Oh Captain, My Captain

I’m frequently asked what kind of movies I watch.  That’s a hard question for me to answer because I usually watch documentaries and those documentaries are not on every day subjects.  By everyday subjects, I mean famous people.  Give me a Lithuanian basketball team or an obscure photographer and I’ll watch it.

Yesterday though I realized that there are some movies that I have watched many many many times and they aren’t documentaries and that they mean a lot to me.  Those movies have invariably starred Robin Williams, who passed away on Monday.  In reading about his death, which has greatly saddened me, I realized that he had starred in movies that I had no only enjoyed but were a part of my daily life for years.

As a teenager, I must have watched Dead Poets Society over 20 times, to the point where I have entire passages of movie committed to memory.  I wanted to be Knox Overstreet’s girlfriend and I cried when Neil commits suicide, but the biggest, the best part of the movie is the manic Mr Keating, played by Robin Williams.  Everybody wants a teacher like that, to open their mind, inspire them and teach them that you must make everyday of your life worth it.  Carpe Diem, indeed Mr Keating.

Now that I am a teacher, I say some of the things that Mr Keating said in my classes.  When I hand a student a paper, I say “time to inherit the earth” just like Mr Keating says in that movie.  I don’t know why I say it, but I do.

Next, we have The Fisher King.  Not only was this movie filmed in New York City in 1988, when I was a kid, but I remember the places that the movie was filmed in.  Of course the Holy Grail is at the Armory and the college professor works at Hunter College.  And the movie itself is beautiful, the Grand Central dance scene alone making the entire movie worth seeing.  The whole movie to me is perfect, but at the center is Robin Williams, a person who had been to hell and back playing a person who had been to hell and back.

Last, we have Good Will Hunting, where Robin Williams plays a professor at a college I work at, Bunker Hill Community College.  I will never forget the moment in the movie when the MIT professor Stellan Skarsgaard has run out of options and he arrives at the humble, concrete, unassuming Bunker Hill Community College.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 13 years after I watched that scene in the movie theater that I would be working there.  Mind you when I watched it the first time, I had no connection to Boston, nor was being a teacher of any kind anything I would have considered in a million years.

What made Good Will Hunting special, again, was Robin Williams, playing this sensitive college professor.  What I always thought was his genius was the fact that he actually portrayed the college professor the way the professors are over there.  Unpretentious and unassuming but possessed of great wisdom.

I made my way over to the Common Garden today to check out the makeshift memorial created to Robin Williams at the “Good Will Hunting” bench, where a scene featuring Williams and Matt Damon was filmed.  It looks like Robin Williams wasn’t just loved by me, but by many other people, who he made laugh or touched their hearts over the years:

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