Birdman (2014)

birdman_2014_poster
Birdman (2014)
  • Time: 119 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts

Storyline:

Riggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called “The Birdman” had recently turned down a fourth installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new retelling of a classic Broadway dramatic play called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs – a method actor who takes the job way too seriously. But Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play. Meanwhile, a New York Times critic who Riggan has to woo threatens to shut down production of the play before it even starts with a scathing review of the opening night performance. Does Riggan have a hit on his hands or will he even make it past opening night?

14 reviews

  • What can I say about this film… excellent would be an understatement. Having just left the theater, I am pained by the thought that more people have not and may never see Birdman. Birdman sounds cliché, the title is something we’ve all heard before. Superhero, superhero, superhero. This movie is not that.

    Instead, Birdman offers a true look in to the mind of a man who has, in theory, disappeared. He has no social media, barely any family, and about as much relevance as… well, a guy who played in superhero movies years ago. But what shifts Birdman from every other movie is the true glimpse you get inside of all the characters heads. Never once do you feel like the actors are trying to hard, you forget they’re acting. You forget you’re in a movie.

    Birdman constantly walks on the lines of reality and fantasy. And at the end, you are left to decide what is real or not.

    I recommend this film to anyone who truly enjoys movies, I mean real, authentic, just all around good movies.

  • Since the turn of the Millennium Latin America has provided the rest of the world with a multitude of film making talent, only last year we were praising Alfonso Cuaron for the wonder of ‘Gravity’, well this year please step forward Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

    With ‘Birdman’ we lay witness to one of the most ambitious, thought provoking and damn right audacious pieces of filmmaking since I can even care to remember. If ‘Citizen Kane’ warrants continual recognition for its ingenuity and artistry coupled with stellar performances, then this surely must be its successor. What’s also uncanny is that it points towards similar themes of narcissism, public recognition and ultimate self loathing.

    Each individual aspect of its artistic endeavours fuse effortlessly together to form an unbelievable whole. To simply say Lubezki’s camera work is a marvel would be a huge understatement, it has to be seen to be believed. What appears like a continual two and a half hour take is actually a span of several weeks but the camera and editing chop away the boundaries of time and space, while being ushered along by a wondrous Jazz drum score provided by Antonio Sanchez, who also makes a couple of appearances in the background. But the score isn’t simply a beat to service the kinetic energy of the camerawork, it also serves as a window into the ever decreasing psychosis of its central character. I remember Paul Thomas Anderson using similar musical techniques with ‘Punch Drunk Love’ to great effect.

    Thoughts of “how did they do that” never have enough time to be fully digested before your whisked away to yet another scene of wondrous dialogue, beauty, performance and charm. The preparation and planning that must have been involved, which is pulled off with military precision, must have kept all performers on their toes, and this is the movies trump card. It’s in this aspect that I was bowled over the most. Career best is the order of the day from all concerned. Keaton is a friggin’ marvel and could push Gyllenhaal all the way come Oscar night. Norton is never better than when being physical in delivery, like ‘American History X’, yet here he gets more freedom. For me though, Emma fuckin’ Stone, amazeballs ‘end of’.

    The performances are also the biggest hint to the fact that it’s camerawork techniques are not just a gimmick. Having long continual takes services the moments where stage performance and screen delivery are fused together in ways my mind cannot put into words. Bravo simply.

    All this yet I’ve merely hinted at the issues that the movie tries to cover, narcissism, marriage, parenthood, ego, artistic legacy, sanity, creative integrity…………………… It feels funny providing a critique after seeing Keaton’s loathing attack on the entire critics industry mid way through, all this angst coming from a now desperate character in complete meltdown, deteriorating in front of our eyes in real time. No one appears to be safe as real life stars like Jeremy Renner, Bieber, Fassbender and Downey Jnr all come under attack at some point.

    It’s style could be so overwhelming that the foundations of substance could show signs of cracking but we are in the hands of master craftsman here, on top of their game and style over substance is never a concern.

    There’s so much to say I could write an entire book. This is intellectually significant filmmaking!

    9/10.

  • We all have that fear; the fear that only gets stronger as we grow up in a world that moves far faster than us. The fear is that of insignificance; is our life really meaningful? Does it have to be? Why does it have to be? Can true success really be repeated, or are we doomed to relish a single moment in the spotlight? These questions are at the forefront of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

    Birdman follows Riggan Thompson (played by Michael Keaton), a washed up Hollywood actor who found fame leading the ‘Birdman’ superhero franchise in the 1990’s. He is attempting to turn his life around and reignite his career by writing, directing and starring in a theatrical adaptation of Raymond Carver’s book What we Talk about when we Talk about Love? After casting a well known but pretentious and unbearable actor (Edward Norton), Thompson suffers several problems, both artistically and personally, in the previews leading up to opening night…

    The film opens with as unexpected an opening shot that you’re likely to see all year (won’t spoil) and with an epic narration to guide the image, the tone is firmly set. Iñárritu has provided us with something that few director/writers can claim they have in today’s movie world; he has given us something truly original. This film has its own flavour from start to finish; there is something different about every angle we are presented with. From the direction and the script to the acting and the sets, everything feels out-with that of the average movie, which is ideal for what the film is trying to convey; the world far beyond that of the hollywood blockbuster. This world feels as new to us as it does to Thompson, who is way out of his element with his jump from film to theatre. Most of the film was shot on location in the St James Theatre on 44th St, New York City, with the occasional shift to other locations. This is perfect for Iñárritu to implement one of the film’s focal points:

    Birdman has some of the best and most well executed cinematography you’re likely to see any time soon. The entire movie is made to appear as if it were filmed in a single continuous shot, with exceedingly inventive and almost unnoticeable ways of cutting the scenes together. To accommodate this, every scene is done using long tracking shots; this is very ambitious considering the size of the sets and the complexity with which they’d have to be carried out. However, the form always serves the substance with everyone in Iñárritu’s cast/crew clearly rising to the occasion to provide a great scale, realism and brilliantly original view of Thompson’s difficult life. The long drawn out nature of the shots really blurs the line between theatre and film, especially during the scenes that play out on a stage. This gives a much needed life to the theatrical elements of the actors performances, further demonstrating that there is still much for us to discover in both filmmaking and film viewing.

    Michael Keaton has completely blown any of his other works to shame in his outstanding performance as Riggan Thompson. There is clearly a connection, however small, between Keaton’s career and that of his character’s. While Keaton has by no means had a washed up career to the same degree as Thompson, there are noticeable parallels that must have made him the only logical choice for the role. Most notably, Thompson and Keaton are both most popular for their superhero franchises, both of which were ended in 1992. It’s connections like these that must have given Keaton a huge platform with which to draw real emotion from and the result is an easy shoe in for the 2015 Best Actor oscar.

    The starry supporting cast are on fire in the film; Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Zack Galifianakis are the primary supporting roles and they are all outstanding. Norton plays his pretentious and super irritating stage actor to perfection, Emma Stone is on point as Thompson’s recovering drug addict daughter and Galifianakis is surprisingly but superbly understated as Thompson’s best friend/Lawyer. The remaining supporting cast are all brilliant, but can sometimes feel a little under-utilised considering the importance some of them have in Thompson’s life. Regardless of their use or lack thereof, the cast as a whole are one of the best and most complete casts in recent memory with everyone putting in career highs for this film.

    The soundtrack is beyond doubt my favourite film soundtrack in a long time. The film’s original music is purely done on drum kit (played by the film’s composer, Mexican drummer Antonio Sanchez), using jazz licks and funky grooves to progress the film’s mood. The drumming is fantastic and really sells the drum kit as not only a musical instrument, but an emotional one as well. As the story changes and the situations differ, so too does the drum kit, creating tension where necessary and a couple of drummers even appears throughout the film as buskers to ground the music within the story. The creative team clearly made a real effort to give us an original and unfamiliar soundtrack to match the unpredictability of the film and what we get is a 100% awesome and original soundtrack.

    Overall Alejandro González Iñárritu has given us a fantastically funny and original satire of the show-business world. With a stunning cast, phenomenal cinematography and an outstanding soundtrack, Birdman has set an almost impossibly high bar for the rest of 2015’s releases. One of my favourite lines from the film is ‘Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige’ and I mean it when I say that Birdman deserves both in bucket loads.

    10/10

  • Riggan, portrayed by Michael Keaton (Need For Speed), is a washed-up actor known for the iconic superhero Birdman, in an attempt to reclaim his past glory, he directs and stars in a Broadway play. Birdman is beautifully designed to appear as one long shot throughout a long period of time, just like you would see in a stage play. Essentially, this creates the illusion that not only is the film about a stage play, but as the audience, it feel like you are watching a stage play about a stage play.

    I would consider this to be an absolute masterpiece from Alejandro González Iñárritu and what it lacks in comedic value, it more than makes up for in its presence. What I mean by this is, for a comedic drama, the comedy is few and far between, however there is so much going on that you don’t for a second pause and…
    To read the full review click here.

  • This film is highly recommended.

    Remember the film, Black Swan, a surreal and visually stunning film that dealt with a dancer’s descent into madness? Well, that beautiful but deadly swan has turned into an ugly duckling of sorts. That film now has been resurrected into another surreal and visually stunning film, only this time, it deals with an actor’s descent into madness. The film is Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

    Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) is that actor. Once a famous celebrity for his role as a comic book hero and now a zero, a mere footnote of cinema history. But he is about to stage a comeback, a play that he has written, directed and will be the featured star. That is, if he can overcome the many professional and personal obstacles when producing a Broadway show, Those hardships include: Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), a high-strung and gifted Actor (with a capital A), his Broadway co-star Leslie (Naomi Watt), Riggan’s worrisome friend and producer (Zach Galifianakis), his young girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), his strung-out daughter Sam (Emma Stone), and his former wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan). As things steadily go wrong (and you know they will), Riggan’s world quickly spins out of control.

    Much of the film is seen from Riggan’s crazed point of view. We watch the madness begin to permeate his life and the absurdities and hardships seem to multiply at a rapid pace. We are taken on a journey of the mind and flow along with the film’s rhythms and mood swings. That is, until Birdman’s final scene, where the film becomes somewhat arbitrary and confusing. The movie’s parting shot makes its ending problematic and contradicts much of what is seen before it.  (If only the film could have ended a minute or two earlier, the overall result would have been more satisfying for this moviegoer.) But that being said, what a remarkable film Birdman is! This is still a special one-of-a-kind moviegoing experience. It is a film of sheer audacity and bold exciting ideas.

    Birdman has been masterfully directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Iñárritu takes his story (which he co-wrote with Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo) and layers his film with many flourishes and unexpected turns. He structures his film and choreographs every move with marked percision. The film is stylishly made without being overdone or obvious. The director stages his film as if it is one continuous tracking shot, given the film an edgy and dreamlike vibe. Reality blend seamlessly with fantasy as one hallucination simply flows into another and what an incredible effect it all is! Kudos to Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrone for their superb editing and Emmanuel Lubezki’s magnificent photography which creates the unreal world of its main character so succinctly. The film boasts some award-winning acting too.

    Michael Keaton is brilliant as in the title role. Birdman has a bit of the autobiographical by casting this actor, a former Batman himself and reclusive actor. It is a risk that pays off in spades. Keaton balances that perfect mix between the absurd and the real. The actor displays his comic talents most effectively and also shows the tragic side in his portrait of a man on the verge of destruction. This is a comeback breakout performance within a comeback breakdown performance.
    Giving Keaton ample support are a wonderful ensemble who deliver memorable comic moments, particularly Norton as his narcissistic foil and Stone as his damaged daughter. Lindsey Duncan also has a pivotal scene between critic and actor that is quite memorable.

    All of the artisans behind the camera, the gifted ensemble of actors, and particularly, Iñárritu’s expert direction completely energize the film. Expect the unexpected in this dark comedy. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) cannot be easily ignored. This is innovative filmmaking of the highest order. GRADE: A-

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  • Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a fading movie star who was famous two decades. Fearing that he is losing relevance, he decides to star in a stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” that he is also directing, producing and has written. Riggan’s best friend and attorney, Jake (Zach Galifianakis), is hoping for Riggan’s sake that the play is a success, as his daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone).

    This film has a lot to say thematically. The method of acting is explored in great depth, with a lot of focus on how actor’s draw a solid performance from themselves, as well as which reality is real for an actor. Edward Norton’s character Mike Shiner has trouble being honest in real life, but when he is on the stage, all his emotions are real. Riggan also has the same problem. Due to being thought of as Birdman for his whole career, he starts to believe that he actually is Birdman. Of course this fact draws a lot of comparison between Riggan and Michael Keaton, whose most famous role is undoubtably that of Batman in the Tim Burton films.

    Read the full review and others at http://www.thatothermovieblog.blogspot.com.au

  • A whopping achievement on all fronts, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a watershed in modern filmmaking for which hyperbole feels woefully inadequate. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose previous works were sobersided dramas that bore their miseries like badges of honour, presents an existentialist comedy, backstage farce, showbiz satire, a commercial movie masquerading as an arthouse film, and also a love letter to a medium for which he seems to have found a renewed passion.

    Birdman tracks Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a fading Hollywood star who gained popularity as a masked superhero named Birdman in a series of blockbuster films, as he stages his comeback in a self-financed Broadway production of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” He’s striving to be credible, to shed the patina of popularity that has prevented critics and audiences from taking him seriously, and he’s done everything to stack the deck in his favour: adapting and directing Carver’s work to provide himself with two attention-getting monologues and surrounding himself with respected actresses – old friend Lesley (Naomi Watts, luminous) and lover Laura (Andrea Riseborough, fierce) – to make himself look better. The inclusion of Lesley’s boyfriend Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) is both a blessing and a curse: brought in to replace a suddenly incapacitated actor, Mike’s popularity bolsters ticket sales but the madness to his Method unnerves Riggan, who gets more than he bargained for when Mike demands rewrites, scuppers the first preview performance by imbibing real gin instead of water, and develops a flirtation with Sam (Emma Stone), Riggan’s daughter who’s recently finished a stint in rehab.

    Click here for the complete review

  • There always has been a form of competitiveness between film and theater actors. Theater actors would often say that film actor performance depends on the editing, where in theater you need to be able to maintain the character for the duration of the whole play and maintain it every night for however long the play runs. Also the amount of dialog which needs to be learned by head in theater is mostly larger then in film, where director is trying to show the story and not tell it verbally, so to speak. Often cutting unnecessary lines from the script as much as possible to keep it visual. Theater and film are just two different mediums which need two different techniques of the narrative acting expression. In theater the contact with the live audience can be very rewarding indeed, but often the theater actors have a movie star aspiration and they feel like they would love to be immortalized on the silver screen forever. On the other hand you have movie actors who in the twilight of their careers comeback to the theater to see if they still got it. It is always best when actor does theater and film work respectively, which keeps him artistically balanced. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” might be right up there with “Boyhood” as this years best independent movie, which has received numerous Oscar Nomination including Best Film, Actor, and Supporting cast, etc. The last few years Michael Keaton has not been working much, therefor it is such a pleasure to see him taking upon himself such a complex, honest and multilayered performance, as the washed up actor known for a comic book franchise ‘Birdman’, which obviously is inspired by his performance in the Tim Burton versions of the cape crusader “Batman”. He is trying to jump start his career by writing, directing and staring in his own play on Broadway. The amount of pressure on his shoulders is unbearable considering that his co-star played brilliantly by Edward Norton tries to sabotage the whole endeavor, as well as Keaton’s inability to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined does not make things easier. The whole film is shoot, in what appears to be one continuous shot which in itself is a very hard thing to accomplish. This is not only difficult on the filmmakers, to connect the scenes through invisible wipes (sideways or vertical movement of the camera that blends two scenes together seamlessly), but also puts actors in very hard place, where they often have to deliver up to 15 pages of dialog and hit all the blocking, focus marks, for the scene to work properly. Thrust me, this is very difficult thing to do and only few filmmakers in history where successful in doing so. Alfred Hitchcock with his movie “Rope” immediately comes to mind as well as more arty and extremely disturbing Caspar Noe’s “Irreversible” which contains uncut continuous anal rape scene, which already passed on to the movie history books, as one of the most rough and realistic rape scenes in cinematic history. Coming back to the “Birdman”, as you watching it, there is a sense that Alejandro González Iñárritu delivered something very special. The reality of the performances creates the feeling like the audience are watching an actual real events unfolding, sometimes interrupted by Michael Keaton’s internal and to some extent schizophrenic dialog between him and the character that brought him film related fame the Birdman. I think Michael Keaton delivers, what might be arguably his best performance to date. His willingness to showcase his inner self, to dive in to complex character of an aging star, creates in us feeling of endearment towards him as we all wish him to succeed. He often mumbles and delivers lines in very unorthodox manner which brings back to memory a genius of Marlon Brando at times. He is well supported by Edward Norton who also gets emotionally and physically naked here. The scenes of them together are some of the best in the film. Norton’s confession towards Emma Stone’s character who is playing Keaton’s jaded daughter, about the fact that the only time he does not pretend is on the stage, creates sense of intimacy and honesty which obviously has been noticed this year by Academy which nominated Norton for an Oscar for supporting role. But this film is much more then just two man show. All the supporting cast did really well including Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis and Andrea Riseborough. Watching the “Birdman” I must say the filmmaker inside me was trying to figure out where did boom operator and sound technician placed microphones for clean recording of the sound. This is also one of the categories “Birdman” was nominated for Sound Editing. For some reason, stylistically, watching it, I was reminded of Charlie Kaufman’s type movies like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”. If you liked the surreal style of above mentioned movies, then I am pretty sure the “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” will be also to your liking, arguable the best independent movie of the year.

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  • Quickie Review:

    Riggan (Michael Keaton) was once an iconic movie superhero, Birdman. He desperately attempts to revive his career by adapting, directing, and acting in his own Broadway play. In the days leading up to the opening night not only does he face the doubts brought on by the people in his life, but he also comes to terms with the reality that he is now a has-been, a washed up actor. Birdman is one of the most beautifully directed films of 2014. On top of that the film is brimming with impeccable acting talent, grabbing your attention with every line of the flawless script. Coincidentally, just as Riggan attempts writing, directing, and acting, Birdman achieves this perfect trifecta that delivers a truly unique look into the mind of an actor.

    Full Review:

    Once again an Oscar film had a delayed release where I live. I have been aching to see this movie for a long time, even before all the award nominations. Now that I have finally seen it, I can happily say it was well worth the wait.

    When it comes to casting many people talk about whether the actor is the right fit for the role. A former superhero who is past the prime years of his career… hmm seems oddly familiar Mr. Keaton. Whoever did the casting, give them a bonus because this was a stroke of genius! It is clearly evident that Keaton drew from his own life experience of being Batman of the early 90’s. Simultaneously it never felt forced as if we were just watching another version of Michael Keaton. Rather he used that experience to further flesh out the character of Riggan. He is constantly battling the ideas of either pursuing his passion of being an artist or feeding his ego of being a celebrity. Keaton does a great job of presenting this inner turmoil though a dual personality, so it does delve into some strange territory but captivating nonetheless. There is absolutely not a single weak link in the cast, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, even Zach Galifianakis of the Hangover fame brings his best dramatic chops yet. However, the standout from the supporting cast for me has to be Edward Norton. His character is an arrogant and pretentious method actor. He brought this uncertainty in his character’s intent that kept both the characters in the film and the audience on their toes.

    As great as it was to see these actors perform, what blew me away was the cinematography and direction of Iñárritu. The entire film is made to look like a single long take, similar to the iconic Copacabana scene from The Goodfellas, or more recently the opening scene of Gravity. The fact that the film is a series of these seamlessly connected long takes is amazingly ambitious. If done wrong there could’ve been a plethora of problems ranging from mishandled characters to forced dialogue. Instead this creative decision added to the flow and rhythm of the film, continuously building the momentum of the story from one character interaction to another.

    I can’t recommend this film enough. It is almost perfect in every aspect of filmmaking, while at the same time daring to try new styles to great effect. It’s not just a film, it’s a cinematic experience. Watching the solid cast members work off each other is a delight. Once again, this a movie that deserves all the nominations it has been getting, and I know it’s my frontrunner for some of the categories.

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  • Riggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called “The Birdman” had recently turned down a fourth installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs – a method actor who takes the job way too seriously. But Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play. Meanwhile, a New York Times critic who Riggan has to woo threatens to shut down production of the play before it even starts with a scathing review of the opening night performance…

    -Written by halo1k

    Sometime last year I saw the trailer for Birdman and by the trailer alone I knew this wasn’t going to be your average “sit yo ass down and watch me” type of film, this was going to be one of those films where you either understand it and love it or hate it, or you don’t understand it so you hate it, that’s the kind of films I love to watch so naturally I was excited to see it, not to mention it had a great cast!

    So I watched it and I personally loved it, it really is an unusual film and defo not a film to just sit down and watch with your brain switched off.

    Read full review here – https://theblackholecorner.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/birdman/

  • Rarely does a film come around that manages to be creative, original, funny, well acted, spectacularly anchored, well written and technically profound. Birdman is all of these things. Written and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the same guy behind the famous death trilogy (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel) Alejandro’s debut feature Amores Perros is probably his best film to date but his other films 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful have proved the director’s skill. Birdman however is completely different to anything he has ever done and what Inarritu accomplishes with it is truly astounding.

    Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), is one of the most original and brilliant films ever made and easily the best movie of the year. The movie follows the story of Riggan Thompson a washed-up Hollywood actor was was once famous for playing the super-hero ‘Birdman’ in a million-dollar franchise. Now, he struggles to stay relevant and looks to write, direct and star in a theater play so he can once again feel important. The movie is lifted by a career-changing tour- de-force performance from Michael Keaton as Riggan. Keaton’s performance is perfect in every way as he plays a character that many say is loosely based on him. Edward Norton is back better than ever delivering a show-stealing performance as Riggan’s cynical, egotistical and extremely talented co-star Mike Shiner. Emma Stone is also excellent as Riggan’s daughter Sam giving the best performance of her career.

    Birdman offers a satirical and darkly comical look at the film industry and the effect it has on actors. The movie is truly a work of art and Inarritu is the artist who has made it possible. Inarritu’s unique and kinetic direction guides the film, with endless tracking shots and close-ups. The entire film is directed is one shot and there are no scene cuts which is another unique thing. The writing is fantastic and the screenplay written by Inarritu, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo and Nicholas Giacobone is filled with cracking, pulpy dialogue. Among other things Birdman also happens to be a technical showpiece and succeeds at nearly every category. The cinematography from Emmaneul Lubezki is truly wonderful and eye popping which makes the movie visually spectacular. The off-beat but wonderful jazzy drum soundtrack from Antonio Sanchez serves as the soul of the movie.

    In conclusion, Birdman is one of the most creative and original films you are ever likely to see, a technical marvel that is driven by a magnificent Michael Keaton performance and two fantastic ones from Edward Norton and Emma Stone as well as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s exceptional craftsmanship.

    Final Score: 10/10

    -Khalid Rafi

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  • “Birdman” is a fascinating movie! Even if you don’t understand everything about it (like the ending for example), you can still call the movie a masterpiece. I know that because I am one of those people. I’m not going to talk about the ending because I don’t fully understand it. To figure that out would require a second watch, I guess.

    Anyways, nearly everything about this movie is flawless. It’s edited to look as if it was done in one shot and that freaking blew my mind. I honestly could not tell where the cuts were. It looked as if the camera never stopped rolling. That in itself is an achievement on its own, but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu takes it another step. There is actually a point to filming this movie like this. The film is about Michael Keaton’s character making a play, so it makes sense to make the movie look and feel like a play. Major props that for that call. The direction is incredible of course. This man managed to make a movie look like one shot. If that isn’t freaking awesome, then I don’t know what is.

    Everyone in this movie gives a magnificent performance. Everyone from Michael Keaton, to Emma Stone, to Zach Galifianakis of all people, give Oscar worthy performances. Even the special effects are really well done. There isn’t many of them, but the ones that were present were handled with exceptional care and looked very realistic. On top of all that, the film has a script that is both funny and intelligent. It has a lot to say about the state of Hollywood, big blockbuster films, and critics. It’s nice to see there was a point to this movie.

    Last thing is the drum score. Now granted I’m not entirely sure what the point of it was, but it sounded so cool that I had to mention it. Whoever played those drums kicks serious ass. I’ve named all the positives and I actually have no issues with this film. I cannot recommend this movie more. See it in the theater if you can.

  • Michael Keaton has been appearing in movies every since he burst onto the scene doing the fast-talking, kooky, morgue worker thing in 1982’s Night Shift. Since then, he’s been in mostly semi-memorable comedies, a couple of stints in two Batman films, and forgettable duds like 1998’s Jack Frost, 2005’s White Noise, and Herbie: Fully Loaded (oy vey). Watching 2014’s Birdman made me wonder why it took so long for him to I don’t know, star in anything Academy Award worthy. He’s always had the ability to someday be nominated for an Oscar. Director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s latest is a raw, unflinching, bracingly original play on words and for what it’s worth, might just punch Keaton’s thirty-two year wait of a ticket. As an acting showcase, this “bird” is definitely the word as quiet as it’s kept.

    Filmed primarily in and around one location (NYC’s St. James Theatre), edited brilliantly by Douglas Crise (Spring Breakers) and Stephen Mirrione (George Clooney’s The Monuments Men), and featuring a lot of male characters fighting/running around in their underwear, Birdman immediately hones in on a washed up actor named Riggan Thomson (Michael “my real last name is Douglas” Keaton). Thomson hasn’t been in much of anything lately whether it be Broadway or Hollywood fodder. His one salvation: To direct, write, and star in a play adapting Raymond Carver’s (a real-life, famous writer) short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. As the proceedings move along, you don’t get the feeling that you’re gonna see many acts in said stage production (within a movie). It’s more about the behind-the-scenes stuff that is conflicted with multiple actor egos, creative differences, actual fist fighting among the cast members, daughter/father resolutions, and attempted, co-star rape (very mild and only in one short scene).

    Michael Keaton’s performance, which if you haven’t already heard, is the high point. It has a nasty, kick-in-the-door intensity to it. Is his Riggan Thomson on drugs? Is he a chronic alcoholic? Or schizophrenic? Does he have an imaginary friend in alter ego “Birdman” (his superhero character popularized in movies over two decades ago)? Finally, can he actually move objects with his brain? And can he fly (you know I’m kidding, right)? It doesn’t matter. Keaton’s Thomson probably possesses a lot of these things and he plays him with a visibly weathered, unassuming style. You can’t quite see the wheels turning in Beetlejuice’s head. That’s the brilliance you get from a veteran screen icon who seems hellbent on literally acting his testicles off. The rest of the cast, well they fade in and out and still kill it at the same time. Edward Norton is despicably good as Thomson’s belligerent acting rival. Emma Stone, with her gigantic, glaring eyeballs, emotes wonderfully in a couple of scenes as Keaton’s character’s druggie daughter. Zach Galifianakis is unexpectedly brilliant playing Thomson’s hopped-up best friend/lawyer (this is quite a diversion from his Hangover doofus) and Amy Ryan, well she’s a soft revelation playing I guess, Thomson’s intolerant ex-wife.

    Then there’s Inarritu’s knockout direction which has to be seen to be believed. He’s a filmmaker who doesn’t fly by the rules and gets away with things every time. Remember in 2003’s 21 Grams when he filmed every scene out of order (like a bunch of puzzle pieces) only to put them neatly back together in the end? I do. This guy’s out of bounds but in a good way. With Birdman (his 5th feature), he fumbles a bit with his confusing storyline only to shoot some of the most elaborate tracking shot sequences this side of Goodfellas and Boogie Nights. You drop your jaw in amazement as to how many marks the actors had to hit, how many takes their endless shots might have possessed, how many hundreds of lines of dialogue they had to memorize, and when in said shots, did Inarritu actually yell “cut” (it’s conceivable that the first hour or so might have been one long tracking bonanza. That can’t be right, can it?).

    In retrospect, Birdman is set to a film score that is mostly fused with solo, jazz-inspired drumming. It’s a fall release posing as part hallucinatory dream, part suicidal character study, and part frigid, black comedy. Watching it made me think that what’s on screen might be too radical for title as best vehicle of 2014. It could however, get a shot in the category of Best Picture nods come January. Only time will tell. Anyway, as a celebratory Steadicam feast that makes you think, “how the heck did they film that?”, Birdman is Keaton’s finest hour and for my money, truly a top “feeder” (ha-ha).

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  • Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu seems to have cheered up a bit since his reach-for-the-noose-depressing trilogy of 21 Grams (2003), Babel (2006) and Biutiful (2010). The first two are excellent films (I haven’t seen the third), telling honest and brutal human stories powerfully played by expert, distinguished actors, but show no signs of the kind of energy, wit and satire of his latest, Birdman, this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner. We spend two hours inside the world of washed-up actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), who is having a later-than-midlife crisis trying to escape from his superstar days of being a costumed hero and trying to re-invent himself by writing, directing and starring in his own play.

    For a film that spends so much time poking fun at the self-contained world of thespians and the empty yet highly-craved escapism of blockbuster cinema, Birdman manages to be, in it’s own strange, unique way, a bit of both. When we first meet Riggan, he is meditating mid-air. He moves objects telekinetically, and his actions and decisions are criticised and mocked by his former alter-ego, Birdman himself. We are in and out of our protagonist’s head, which is made even more delirious by the magnificent camerawork by Emmanuel Lubezki, one of the finest in the business. With the odd exception, for the most part Birdman appears edit-free. Day turns to night in the same shot and vice versa. But this is no mere gimmick.

    We’re on the cusp of the opening of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Riggan’s stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s (very) short story. One of his actors is injured by a falling piece of equipment and is replaced last-minute by primadonna dick-head Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) whose girlfriend Lesley (Naomi Watts) is already working on the play; his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is fresh out of rehab and is resentful of her father’s late-in-life attempts at reconnection; his female lead Laura (Andrea Riseborough) is pregnant and tells Riggan it’s his; and pompous art critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) is determined to destroy the play before it’s even played. It’s a stressful time for Riggan to say the least, and with the illusion of watching one continuous shot, we feel right there with him. With the near-constant jazz score, we also feel every beat.

    But the technical aspects of the movie do not overshadow the story, and it is played out by a gifted ensemble. With the loose, free-spiritedness of it all, Keaton breaks free and shines, excelling at the moments of comedy (Riggan’s semi-naked dash through Times Square is a highlight), and moving us in the more tender moments involving his sympathetic ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan). He’s also as precious as his fellow actors, disgruntled that Woody Harrelson, Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Renner are unavailable due to working on their highly successful franchises, resentful at he fact that he wore a cape before capes were cool. It could have been a disorientating experience, instead it’s exhilarating. It could have also trodden ground covered before, but it’s so on-the-nose that it feels fresh. And it may not be the best film of the year as Oscar may have you believe (my heart lies firmly with The Grand Budapest Hotel), but Birdman is everything and nothing, just like Riggan himself.

    Rating: 4/5

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