BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (2014)

Birdman

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole
  • Best Actor – Michael Keaton
  • Best Supporting Actor – Edward Norton
  • Best Supporting Actress – Emma Stone
  • Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki
  • Best Director – Alejandro G. Iñárritu
  • Best Sound Editing – Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock
  • Best Sound Mixing – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
  • Best Original Screenplay – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

A familiar pattern is starting to emerge the same way it seems to every year: like other Oscar movies, I didn’t really know anything about Birdman. I actually knew more about it than most other Oscar movies, but once we started watching I realized I really didn’t know anything about it other than Michael Keaton was playing a former superhero. I’m glad I didn’t read anything about this or anything, though, because I think Birdman is a movie that’s better watched than talked about.

It follows Riggan Thomson (Keaton), an actor who played a character called Birdman in three blockbuster movies decades before. One thing I loved is that we never got any details about Birdman or his movies, other than the basics of what he looked like. What the hell were Birdman’s powers? What were his motives? We never find out because it doesn’t matter, but it also makes it feel like Birdman was then, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is now. That’s the Raymond Carver short story that Riggan has adapted into a play, which he is also starring and directing in. We also never see the majority of the play, just a few scenes, but it has a much different feel than what we can imagine Birdman was like; the play seems “grown up,” but also stuffy. In the play with him is Ralph, a guy who has to leave after a light falls on his head (which Riggan claims was made possible by his own mind), Lesley (Naomi Watts), and Laura (Andrea Riseborough). Laura is Riggan’s girlfriend who may or may not be pregnant, and Lesley is desperate to make her Broadway debut. When Ralph is out, Lesley suggests her friend, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) an apparently famous and brilliant actor who also may be a total psychopath.

Emma Stone plays Sam, Riggan’s daughter. Her part is small (or at least smaller than I expected) but I did think she was real good. Sam is not as developed as some of the other characters, but it strangely works here because Riggan is the star of the movie both literally and figuratively, and Sam seems to have never played a big role in his life. She’s also super thin and sort of sickly looking after just getting out of rehab, which somehow makes her seem more vulnerable but also meaner. Now, I do think that the nomination should have gone to Naomi Watts, but Emma Stone deserves recognition.

So the whole movie is basically about Riggan’s struggles to get his play made. While everything is going on he has to fight off the voice of Birdman, who seems to constantly be lurking and making Riggan feel like shit. Riggan also appears to have superpowers; he can levitate and move things with his mind. I really loved this element. We can assume that it’s all in Riggan’s head, but because almost no special attention is paid to these powers it also just seems like something Riggan can just do. The movie doesn’t focus on the powers at all, it’s just sort of a side effect. So was it in Riggan’s head? Or is that just part of what makes him Riggan? I think Birdman does a much better job than most movies at leaving lingering questions that just make you think about the movie more rather than frustrate you.

I also loved the way Birdman was shot. It’s not one single shot, but it’s obviously made to look that way. We follow characters around as they push through doors and move through hallways, and it’s not until a character comes into the scene that we start following them, too. They have to come to us. It somehow doesn’t feel claustrophobic at all, but actually made it feel like a weird documentary. And sort of like The Grand Budapest Hotel, everything feels very deliberate and the shots are usually framed with really beautiful set design, like one of my favorite scenes that’s just Riggan buying alcohol.

Birdman is not my favorite movie ever, but it was really fun to watch and I really liked it. Also, when the fuck is Naomi Watts going to get an Oscar? She should have gotten one two years ago! Come on!

Christopher

I was excited for this movie. I remember when I first saw the trailer I knew it was going to be a contender for one of my favorite movies of the year. And I’m glad it didn’t disappoint.

A big thing I was worried about going into this movie was being confused. Birdman had one of those trailers where I felt like I had absolutely no idea how all the scenes were going to go together. However, the film was very easy to follow and understand. I also love how most of the film takes place inside a theater. People walk through doors and down halls constantly in this film. It’s kind of beautiful. I would be interested in compiling a series of stills from the film where that happened. Especially just doors.

A big part of this movie has to do with feeling accomplished and relevant. Although there was also a whole lot of just feeling overwhelmed in general. I really liked that because I’ve felt that way a lot recently with work and it was instantly relatable for me. This is also an easy top contender for best movie at the Oscars for me. The more of these movie Elizabeth and I watch the more we get excited when it’s just a good movie. This year has been pretty weak I think which is not making watching all of these go quick.

Watch Birdman for sure!

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4 thoughts on “BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (2014)

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