Today! Because it’s time to rock it from the Delta to the DMZ –
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Directed by Barry Levinson
Starring Robin Williams (x2), Forest Whitaker (x2), Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl, J.T. Walsh, Noble Willingham, Richard Portnow, Juney Smith, Richard Edson, Tung Thanh Tran
Robin Williams had made movies, and some good ones, before 1987, but it all completely changed with Good Morning, Vietnam. It’s as though there was no concrete idea how to harness his stand-up/Mork and Mindy comedy into a feature film, so no one really tried. Popeye has glimmers of it, with the ad-libs, while The World According to Garp showcases Williams serious acting ability. And then everything converged into this wild war comedy, grounded very definitely in reality.
For those of us who grew up with his later comedies, Good Morning, Vietnam can tend to feel like nothing particularly special. This was the Robin we knew from virtually everything that was to follow over the next two decades. The non-sequiturs! That stream-of-consciousness pile of voices and characters! The virtually non-stop jokes! Sure, after decades, that tends to get taken for granted as his particular style, but this was the beginning of that for most cinema audiences, plus it is housed in a very real war picture, while still managing to work, for the most part.
This movie kicked off a run of three Best Actor Oscar nominations in five years for Williams (not winning until five years beyond that, for Good Will Hunting), and was the second of his eight Golden Globe film nods, and first win. As solid as the movie is – just some tonal hiccups between the wild radio sequences and explosions – this is a movie making the list almost solely on Williams’ brilliance. A couple of these spots are going to be taken up by the sheer strength of one performance (not to tip my hand too much, but tomorrow we have the exact same situation).
After #365’s Popeye and #361’s Bloodsport, respectively, we add co-stars Williams and Whitaker to the Two-Timers list! Spotlight!