalgic movie of my childhood, Hook is easily a classic film that holds up a lot for me. Having watched this movie quite recently, I can still see some of the flaws within it. Like Jumanji, the first part of the film drags on just a little bit too much as we see how monotonous Peter’s life is, but other than I usually become really just enthralled by Hook. We had Hook on VHS growing up, and that tape got a decent amount of mileage out of it. I must have watched it at least once a month, if not just for the scene where Banning sits down with the Lost Boys while they eat the imaginary goods of Neverland. Even though the food just kind of looks like playdoh, frosting, and the model food for magazines in the 90s, but as a kid I wanted to eat all of it and participate in the food fight the kids have. Hell, even as an adult I want to reenact this scene. That’s one thing that I love about this film more than the others: Neverland is just a visual orgasm for your eyes. Everything on the lost boys side of the world is bright and colorful, while the pirates side is clustered and busy, but still visually an amazing sight to observe. The music that John Williams brought to the film also really brings me back to my childhood, especially the songs “The Banquet” and “Flight to Neverland”, which are the two songs which I remember most fondly because they involve the scenes with the most heavily childlike whimsy to them. And don’t even get me started on the video game and how it incorporated the music from the film.

Seriously, Don't Get Me Started, We Could Be Here For A While

Seriously, Don’t Get Me Started, We Could Be Here For A While

But most of all, I love Robin Williams as Peter Pan and Peter Banning, because he really sells both roles, one as a frustrated father who works his life away for his family, but loses sight of what he fought so hard for in his life, and the other as a young punk whose youth serves mainly to show how Peter still needs to grown up in order to win back his family. Easily one of my favorite scenes of any film that Robin Williams has been in is the scene on Hook’s ship when Peter is just taking out the pirates, and begins to monologue about his training and reveals that Jack and Maggie are his happy thought. Well….mostly Jack, Maggie isn’t really in that scene, but I digress. It’s an extremely heartwarming moment, because Williams’ acting really emphasizes the father’s love for his kids.

Peter Pan Has Kids?

Peter Pan Has Kids?

Look, it’s an awesome movie, so just role with it. There are other really great scenes involving Robin Williams that I just really love watching are the ones involving the Lost Boys and Rufio. When Peter first meets the Lost Boys, I love seeing how much the enjoy torturing the poor man and when the boys decide to side with Peter. You can tell by the way he interacted with the children in this film that Williams really enjoyed himself and had great chemistry with the kids, because they just seem to glow and act so excited in every scene. I imagine that the filming for this must have been a ton of fun. And of course, my favorite scene of the movie, the flyting scene between Rufio and Peter. Flyting is any time you have an exchange of insults, and here it’s taken to the most juvenile of levels with such classics as “Math Tutor” and “Boil-dripping, beef, fart-sniffing bubble butt“, and once Robin Williams gets in the zone he gets in the zone and schools Dante Basco. I don’t know why, but now I can only imagine this as an “8 Mile” esque free-style battle between the actors. And the food fight that ensues is glorious. When it comes down to it, I will always love this film, and Robin Williams acting in it. Its themes appeal a lot to me and I can’t help but get emotional when watching it, both happiness from the memories of watching it while growing up and sadness of knowing about Mr. Williams’ passing, along with his co-star, Bob Hoskins, who played an excellent Mr. Smee. Truly this is one of Robin’s films that defined my childhood. He was, and shall forever be, the Pan.

Playing Zelda With Zelda? What A Country!

Playing Zelda With Zelda? What A Country!

Avid Video Game Player/ Father A.K.A: Robin Williams (Ocarina of Time commercial, 2011): Alright, this last one is slightly cheating a bit, because this commercial is from well into my adulthood. But this commercial does make me nostalgic for my childhood, courtesy of Robin Williams. Watching him play video games and interact with his daughter Zelda, who was named after the titular princess from the Legend of Zelda series, always brought me back to 90s. I remember playing Ocarina of Time when it first came out for the Nintendo 64 way back in 1998 with my older brother, sister, and dad. My dad bought the player’s guide and everything, and kept asking us whether we had beaten Ganon or not. Seeing Robin Williams play video games  with Zelda also reminds me of playing video games with my family in general as well, which made up a huge part of my childhood. Ah, simpler times. Plus, it’s just cool knowing how huge of a fan of the Zelda series Williams was. He looks like he is having in these commercials. I wish there had been more than just the few commercials that were aired. Robin Williams could have sold any of Zelda games to me. Hell, if Robin Williams was in any commercial, I’d probably buy whatever he was selling.

Even A Breakable Combination Hookah and Coffee Maker That Also Makes Julienned Fries.

Even A Breakable Combination Hookah and Coffee Maker That Also Makes Julienned Fries.

Overall, this man just brings back so many memories of my childhood, and it’s hard to imagine that he has passed away. His films will forever hold a special place in my heart. Of course, I’ve seen many more of Robin Williams’ works, but these works are the ones that had the biggest impact on my childhood. Robin Williams is a legendary man, whose comedic styling, dramatic acting, eccentric voice performances, and energetic personality are on a hold other level. He will be missed, and I hope that he has impacted the lives of others in a similar manner that he touched my life. Rest in Piece, Robin Williams.

RIP Robin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014)

RIP Robin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014)