Banned Books Week

draft1“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” – Noam Chomsky

Yesterday marked the beginning of Banned Books Week – A celebration of American Censorship. Okay, that’s not the real tagline, but it might as well be. America has been banning books as long as America has been America. The idea is to “protect” people (Mostly children. Ugh.) from difficult ideas or subversive information. Often bans (or “challenges” to a book) come as a result of a parent, or group of parents using their kids as an excuse for censorship. Because children need protection from sex and language in books. But not in cartoons, video games, movies or… life in general.

The First Amendment protects us from idiot Parent Groups (and other people) trying to censor what you are allowed to read. It says that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because “society” finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. Basically, if someone wants to write a book about a tribe of naked ladies who assassinate trolls while riding on horse sized house-cats, they can. And you can’t stop them. If the idea of a tribe of nude women upsets your delicate sensibilities, or you are morally outraged at the idea of “troll assassination”, then DON’T READ THE BOOK. You are not allowed to dictate what the rest of us can read. I’m a big girl. I understand complex ideas, and I kind of dig the idea of naked ladies riding on huge house-cats.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid if you told me that a book was banned it would just make the book that much more appealing. This week marks the 32nd year in which we celebrate books that someone told us not to read. In a time when people can read anything from The Story of O, to Fifty Shades of Grey, (in public!) it seems rather backwards that the US should be in the business of banning books.
NairiApkarian_InfographicYet we are. Even now in 2014. Schools across the country pull books from their libraries because of fearful parents. Kids shouldn’t need a note from home to read a book. Parents shouldn’t be dictating policy in schools, much less what children are allowed to read. If you think your kid shouldn’t be reading Charlotte’s Web because, “showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and an insult of God”, then great. Limit your child. Cool. Cool. Cool. But don’t take away a great piece of literature from EVERYONE just because you are too simple, scared, or backwards thinking to understand a talking pig. 
 
Banning a book because it’s “values” don’t line up with yours isn’t okay. This may come as a shock to some of you, but not every person in the US is a “christian”. Using “christian values” as a way to demonize a book just doesn’t work. If I don’t share your views on sexuality, religion or violence, then how can you decide what is appropriate for me? You can’t.
 
And that’s what it comes down to, or should. Freedom of choice. An writer should be able to express herself without the fear of censorship. And readers should be given every opportunity to explore different types of writing, different types of stories, and different types of books. Sex, profanity and racism are often the primary complaints against books, but those are also the things that make a book worth reading. What would Huck Finn or Anne Frank be like without the language used? What would Beloved be like without the horrid abuse and rape? Sometimes the issues that are hardest to take are exactly the ones we should be reading about. For how else do we learn?

A Map of My Life

SN859272Every month I am honored to be a contributor over at gumshoeblog.org - It’s a fun place. “Gumshoe features a collection of writers who are full of curiosity and are armed with an adventurous spirit. A gumshoe is a cultural curator who is looking for what is unexpected, beautiful, frustrating, and inspiring. A gumshoe digs deeper to attempt to understand how art and culture live and interact in our world. Gumshoes love the act of discovery and sharing.” Rad, huh?

So, this month we writers were tasked to make a map… of anything. I was a little dumfounded at the idea because I never like to put effort into anything that I believe will end up being ordinary. If I make a map I want it to be spectacular! So after ditching a few maps to fantasy realms, I decided to make a “map” of my life… with drawings.

The idea here is to show where I have lived over the past couple of decades. I travelled a lot over the years, but this little map shows where I have lived. Where I have planted myself. Where I have earned a living, paid taxes, etc. I’ve moved around a lot and I don’t regret it.

SN859274I started in So. Cal and then moved to San Francisco. From there I moved to Oakland, and then back to L.A. for a few months before moving to Prague. I stayed in Prague for about three years before moving to Mexico where it was ridiculously hot and I got paid very little. So… back to Prague for another four years. When I got tired of the Czech lifestyle, I moved with my partner to Texas, his home. We lived in Houston and Austin, but mostly Austin. I did not care for Texas. We left Texas in January of this year and packed our little car with everything we own. What didn’t fit didn’t come. (Now that’s a minimalist lifestyle!) We drove to Ratna Ling Buddhist Retreat Center. (I wrote a series of pieces about my time there. This was the last one) It was supposed to be a six month commitment, but they asked me to leave after one month. From there we drove back to Berkeley where we stayed with an awesome couple, their one year old and three legged dog. They were kind enough to let us stay and recoup before we repacked the car and headed to Seattle. And that’s where I am now.

Travel: Bainbridge Island

Seattle skyline from ferry

Seattle skyline from ferry

So here is the truth. I tend to mole. (MOLE: When you hide in your flat, shades drawn, nose in a book, binge watching every episode of The Amazing Race Canada because you convince yourself it’s pretty much field work now that you live so close to Canada and you know actual Canadians – and thus don’t set foot outside of your flat until you are forced out due to work.) I like being a mole. Sometimes. It’s a constant struggle that is going on inside me. On the one hand, I have the mole – content to read, sip coffee, watch old movies and just relax. That’s what days off are for! And on the other hand I have the adventurer – wanting to explore new places, taste new food, and see new things. In order to appease the Adventurer in me I try to allocate a few days off a month to do something new. Yesterday my fella and I traveled by ferry to Bainbridge Island.

SN859211It’s part of the Puget Sound, and was voted the second best place to live IN AMERICA, back in 2005. It is just a short 35 minute ferry ride, and the views are incredible.From the ferry you can see the awesome Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle. Once the ferry docks it is a short walk uphill to the main street, Winslow Way. The Island has that quaint New England vibe to it, and we even saw a couple of drunk old timers hollering in the streets. It felt authentic.

There is plenty to see and do on the Island. We spent a good amount of time walking the nature trails that weaved in and out of the shoreline. We found a cute little footbridge and a hidden basketball court. Out on the main drag there are a variety of stores and restaurants, wine tasting rooms and bakeries, and even a little independent bookstore called Eagle Harbor Books. We ate lunch at a sandwich deli and then wandered the streets some more. Ice cream at Mora was pretty awesome after all of that walking.

Jenny Anderson

Jenny Anderson

The highlight of the day was the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. It is a small, modern museum that is dedicated to local art and artists. And it is free, as ALL museums should be. I found a new artist to become obsessed with: Jenny Anderson. She is a native of Seattle and does work in pottery, sculpture, wood and raku. My favorite works of hers were these whimsical wood and ceramic pieces – forest creatures in robes carrying small, detailed faces in their hands and packs. My mind went into overdrive thinking of stories for these detailed, lifelike creatures. I couldn’t get enough. The museum also showed a short movie about her, the huge dragon of a kiln she uses, and how she makes her art. It was pretty inspiring.

SN859230I also very much enjoyed the collection of stuff which artist Max Grover put together. He uses his own collection of things (Hula girls, Luchadors, wedding cake toppers) as inspirations for his paintings and collages. I’ll admit that I found the actual paintings to be a little childlike and easy. But I absolutely adored looking at the collections of things he had. It was kind of cool for me to look at a collection of snow globes and think to myself, I used to have a collection of snow globes twice this size. I gave the collection away when I decided to move abroad. I don’t miss it. Even a little bit. It’s fun to look at someones elses collection of old junk knowing that I don’t have to live with it, house it, dust it, or make room for it. Feels like freedom.

SN859214If you live in Seattle or take a holiday here, Bainbridge Island is definitely worth the short trip. And it wasn’t expensive. We used Orca Cards to get to the island ($8 roundtrip) and we shared lunch and ice cream. All in all it was an affordable fun day for a little Mole like me. The Adventurer inside of me felt like she had a full day – riding the ferry, hiking the island, taking pictures and swinging on the swings. And I’m glad she got her fill. Because when the Mole comes back asking to relax and just chill, I won’t feel bad saying yes.

Books: 13 Badass Babes From Literature

normanrockwell-4When I decided to make a list of kick-ass female characters from literature, I wanted to use only characters from adult fiction. This proved to be more difficult than I thought. It’s fairly easy to find awesome female characters aimed at making young girls believe they can grow up to do or be anything. Katniss, Hermione, Violet Baudelaire – all of them are awesome and smart and feisty. But they are also all teenagers. Every list I found of “The Best Female Characters in Books” was full of YA or children’s characters. Aren’t there any cool female characters who are all grown up? Answering that question proved a little harder than I hoped. It made me angry that every literary female cited was under twenty.

Unfortunately the adult world of literature favors men. MEN have adventures. MEN fight dragons. MEN go to war. And MEN live full lives. Perhaps it’s because girls are encouraged to be active, seek adventure, and be daring. Women are encouraged to make babies and seek a husband. How dull. How sad. But I managed to put together a list of thirteen of the most badass ladies in literature despite the stereotypes. The only criteria: 1. It must be a book that I have read. Personally. 2. Must be a book aimed at adults.

  1. Jo March (Little Women) – Smart, impulsive, argumentative, tomboyish, and hot-tempered. Jo March loves life and wants to participate. Much like the author Louisa May Alcott, Jo was a rebel. She is forced to live a life that doesn’t suit her and soon yearns for more. She is a writer, and her main focus is writing. Not romantic love. Although she does have romance in her life, it isn’t what defines her. I love Jo. My good fellow. 
  2. Jane Eyre9780143106159She’s my favorite character of the Brontë universe. Throughout the novel Jane possesses a sense of self-worth and dignity.  She’s only a mouse, but underneath she is a tiger. Her integrity is tested over the course of the novel, and Jane must learn to balance the frequently conflicting aspects of herself. She’s self-reliant and never expects to be “rescued” from her circumstances. Jane Eyre has always been a hero of mine. A woman trying to find balance between her need for freedom and her yearning for love, and often voicing radical opinions on sex, gender, religion and social class. Bad. Ass.
  3. Elphaba Thropp (Wicked) – Even before this book became a hit musical with songs that annoy karaoke participants to this very day, I was singing its praises. Long before TV and movies got on board with the “new twist on classic tales” idea, Gregory Maguire had it nailed. He created a Wicked Witch of the West that was vulnerable, kind and funny. A true hero. She’s tough, smart, sassy and green. And like the song says, it’s not easy being green.
  4. Marian McAlpin (The Edible Woman) – Margaret Atwood tells the story of a young single woman who works for a market research company. Unable to foresee a fulfilling career, she begins to worry about her future and about what she might become. She soon realizes that her relationship with her boyfriend Peter is more serious than she would like. Yet when Peter proposes marriage, Marian accepts. A story I whole heartedly related to when I read it. Marian has an affair and develops one of the best eating disorders I’ve ever seen in print. A woman, like Emma Bovary in some ways, has to determine her own worth and her place in her own life.
  5. Miss Jane Marple – She’s not what you think of when you think of detective, but she’s one of the best. Long before Jessica Fletcher was out solving crimes, Miss Jane Marple was doing it better. A shrewd observer and a natural genius, Miss Marple proves herself a match for every murder she meets. Sure, I’m more of a Poirot fan, but even I have to give props to Agatha Christie’s tour de force, Miss Marple. A cheerful person who always expects the worst. How can you not love her?
  6. Scarlet O’Hara – A dark-haired, green-eyed, spoiled brat of a beauty takes center stage in this novel of the south. screen-shot-2013-06-29-at-4-32-01-pmShe’s not nice. And that is exactly what I like about her. Scarlet gets shit done. And if you are in her way, good luck to you. She proved to be strong, smart, and even a shrewd business woman who always gets what she wants. She embodies the old and new south, and struggles with those ideas internally. She adapts to what life throws at her and doesn’t just survive. She thrives.
  7. Mildred Pierce - At first glance, Mildred Pierce is a dumb woman who lets people manipulate her. But that’s not all Mildred Pierce is. The story takes place right after the depression in Southern California, and Mildred finds herself needing to work for the first time ever. Her spoiled daughter is embarrassed of her. Her best friend tells her to use her femininity to her advantage, use men for what she can get out of them. But Mildred instead chooses to start her own business, earn her own money and take control of her own life. Bad. Ass.
  8. Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights) – All that we know of Catherine is second-hand, filtered through diaries and memories. 2c0ad9efeee96800985915d822546939She is a literal ghost at the opening of the novel. She is a woman torn between two loves and two worlds – Edgar and Heathcliff. Her choice of husband is the turning point of the novel, and when the nastiness begins. She manages to become a “lady” – a snobby brat who gets her way – but underneath is still that strong, wild woman who wants love and freedom. She’s a ghost for the majority of the novel. That says something about the strength of her character.
  9. Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter) – A is for Adultery. The heroine of The Scarlet Letter is ostracised in 17th-century Boston for giving birth to a daughter out-of-wedlock. This story shines a bright light into the world of suffocating American puritanism that still exists today.  Hester endures shame and scorn for a situation she could hardly control, and a situation she was not alone in. It takes two to tango, ya know. Hester was forced to marry an old man and while waiting for him in to come to Massachusetts, she meets a charismatic minister and has an affair with him. I wonder who gets punished for that one? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t the minister. Hester is an independent woman, and a free-thinker in a time when none of that was okay to do. If you were a woman.
  10. Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair) – A poor orphan of low birth, Becky Sharp is a born hustler and social climber who manages to raise herself to the upper limits of high society and wealth. Evil doer or misunderstood woman ahead of her time? 20111017071648-vanity_fair_coverThackeray never actually reveals whether she is guilty or innocent of the crimes that cause her reputation’s crash. Sure, she is constantly stealing from her creditors, allowing Rowden’s gambling to disrupt her friendships, and pulling con jobs, but somehow the narrator makes these sound comical rather than evil. I feel like Becky only committed crimes of circumstance or survival. Any woman in her place would do the same thing. Okay, she’s not the best mom in the world, but not every woman wants a child. And I don’t think Becky wanted to be a mother.
  11. Claire Fraser (Outlander series) – She’s a no-nonsense nurse and all around badass. Oh, and she also time travels. Cool, right? I read the Outlander series back in 1992, and I’ve been recommending them ever since. See, she’s married to a guy in the 20th century, but meets an even hotter guy when she is transported back to the 18th century. Claire has a quick tongue, a hot temper and she’s smart. Sure she gets into trouble, but watching her get out of trouble is half the fun. It was the first time I had read a book where a woman was having the adventure, time traveling, and making decisions that changed the course of the story. And history.
  12. Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) – Okay, she might be a sociopath, but given the circumstances of the novel, I feel alright with that. She’s a feisty, world-class computer hacker with a photographic memory, and she’s also the survivor of an abusive childhood. That’s why she’s anti-social. And why she has just a teeny, tiny violent streak. If you fuck with Lisbeth Salander, you better be a fast runner.
  13. Auntie Mame (Auntie Mame) – This is the story of a ten year-old boy who is sent to live with his zany aunt. And before I go any further, I want to state that I think the world needs more zany aunts. 1549471_10152037290632496_1516082930_nAuntie Mame is a worldly, hilarious, irrepressible, adoring, easily distracted, and all around awesome guardian of her little nephew Patrick. Mame’s life is filled with parties, travel, bathtub gin, caviar, Broadway stars and Indian mystics. The perfect environment for raising a well-rounded kid. No. Seriously. Mame believes in trying things, thumbing your nose at convention, taking roads less traveled because they’re bound to be more interesting, and being yourself no matter what the assholes of the world think of you. These are valuable lessons to learn at any age. My life motto is from this book: “Life is a banquet” she says, “and most poor suckers are starving to death.” (The picture here is my vey own first edition of “Around the World with Auntie Mame”)

Books: 2014 Reading Challenge (So Far)

Paterniti_TheTellingRoom-200x300I challenged myself to read 50 books last year and I came up short. Life and travel and television got in the way. But I don’t make excuses. I just set better goals. This year my challenge was to read twenty-five books and I’m already finished with nineteen of them. I think working in a bookstore helps.

So here are the nineteen books I’ve started and completed this year. In the order I read them. I gave each book a “star rating” and a brief review.

  1. Bag of Bones by Stephen King (736 pages) – **** I devoured this book. This is a ghost story and it’s scary. A writer must face his own demons, and maybe some actual demons in a small Maine town. Of course. Fans of King will enjoy this book, and non fans will see what all of the fuss is about.
  2. N-W by Zadie Smith (296 pages) – ***** SO GOOD! Zadie Smith writes about London in a way only a true Londoner could. She uses slang, style and prose to make this book come alive. It’s the story of four adult Londoners who tragically and comically adapt to life as grown-ups. Smith is a master of style, tone and prose. Lovely.
  3. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (576 pages) *** – I only gave this three stars because there are a few (very few) stories in here that didn’t make the grade. All in all though, this book was a lot of fun. Great retellings of classic fairy tales and written by some great writers like Michael Cunningham and Joyce Carol Oates.
  4. The Apothecary by Malie Meloy (384 pages) *** – This was a fun adventure for kids. It follows a young girl and her family as they flee from the Red Scare and Blacklisting that is going on in America. Full of history, magic potions and adventure, this book will make you smile. The first in a series aimed at intermediate readers.
  5. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (258 pages) – *** As a bookseller I felt I had to read this. It was a cute little book filled with inside jokes for avid readers. Nothing complex here in language, style or theme, but a good little book.
  6. Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto (240 pages) *** The story of a family living together in a small Bombay apartment. Mom is slipping deeper and deeper into maddness and dad (The Big Hoom) is just trying to keep going. A surprisingly funny book that was tender and heart felt at the same time.
  7. Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff (304 pages) ** – Eh. Another book for middle readers, but it was just alright. I would pick a dozen books over this one for kids, but at the same time the message was a good one: It’s okay to be different. But there are plenty of better books out there with the same message.
  8. Monday, Monday by Elizabeth Crook (352 pages) – * I was SO disappointed in this book. It tells the story of a group of people all brought together by the tragic shooting at U of T in the sixties. It was overwrought and completely predictable. If you want a family saga that spans decades, read Joyce Carol Oates instead. Skip this book.
  9. You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates (436 pages) – **** Oates is a master of epic family drama. This book tells the story of one family and their struggle to make it in America in the 50’s. It captures the decade perfectly. The story follows one family in up state NY and delves into each of their lives. Of course there are sexual taboos, violence and even boxing. What else would you expect from JCO?
  10. The Skin Collector by Jeffery Deaver (448 pages) – ** Bored. I’d never read Deaver before and I doubt I will again. It’s not that it wasn’t good, it was just basic. This book didn’t challenge my intellect and it was fairly predictable. There are better detective mysteries out there.
  11. Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins (384 pages) – ***** Yes. Just, yes.
  12. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (386 pages) – ***** I read this a few months before it’s US release and I predicted that people would be disappointed and a little pissed at this book. Why? Because Murakami has somewhat of a cult following and this book isn’t really what the fans are expecting. There is no other world. No cats. No deep wells. It is a minimalist book in style and content. Almost stark and cold. Now that being said, I loved it.
  13. Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch (387 pages) – *** I’ve reviewed this a couple of times here on my blog, but here you go. This book was full of unlikable people doing very nasty things. Like in  The Dinner, Koch uses friendship as the foundation for the moral questions that arise. This book is fast paced, well written and pretty gross. I enjoyed it.
  14. The Quick by Lauren Owen (544 pages) **** – Gothic, dark, and paced like a gothic novel, The Quick is a slow study in horror. I enjoyed the different POV’s throughout, and I enjoyed the world that was created here. Fans of Penny Dreadful should check this out.
  15. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (352 pages) *** – Ugh. I guess I went though a phase of reading books about unlikable people. This was one of them. A dentist gets his entire life hacked. Someone creates a FB page for him, his business and uses it as a platform to make some pretty ugly remarks about Jewish people. He struggles with getting people to believe that it wasn’t him. But you almost don’t care. There are page long paragraphs about inane things – like a woman putting her hair in a pony tale. Seriously. It got to be a little much. The idea was good, but it was a struggle near the end.
  16. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta – **** I had to read this before the show started. (The show is incredible. If you are not watching it you are missing out) Perrotta is the master of writing suburbia (Election, Little Children) and he doesn’t disappoint here. What would you do if people suddenly disappeared? Perrotta looks at life after and it is often comical and uncomfortable. A great read.
  17. The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti (368 pages) ***** – Perhaps my favorite book of the year. It’s a delightful and funny read that will make you want to travel and eat cheese. A memoir of sorts, it tells the tale of one man (the writer) and his quest to discover the secrets of the world’s greatest piece of cheese. Just read it. You won’t be sorry.
  18. Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain (298 pages) – ***** I loved this book! It’s been a film favorite of mine for years, but I never got around to reading the book til now. I followed it up with the HBO miniseries starring Kate Winslet and it was pretty much word for word. This is a feminist story about a strong woman who trusts the wrong people. Super fun and super fast read. AND, it takes place in Pasadena, where I grew up.
  19. Crooked River by Valerie Geary (320 pages) – **** This was a coming of age story wrapped up in a murder mystery. I read it pretty fast and enjoyed the characters. The book is told from the POV of two sisters. Their mother has just died and now they are living in a meadow with their bee keeping dad, Bear. It’s was exciting, fun and kind of a page turner. I figured out “who dun it” by page thirty, but it didn’t ruin the trip for me.

O Captain! My Captain! Remembering Robin Williams

Like many people around the worldrobin-williams-by-Samerry[206123], I grew up watching Robin Williams. I watched him go from Mork on Happy Days to becoming an Oscar winner. He was one of the funniest men to ever live, and a great actor. He was quick, biting, clever and still had the ability to make us all feel. He was a human before he was a movie star. And it showed on screen. His movies taught me about life and love and joy and being able to laugh even when things are bad.

The only way I have of honouring his life is to talk about it here. I can honestly say that everything I need to know in life, I learned from one of the greatest. These are ten of my personal favorite Robin Williams films, what they meant to me, and what they taught me.

  1. Popeye (1980) – When I was just six years old, I managed to win tickets to the premeire of Popeye. No one in my family seemed quite as excited as me, but it was my fantastic coloring work that won those tickets. There was a red carpet and cameras and Robin Williams. It was something. The movie got panned, but I still remember that night and that movie. Even though you hate spinach, you gotta eat it. “I hates spinach!”
  2. The World According to Garp (1982) - The John Irving novel is one of my favorite books. I read the book before I saw the movie, so of course I hated the movie. And I hated it for a while. I re-watched the film some years later and I fell in love. Robin Williams played the role of Garp perfectly, quietly and gave life to him. The movie gave me hope as a fellow writer who has a crazy family of her own. “You know, everybody dies. My parents died. Your father died. Everybody dies. I’m going to die too. So will you. The thing is, to have a life before we die. It can be a real adventure having a life.”
  3. Good Morning Vietnam (1987) - vietnamI pretty much had this movie memorised. It was the first of Robin Williams as Teacher roles, and I ate it up. I wanted to have a teacher like him! But of course, there aren’t a lot of teachers that can do really great John Wayne impressions. It was also one of the first times we see him as activist. Standing up for what’s right no matter what the consequence. The lesson: “Okay, if someone is not telling the truth, you say that they are full of… (Vietnamese Class: Shit!) If someone has made you angry or angrier, they have…(Vietnamese Class: Pissed me off!)
  4. Dead Poets Society (1989) - o-captainIn what way did this movie not change the way I look at life? I was fifteen years old when this came out and I wished, prayed and tried to figure out a way to go to boarding school. In the 50’s. I know, I know. Impossible. But even as a smart ass kid, I understood the message – Carpe diem, boys. Rip up the instructions, fuck the rules, and live life! Suck the marrow from the bone! And, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” I still believe that. And I’m standing on my desk for you.
  5. The Fisher King (1991) - TheFisherKingRobinWilliamsPTSonyPicturesStill one of his greatest films. And the life lesson here is pretty simple. “There’s three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer.”
  6. The Birdcage (1996) - For me this movie was the perfect storm of awesome. You get Robin Williams being hilarious yet holding back because you just have to hold back when you are next to Nathan Lane. And you also get Gene Hackman, who can do no wrong. Together they gave this movie just what it needed to work: heart. “Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I’m a middle- aged fag. But I know who I am, Val. It took me twenty years to get here, and I’m not gonna let some idiot senator destroy that. Fuck the senator, I don’t give a damn what he thinks.”
  7. Good Will Hunting (1997) - This movie is filled with so much greatness, and most of it is due to Robin Williams. When he says, “It’s not your fault”. You believe it. And you keep believing it. “So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. anigif_enhanced-buzz-13392-1384973721-10_previewBut you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart.”
  8. Death to Smoochy (2002) - I think this movie is fantastic and totally underrated. You can have your Jumanji and your Patch Adams. I’ll take a little movie that’s really about making kids happy. And you know what I learned? “Even when you’re squeaky clean, you can still fall in the mud.” Oh, and I also learned that every movie is better with an iceskating dance number at the end. I love you Rainbow Randall. 
  9. One Hour Photo (2002) - I loved creepy Robin Williams. I was happy that he (mostly) stopped doing half assed comedies and did more dark stuff. He was good at dark. His character in this film was sad and frightening. “Family photos depict smiling faces… births, weddings, holidays, children’s birthday parties. People take pictures of the happy moments in their lives. Someone looking through our photo album would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”
  10. World’s Greatest Dad (2009) - I bet you haven’t seen this one. It was fantastic and completely overlooked. It was directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. It’s a little hard to look at now, seeing the way that Robin Williams took his own life. But I’ll never forget the scene at the end when he jumps in the pool. I hope he found the freedom he was looking for. This is how I’ll remember you. “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” *Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen this film, then don’t watch this clip. It’s awesome, but also a huge spoiler. You have been warned. *