Birdman (2014)

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10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great coming together of smart script, great visuals, and strong acting

A thinking movie that isn't for everyone

 
Movie Info

Movie Name:  Birdman

Studio:  Regency Enterprises

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  August 27, 2014 (Venice Film Festival)/October 17, 2014 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

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Why does it feel like I’m always living in someone’s shadow?

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed up actor who originated the role of Birdman on the big screen.  Now as other celebrities get rich on superhero films, Riggan is trying to reinvent himself by doing something real and different.  Riggan is preparing for the opening of his adaptation of the title story from Raymond Carver’s 1981 collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love in which he also stars and directs.  Things aren’t going well for the production however.  He’s forced to replace his costar at the last minute with stage darling Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) who threatens to destroy the show, his co-star and girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) has dropped a bomb on him, and his female lead Lesley (Naomi Watts) is sleeping with Shiner.  In addition to bad publicity and an angry critic, Riggan is dealing with his manager (Zach Galifianakis) and his recently clean-and-sober daughter Sam (Emma Stone)…and he might be going crazy.

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Nice night for a jog…

Written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman also goes by the longer title of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).  The film was released to critical acclaim and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography with nominations for Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.

As a fan of superheroes and even one that has begun to grow a little leery of all the comic book movie releases, Birdman looked really appealing since it outwardly mocks the craze.  Keaton created small ripples in the film world when he brought Batman (finally) to life in 1989 and its sequel Batman Returns in 1992.  The superhero craze did not catch on with these films and now in a world populated by superhero movies, he’s the “old man” in the room.  While this appears to be the basic story for Birdman, the script and story are much, much deeper.

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That’s good alcohol! I can’t tell if I’m drunk already!!!

Birdman is a writer’s story.  The script is incredibly smart and layered.  It examines so many different aspects of the arts, relationships, and society in general that it can be watched multiple times.  It is a movie of parallels and not only between the characters and their on-stage characters, but between things like stage acting vs. film acting, success vs. fame and infamy, and reality vs. fiction.  The movie blurs the lines between the roles since it is a movie about theater and in today’s society infamy is fame.  The story also goes after critics which (even though I am one), I agree with for the most part.  Keaton says there is no risk in being a critic while the actor risks everything…almost true, if a critic goes against the popular review and says what they might really feel about a movie, actor, etc., they too can face “criticism” (but I do agree with the general stance).  The film ends up being a bit of a modernized version of Network (which still feels really modern itself).

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Damn, girl…everyone wants a piece of the Shiner!

It would be one thing if the movie had a great script and poor acting, but everyone steps up in this movie.  Obviously, Michael Keaton is the biggest surprise in the film since he is known for comedy roles like Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice in addition to his Batman role, but in recent years, he’s been subjected to supporting roles.  He really puts it all out there and is critical of himself and his abilities.

Emma Stone is one of the best young actors around, and it helps that she’s generally surrounded by great supporting casts.  Edward Norton and Naomi Watts continue to be some of the strongest actors around and Andrea Riseborough is a real up-and-comer.  I liked Amy Ryan’s small role as Riggan’s ex-wife and Zach Galifianakis also proves he can play the straight man as his manager.  Scottish stage actor Lindsay Duncan puts herself in the stage critic role in a great scene, and I like that we get a small role from Nurse Jackie’s scene stealer Merritt Weaver.

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This show is going to blow them away, guys!

The movie gets the trifecta.  It also looks great.  The visuals of the movie are quite stunning in themselves with a real feel for the theater in which the play is occurring.  The editing style is seamless and appears to be one continuous shot though time also jumps as it moves along.  This adds to illusion of the film that hours or a day may pass in a matter of minutes while no time has occurred.  In addition to that you get the very surreal aspect of the film in which Keaton’s imagination of insanity manifests itself in a gravelly voiced (aka Batman) ghost of his past character…or is it imagination?

Birdman is a great movie for people who love movies.  It isn’t an easy movie but it keeps you thinking long after you’ve left the theater.  Having seen the movie, I already want to see it again to dissect more of the script and enjoy the visuals without having to wonder where it is going to end.  That is good movie making to me, and Birdman is one of the best of 2014.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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