BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. (c) Fox Searchlight
Michael Keaton’s comeback is intriguing to movie fans. Many wonder if he can pull off a dark indie filmed mostly in one take. They will be very relieved. He was superb in Birdman playing a washed up actor seeking a Broadway comeback. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s best movie to date focuses on multiple themes. Like many things happening in the background, Birdman focuses on issues including relational brokenness, reactionary criticism, Hollywood’s blockbuster comic book obsession, and battling haunting celebrity demons. In what is pretty much the appearance of zero cuts during the movie’s running time (supposedly there are some edits), you are watching the resemblance of a stage production. The “gimmick” as some would say more than worked for me. It was exhilarating. This is a daunting challenge for actors to pull off. Keaton wasn’t the only star in this. Edward Norton played an arrogant actor to perfection while Emma Stone was exceptional especially in a scene angry at her father’s career. Even Zach Galifianakis did a great job. Practicing to nail perfection was the goal of these actors and Birdman succeeded. From the biting one-liners (some did feel rehearsed to flow naturally) to the dreary mood and even the terrific acting, Birdman is fierce, dark and witty.
Multiple Academy Award nominations for Birdman seem like a forgone conclusion. It is hard to imagine any other leading male performance accomplishing more in 2014 than Michael Keaton in Birdman. He was riveting playing the broken, complex character of Riggan Thomson. Keaton’s Time Square scene that goes viral was brilliant depiction of the world we live in today. That scene was the highlight for me. Also, what Mr. Iñarritu’ creates is astonishing filmmaking for a worth Best Director nomination. The original screenplay is a shoe-in for presenting both the stage direction and feisty lines of dialogue. Emma Stone will more likely than any supporting actress end up with her first Oscar nomination. She was dynamite in this movie and captivates audiences with a harsh monologue. And no one can forget Edward Norton playing an arrogant actor attempting to steal the spotlight from Keaton’s character. He demands every second of screen time. The competition between Keaton and Norton was full of intensity and pettiness. The cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, Tree of Life, and oh, yea Gravity) could win his second Oscar in a row for his exceptional work here. Some pundits think it will earn an editing nomination which is interesting to assume considering the lack of cuts in Birdman.
Beyond Oscars, I’m truly rooting for Birdman to do well among audiences and at the box office. Though it is opening during the prime mid-October time frame, Birdman is an odd sell for the general public especially with the Holidays coming up and bigger movies with established directors opening from now until the end of the year (Interstellar, Unbroken, American Sniper, Foxcatcher). Awards movies need traction and stamina to be watched by audiences. I can see this losing steam as the Holidays approaches. This would be too bad because it deserves a large audience. With this movie and Calvary (which deserves serious awards consideration), Fox Searchlight has had quite the film year. Both will (probably) end up on my year end top ten list. Regardless, Birdman will have an impressive, beloved cinematic legacy that will soar with cinephiles for ages.
I rate Birdman a 9 out of 10.