Good Will Musing

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Some of us were a bit sleepier than usual Tuesday morning, especially here in the land of Matt and Ben. "Did you stay up for the whole show?" was the question du jour, which was usually followed by grumblings about the late night.

But despite the show's Titanic-like length, many viewers stuck it out to the predictable end. They didn't even call it quits when, after midnight, the lovely Susan Sarandon announced it was time to single out all actors honored by Oscar since 1928.

Many Bostonians were holding out hope that their hometown movie, "Good Will Hunting," just might sink that ship in the last act. But not even a best-picture win by "Titanic" could put a wet blanket on local celebrations, especially at the L St. Tavern in South Boston, now famous as the neighborhood haunt of Will Hunting and his gang.

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There, when the movie about a troubled math genius captured the best supporting actor (Robin Williams) and best original screen-play awards, folks from "Southie" cheered alongside Mayor Tom Menino, Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci, and a herd of reporters.

Those awards were two of the evening's most memorable. Not just for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's energetic acceptance speech and endearing nod toward their moms, but also because "Good Will Hunting" is a gem.

The story is both profound and poignant. And its underlying moral: to let down your defenses, engage in life, and follow your heart, is one we can all get behind.

So it was a joy to see this humble film honored and an added bonus to witness the excitement on the faces of those longtime buddies from Cambridge, Mass.

Another one of the evening's highlights was seeing the enormously talented Robin Williams finally collect a "golden dude," as he called it.

I've enjoyed his quirky brand of humor since the days of Mork & Mindy, when he played a gentle alien in the popular TV series (1978 to 1982).

Since then he has made some disappointing films, but also audience pleasers including "Good Morning, Vietnam" (1987) and "Dead Poets Society" (1989), both of which, along with 1991's "The Fisher King," earned him Oscar nominations. But until Monday night he'd never bagged the top honor.

Williams is considered one of a handful of actors who can "open" a film, the industry term for the ability to snare an audience simply by showing up.

What's the attraction? Perhaps it can be summed up in a comment Steven Spielberg once made about the actor: "He embodies everything about the child within us."

Williams is open about his childlike ways. He recently told USA Today: "I'm probably addicted to laughter. I should be going to Joke Enders or something. It's so much fun ... I'm literally like a kid having a great time."

Robin Williams: Just a 'Kid Having a Great Time'

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