Wednesday, March 22, 2017

End of an Era: a film review of "Logan"

The X-Men cinematic universe had been part of my life for...well...more than half of my life. The only film in the franchise I never saw in theaters was the first one, simply titled X-Men. I was 12 when it came out in 2000, and it was a PG-13 movie. My parents were pretty strict about waiting to see movies at the appropriate age (a policy I agree with. I was pretty upset to see young 12- and 13-year-olds in the theater for R-rated Logan. But that's another blog post).

But I saw X2 in theaters. And X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: get the picture.

9 movies over 17 years. (Technically there have been 10, but I don't count Deadpool, because: eww.) My birthday is in late May, and these films had a habit of opening over Memorial Day weekend, so it became a "birthday week" tradition for me to go see the latest X-Men movie. These movies are over-the-top action that rely on high-tech CGI effects and crashing soundtracks and cheesy one-liners, but I love them. I love the idea of kind-hearted Professor X searching the globe for young mutants and taking them into his care and protection. I loved the ivy-walled school that looked like any other but contained shape-shifters and ice-breathers and blue-skinned geniuses. I rallied for those who decided to use their powers for good and booed for those that didn't. I  contemplated the ongoing and tumultuous rivalry between Professor X and Magneto and wondered if the metal-bending supervillain would ever listen to his calm and cerebral former friend and find peace (and since the newer films fill in more of Magneto's tragic backstory, the answer is probably not).

And there in the center of it has always been Wolverine. Ageless, death-defying, world-weary Logan, born with powers that he didn't want, especially after those powers were enhanced through cruel experimentation. Over the decades covered by the films Logan saw friends, family and loved ones come and go. He fought for himself and fought for his friends. He chomped on cigars and rode motorcycles and donned leather jackets emblazoned with a giant "X." And now, 17 years after making his first appearance on the big screen, the story of the Wolverine (as portrayed by Hugh Jackman) is coming to an end.

 Logan is a brutal yet fitting end to his story. I went into the theater as prepared as I could be, knowing that the stylized violence of the previous PG-13 movies was going to be viciously ramped up in this R-rated finale. There were many gruesome moments when I had to look away. And as much as I did not enjoy that part of it, I do understand the reasoning behind it. For 17 years we've cheered as metal claws sprouted from Wolverine's knuckles and he bloodlessly dispatched the bad guys. But now we finally understand the horrific "reality" of his superpower and torturous aftermath he endures. In almost every film we've seen Logan tossing and turning at night, haunted by the visions of those he's hurt or might hurt. Now we see what he has seen. It is gruesome. It is terrifying. We can understand why it has consumed him.

Logan takes place in a desolate future where mutants are nearly extinct and Wolverine's body is finally succumbing to the poisonous metal buried inside. All he wants for his last years is to live in peaceful solitude with his mentor Charles Xavier (Professor X), who is also nearing his life's end. Xavier possesses the most powerful mind in the universe, but dementia and fatigue have turned his own mind against him and made him dangerously unstable. Charles' story literally brought me to tears; Professor X had been the underlying force of calm and reason for all of the X-Men, and it hurt to see him fall prey so cruelly to the ravages of time.

Logan has recruited a pale and placid mutant named Caliban to help take care of Xavier while he's away earning money, but yet again, those who get close to Logan find themselves in harm's way. Soon Logan and Charles are on the run again, unexpectedly protecting a powerful little girl from the evil forces that pursue her. Logan is tired. His body isn't healing anymore. But he will still do whatever it takes to protect those in his care.

Amidst the gory battles and frantic chase scenes, Logan does have some sweetly quiet moments. The aging Wolverine finds himself unable to read the small print on Charles' prescriptions, and seeing him peering over tiny reading glasses is hilariously adorable. A small boy clutches a Wolverine action figure in awe while watching his hero in action. And when a kind-hearted family takes the fugitives in for a night, Charles quietly confides to his friend how he long he's dreamed of such a simple, quiet life.

I won't say much more about the plot of the movie, but will end with this: the character of Wolverine spent decades on the fringes of society, fighting to keep himself alive and away from those that wanted to harness him for evil. But once Charles Xavier found him and gave him a home and a purpose with the X-Men, Logan never went back to fighting only for himself. His sole purpose became to protect others. He taught at the school, fought battles alongside the other X-Men, and became part of something. And in Logan, we see that he continues to fight for those who need him, even after everyone who fought beside him has disappeared.

I appreciated that Logan didn't worry itself with character cameos or flashbacks to better times. The era of the X-Men had passed, and we already knew that part of the story. Yes, it is a story about people who can bend reality with their minds and stop bullets with their forearms. But it is also the story of two friends named Logan and Charles; a story of compassion, friendship, and sacrifice.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Muddled morality - movie reviews of "Captain Fantastic" and "Suicide Squad"

I saw two very different movies this weekend: one a limited release art-house piece and the other a definitive summer blockbuster. The films don't have much in common, save for one underlying theme: the consequences of our actions.

Captain Fantastic opens with a violent scene of a teenage boy stalking and killing a deer with his bare hands. As the boy stands over the bleeding carcass, the rest of his camouflaged family rises out of the fauna to celebrate his accomplishment. The boy is proud, but his father is even prouder. Thus we are introduced to Ben, father of six and the titular Captain Fantastic as he congratulates his oldest son on his first real kill and smears the boy's face with blood as a badge of honor. 

Viggo Mortensen plays Ben with a quiet and intimidating rigidity. Contrary to what the above scene suggests, this is not a historic tale; Ben and his wife Leslie fled modern civilization when their oldest boy was only 8 and established a new home deep into the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Ben occasionally takes the family bus into town to make phone calls and get supplies, but their six children have grown up hunting and preparing their own food, undergoing rigorous survival training and never tasting the "poison water" that is soda or having their minds "warped" by organized religion. Ben and Leslie's dream was to raise a band of "philosopher kings" who could make up their own minds and be free from the lies of society. But their dream was tainted by Leslie's mental illness and manic/depressive behavior. By the time we meet Ben he has reluctantly allowed her to be taken to a hospital for professional treatment, and after three months away from her family, Leslie takes her own life. 

As Ben tries to make arrangements with Leslie's parents - who blame him for her death and her departure from Christianity - and decides to venture out with his children on a road trip to New Mexico for the funeral, his way of life begins to be threatened. Ben is utterly convinced that what he is doing is the best possible life for his children. And when it comes to book-smarts, his children are incredibly educated. His 9-year-old can recite the Bill of Rights by heart and can debate the gritty details of many economic-political current events. And survival skills? All six kids can identify poisonous plants by sight, prepare wild game without a second thought and run further and faster than most trained athletes. But there is also so much about the world that they don't know. 

Ben thinks that all the rest of that doesn't matter. He thinks the physical hardship that his kids endure is much safer than the mental dangers of the modern world. Even when his father-in-law threatens to report him to child protective services, he will not bend. It is very, very late in the story that Ben must jarringly come to terms with the damage and endangerment that his decisions have caused.

Ben loves his family with incredible ferocity and wants only the best for them. There is some good in what he has created for them, but in his relentless pursuit for perfection he has lost sight of the big picture and is unable to see the damage he has caused. Ben had caught Leslie up in an dream that she was not mentally prepared to handle, and it broke her. The children keep many secrets from their father in fear. Their middle son overheard a depressive episode where Leslie begged Ben to let her leave, and the son has never forgiven his father for refusing. Leslie had also secretly helped her oldest son, Bo, apply and be accepted to the top universities in the nation, but Bo is terrified of what will happen if his father finds out his plans to leave the homestead.

There is not a clear moral theme to be gained from Captain Fantastic. It is rated R for violence, language, and a completely unnecessary scene of male nudity (not that it is ever necessary, but this was purely gratuitous). It's not a film I can easily recommend or say that I learned a lot by watching. There were several instances where Christianity was bashed - Ben passionately scorns all religion (and has taught his children to do the same) - and immoral actions were celebrated. I left the film thinking it could have been a better story had they found peace relying in the strength of a power much bigger than their own logic and reason. But I did appreciate the clear message that nothing created by man can be perfect. This film is a painful, uncomfortable look at the consequences of selfishness. Hard as we may try, the serenity of the wilderness nor the flash of modern technology can solve all of our problems.

Suicide Squad, one of the mostly highly anticipated blockbusters of the summer, received pretty terrible reviews when it opened in early August. The trailers had thrilled with familiar comic book faces, lots of cool action and a killer soundtrack, but critics called it messy, too crowded with characters, badly edited and formulaic. 

I will start off by saying that I am a huge fan of the Marvel cinematic universe (Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, etc.) but not really as much for the DC universe (Superman, Batman, etc.). I came into this movie not knowing much about the character backstories, which worked perfectly, since the first third of the movie focuses on filling in as much backstory as possible. 

Through several colorful (and yet very dark) backstory montages we meet Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, El Diablo, and more. Each has done very bad things and are facing the consequences, even if they don't think they deserve it. Deadshot loves his daughter but wasn't willing to give up his very lucrative career as an assassin for her. Harley traded in a life of professional psychiatry for the dark underworld run by her abusive lover, the Joker. Killer Croc was treated like an animal because of his outward appearance, so he became one. And Diablo...well, Diablo is the only truly repentant one of the bunch. He was living the high life due to the terrified respect his fiery powers gained him, but lost the only things he truly loved when he let the power control him one too many times. When we meet him, he is willingly in solitary confinement and refuses to use his powers ever again.

While the redemptive qualities of the above cast could easily be counted on one hand, I still didn't get the impression than any of them were quite as reprehensible as government employee Amanda Waller. Waller has tasked herself with protecting the future against another Superman vs. Batman melee, and assembles these villains as a literal suicide mission in the name of citizen protection so that more of her soldiers don't have to die. But her intentions are far from nobly executed. She mows down a roomful of innocent government employees to keep her secrets safe. She manipulates her right-hand man to make sure he will do anything to see her mission through. And she makes vague promises to the Squad that she has absolutely no intention of keeping. 

As with the movie reviewed above, Suicide Squad is far from a morally black-and-white tale. And yet...I found this to be a much more redemptive story than Captain Fantastic. Many of these characters have something they regret and something (or someone) for whom they would truly give up everything. A particularly tragic moment happens when the villain Enchantress (yes, the villains have to fight a villain) casts a spell that gives many of these characters a split-second look at what their hearts really desire. What each of them sees isn't money or fame; it is reunion with family, redemption from sin, or a simple, loving life.

Hollywood tells us to cheer for the bad guys because they are cool and misunderstood. To laugh at their quips and one-liners. But beyond that, and far from celebrating them as heroes, I appreciate that this movie showed that all actions have consequences and redemption is always possible. One character spares the life of a fellow outlaw even though he knows that doing so will cost him his own chance at freedom. Another lays down his own life to save countless others. And when the world has been saved and the Squad must return to prison they accept (for the most part) that their heroic actions were not enough to atone for their past sins, and that they must each still serve their time. 

Suicide Squad is messy and loud and frantic. It's not a great movie plot-wise; one reviewer compared it to a video game: meet your character, pick their outfit and weapon, defeat the boss, repeat. And it's not going to win any morality-tale-of-the-year award or have clips used during a Sunday School lesson. But I enjoyed it more than I anticipated, and appreciated the humanity it brought to some very broken characters; characters that could easily have been as flat as the pages from which they originated. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Summer Reading, year 3 - "Artisan Breads Every Day"

The fifth and final goal on my Summer Reading list was to read a How-To Book and then apply what I learned. To read the entire summer series, click the links below:
The Sword in the Stone and Far From the Madding Crowd
Out of the Silent Planet
and a bonus, my review of Go Set a Watchman 

The skill I chose to learn more about is bread-making, which is why this post is much later than I anticipated. Bread-making is a process! When I was growing up my mom baked bread once a week (and sometimes more than once a week - life with 9 kids, yo), so I am familiar with the process and the time/effort involved. But I don't bake for us on a regular basis, and lately I've been wanting to experiment more with different types of bread: rustic varieties, sourdoughs, etc.So I purchased the book Artisan Breads Every Day by James Beard-award-winner Peter Reinhart. I was not familiar with Reinhart before purchasing the book, but he has written several titles and won multiple awards. It looked like one of the best options: lots of instructions, illustrations, and scrumptious recipes.

The first recipe I tried was a french rustic bread, which turned out very well. Pretty round loafs, crispy crust, soft and fluffy interior. We ate it hot from the oven with big bowls of homemade chili, then I toasted and buttered it for breakfast, then finished it off with olives and feta cheese later in the week.

The second recipe I tried was a milk dough bread, which is a    dough that incorporates milk and sweetener (sugar or honey) along with the basic dough ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt). This one did not turn out so well, and I'm not really sure why. I'm going to have to experiment with it more. The dough was extremely heavy and dense - kneading it was almost impossible. It rose admirably in the fridge, but when I pulled it out and let it proof it barely rose at all, even after 3+ hours. I went ahead and baked it, but the loaves turned out short, dense, and a little bit under-cooked in the center. I plan to try again, since it's Reinhart's most basic recipe for sandwich bread and dinner rolls.

The third and final project was creating a sourdough starter ("final" only for the purpose of this blog!). The starter is a bubbling, "living" dough (the same way that normal yeast is alive) that, once completed, is "fed" once per week and kept in the fridge indefinitely. Every time you want sourdough bread you take a little of the starter to use in the recipe and then re-build the starter through the feeding/replenishing process. To create this living, yeast-like concoction, I combined unsweetened pineapple juice and flour, let it sit for two days, added water and more flour, let it sit for two days, added more...etc. This fermented mix creates the slightly tangy, springy bread that is great for sandwiches and soups.

Once the starter was ready, I went ahead and baked a batch of Reinhart's San Francisco sourdough bread. It turned out SO WELL. The dough was smooth and perfect, the loaves rose like champs and the finished loaf was crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, and delicious. Yum.

That concludes my summer reading for 2015. I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts and personal musings, because I have enjoyed sharing them. Here's to a lot more great reads this fall!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Summer Reading Goals, year 3 - "Everyman"

Since the first day of fall is not until September 23, I am going to allow these last two books to fall within my goals for Summer Reading. I have completed both of the final goals on my list, but will post them as two separate blog posts since both goals are so very different in content.

The fourth goal completed from my list was to read a non-Shakespeare play.

Poster from The National Theatre's 2015 production
The play I chose to read is not only non-Shakespeare, but predates Shakespeare! Everyman is a morality play from the Middle Ages, the kind of play that traveling priests and church-funded theater groups would perform in town squares with the intent of inspiring (or terrifying) people into repenting and securing a future for their eternal souls. The earliest version of this play is dated around 1378, so why did I choose such an ancient and seemingly obscure play to read?

Well, earlier this summer the National Theater in London put on a modernized version of Everyman, starring acclaimed actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as the title character. Many of their productions are streamed live to cinemas around the world, and the description, photos and trailer enthralled me. I was crushed when it turned out it would not be streamed in Austin, but I hunted down a script at Half-Price Books and read the play for myself.

Everyman tells the story of a man (called only "Everyman") who is approached by Death and told that he must journey to the place of judgement and be prepared to "give an account of his life in this world." Everyman begins to desperately search for a friend to accompany him on this fateful journey, but no one will stand for him. Nothing that he has collected in this world matters when he faces his final judgement.
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Everyman

Everyman is an elaborate illustration of the verse in 1 Thessalonians which says "...for the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." As Christians we are taught to prepare our hearts and be ready to meet the Lord at any time, for we do not know when the day of judgement will come. Do we listen and prepare? As Everyman cries out to the shrouded figure before him:
"O Death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind!
... I may say Death giveth no warning!
To think on thee, it maketh my heart sick,
  For all unready is my book of reckoning."

Everyman is abandoned by Fellowship (his friends), Cousin and Kindred (his family), his Goods (wealth and possessions), his Five Wits, and Beauty, Strength and Discretion (earthly/human attributes). As he approaches the place of judgement he comes across his Good Deeds lying weak and wasting in the darkness; he begs them for help, and they want to help him, but they are nothing without his salvation. They moan:
"Everyman, I am sorry of your fall, 
And fain would I help you, if I were able!" 
With their help he is directed to Knowledge, his last hope. Knowledge leads him to repentance and salvation. Everyman repents, offers his soul, and finds, at last, the peace and humility he needs to approach judgement without fear.

If a shrouded form approached and said it was time to lay our lives before the throne of God, would we be ready? Or would we offer Death a bribe, or a long list of good deeds, or a desperate plea for more time? In the modern re-telling that The National Theatre offered to audiences this summer, Everyman is living an extravagant and foolish life, and wakes up alone from oblivion after a night of relentless partying. God approaches him in human form and delivers the message of impending judgement, sending him on the introspective and desperate journey in search of truth and meaning.

I very much enjoyed reading this play and would love to see it performed. It may seem incredible that something so old can still hold such potent truth, but then that thought seems silly in light of the Bible itself and the timeless, perfect truth it still conveys.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Summer Reading Goals, year 3 - "Out of the Silent Planet"

There is only one day left in August, one day until the deadline for my summer reading goals. It's been a busy summer, and I have completed 3 out of 5 goals so far. I will continue on with the last 2  - I know what I'm going to read for those goals, I just haven't completed them yet - and will hopefully complete them within the next week or so.

The third goal completed from my list was to read the first in a new series. Technically it's an old series, and technically I have read this first book before, but it was many years ago and my memory of it was very, very vague, so I decided to start anew. The series I decided to tackle this summer was C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy, and the first in that series is called Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet was published in 1938, one year after Lewis's good friend J.R.R. Tolkien published a little book called The Hobbit. Both of them were respected professors who shared a love of science-fiction and fantasy, and they would often bounce ideas off each other and share rough drafts. Lewis's Space Trilogy is less well-known than his remarkable fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkien's incredible epic The Lord of the Rings, but this "harder" sci-fi trilogy was published and acclaimed during a period now known as the Golden Age of Science Fiction (1920s-1930s).

Out of the Silent Planet is a fairly straight-forward work of sci-fi. An academic named Dr. Ransom is kidnapped by two scientists and forced onto a spacecraft bound for Mars. He soon discovers that he is to be presented to the planet's natives as a sacrifice and manages to escape his captors upon landing on the red planet. Alone in the wilderness, he realizes there are several different species on this planet, some to be avoided and some to befriend, and is soon taken in by a native race that live near the water and vaguely resemble otters. Aided by these kind creatures, he begins to learn the language and customs of this strange new world, better preparing him to face his human enemies as they creep ever closer. 

This book is slim - only about 200 pages - and enjoyably paced. Lewis introduces us to some very compelling creatures and customs, and I wish there had been more time spent with them. There is action, suspense and incredible descriptions. The landscapes he describes are colorful and strangely beautiful:

- It was this which finally convinced him [Ransom] that the things, in spite of their improbable shape, were mountains; and with that discovery the mere oddity of the prospect was swallowed up in the fantastic sublime. ...Here in this riot of rock, leaping and surging skyward like solid jets from some rock-fountain, and hanging by their own lightness in the air, so shaped, so elongated, that all terrestrial mountains must ever after seem to him to be mountains lying on their sides. He felt a lift and lightening at the heart.  -

The story culminates rather quickly and (spoiler alert) with Ransom safely back on earth. I felt rather sad that Lewis had taken all the time to create these creatures and landscapes and languages when he was not planning to return to them...for as I proceeded to the second book in the series, I realized it was taking a very different turn indeed.

I will not spend time on Perelandra right now, but it was not what I expected and definitely not the sequel I was looking for at the time. If you read this trilogy, take to heart the opening note which says that each book in this series can be read independently. The protagonist - Ransom - is the same in Perelandra, but his adventure is very different, his enemies fiercer, his surroundings stranger and the allegorical themes much, much stronger. 

I have not yet read the final installment, That Hideous Strength, but I will make time for it this fall. C.S. Lewis has the uncanny ability to go from light adventure to heavy theology in mere pages, and while it can be startling, it is never without purpose. Lewis's deeply allegorical style can take some getting used to, and not everything he writes will hit you with the right message every time. I don't think it was the right time for me to read and fully understand Perelandra. I'm sure that at another time in my life it will have a more meaningful impact on me. I still struggle to understand the deeper meaning of his re-imagined myth Till We Have Faces, while his descriptive and fantastical journey through heaven and hell in The Great Divorce is one of the most beautiful works of theological fiction I have ever read.

To conclude, Out of the Silent Planet is a solid work of science-fiction written at a time when the stars and planets held infinite possibilities. Space was the ultimate adventure for writers and dreamers in the early 20th century, and traveling with Dr. Ransom was an enjoyable and imaginative ride. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book review: Go Set a Watchman

As you have already heard through numerous news stories and media blasts, Go Set a Watchman is not exactly a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. It contains familiar faces, places and situations but is, in many ways, a work of its own. Most reports say that this is an earlier version of Mockingbird that was relentlessly revised by Harper Lee and her editors to become the novel we know and love. And with the reclusive author in such poor health and the murky details surrounding Watchman's publication, many believe this new book was published without her consent. I feel like in her mind, it is still the rough-draft of a story that she never felt confident enough to share.

To me, the biggest detail that sets this novel apart from its predecessor is that fact that Jean Louise (Scout) remembers her father’s famous court case differently than it is portrayed in Mockingbird. In a brief, fleeting memory, she recalls that her father once represented a black man accused of raping a white girl and that he won an acquittal for his client. Having just re-read and re-lived the heartbreaking details of the case in Mockingbird – the case that Atticus Finch lost– this plot deviation was rather shocking to me. If Atticus had won, so many of the most potent scenes in Mockingbird would never have happened. There would not have been the silent salute of respect from the balcony once the verdict was read and Atticus walked alone from the courtroom. There would not have been the heartbreak of Tom Robinson’s desperate and fatal escape attempt. And perhaps most importantly, Atticus's oldest child Jem would not have struggled with the bitter realization that the justice system is not always just.

Atticus losing that case was the catalyst for a huge leap in Jem’s mental and emotional growth in Mockingbird. Without the lost case and the resulting conversations he had with Atticus, Jem would have been in the same place where Jean Louise finds herself in Watchman: still caught in the illusion of youth that justice is always just, fathers are perfect and truth will always prevail. And even though Jem is dead and gone in Watchman and the story focuses wholly on a grown-up Scout, I wish his memory could have been more thoughtfully preserved and his importance not cast aside.

Also, contrary to popular media buzz, the Atticus Finch portrayed in Watchman is not a racist or bigot. Watchman is the story of a young woman coming to terms with the fact that her father is human, imperfect and simply doing the best he can do in an angry, troubled town filled with angry, troubled people. Atticus does not always make the right decisions. He is a good man, not a perfect man. To 9-year-old Scout, he was a knight in shining, flawless armor. To a 26-year-old Jean Louise, he must come down from his high horse and don simpler garb. He does not have all the right answers, but he is trying to fight the good fight.

Taken as a whole, you could say that Watchman is a second chapter in the lives of Scout, her father Atticus, and the town of Maycomb, Alabama. I enjoyed grown-up Scout and her observations of a tiny Southern town stuck in their tiny Southern ways. Her many childhood memories help fill out a life just glimpsed in Mockingbird, and her grown-up conversations and observations are thought-provoking. Two new characters are introduced in this story: Henry Clinton, childhood friend and now almost-fiance to Jean Louise, and wise uncle Jack, bachelor brother to Atticus. Both fit easily into the familiar scenery and fill gaps left by Jem, Calpurnia and other beloved faces.

I don’t think I would tell a high school student to read Go Set a Watchman immediately after finishing To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. Watchman is, in many ways, a necessary story. But Mockingbird is a better novel in style and structure as well as heart and soul.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In Memory

I did not know you, and yet you were an incredibly important influence on my life. By college I had assembled quite the collection of your movies. During psychology class one day I told my professor about your little-known psychological thriller "The Final Cut," and she borrowed and enjoyed it and we were able to discuss it academically. Your uncredited appearance in Kenneth Branagh's "Dead Again" was brilliant, as well as your hilariously awkward Osric in his version of "Hamlet." You could be serious, funny, intellectual and thought-provoking. You helped me love film and the arts. Your work helped me think critically and deeply.

I first fell in love with you in the magical "Hook," which was watched yearly as a New Year's Eve tradition for several seasons during my childhood. Your thoughtful journey in "Bicentennial Man" brings me to tears. Your manic joy doing voice work in "Aladdin" and countless others is infectious. And your quieter performances - like the ones in "Dead Poet's Society" and "Good Will Hunting"  - just makes me want to give you a hug.

You had your misses. You had work that was too crude for me to enjoy; your stand-up was avoided at all costs. But I always loved the moments when I felt I could see your heart; when the mania slowed and the jokes took a step back and the man beneath the laughter shone through. When "The Crazy Ones" premiered in 2013 I watched the first few episodes, but something felt wrong to me. I'm not at all trying to say it was prophetic. I'm not at all trying to say I saw it coming. But as I commented to my husband and my mom and others, the comedy in that show felt painful. It felt unhappy. It felt like something else was trying to be said, but was lost.

I ache to think how much of your life was spent trying to say something that was never heard. It's almost a physical pain to me, thinking of your sadness, thinking of your hidden hurts and battles. I don't know how I can feel so deeply for someone I never knew. But I do. And I miss you.

Robin Williams
July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2015