Monday, January 19, 2015

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 8 stars out of 10

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 8 stars out of 10

"Birdman" is really odd but you have to see it.  Its cinematography, which captures the entire film as if it was a single tracking shot, is absolutely stunning and gives the film a unique feel that is unlike any other.  While some trickery is used to create this effect, it still necessitates that each scene be shot in one take as each stop and start of the camera occurs during a transition between scenes.  The tracking shots within each scene can last up to 15 minutes, requiring the actors to be on point with their timing and emotions at every moment while the crew and cameraman must operate with absolute precision.  The Oscars don't lie when it comes to the acting categories and, when a film receives nominations in three of those categories, you know that you are going to see strong emotional monologues and a lot of chemistry.  Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone do not disappoint.  Keaton has spent most of his career dwelling in comedy and action roles that put him in the spotlight but never proved him as a great actor.  Everything changed with the release of "Birdman."  The role of Riggan Thomson has allowed Keaton to put on a dramatic, psychological performance in which he is unpredictable, unstable, and gets to really freak out.  Edward Norton adds to his repertoire of arrogant jerk roles with several high-energy scenes that leave you hating him (as usual).  Emma Stone, who I believe to deserve more credit as an actress than she receives, secured her Oscar nomination with a single scene in which an impassioned monologue allows her to flex her acting muscles.  The supporting cast adds to the natural feel of the film and director Alejandro González Iñárritu had incredible vision to put this entire film together within a playhouse on Broadway.  He is no stranger to the Oscars as all five of his feature films have received nominations, and this film will surely take home a few.  I do take issue with the trail of loose ends that this story does not resolve.  It is obvious that the writers want the reality of Keaton's superpowers, whether they exist or are in his head, to remain ambiguous.  This results in an incredibly clever ending that forces us to reflect on the characters and decide what happened; however, what is the purpose of including seemingly significant events and never addressing them again?  Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough seem to disappear from the film for no particular reason after "the scene", Amy Ryan creates insight into Keaton's character and then also disappears, but why?  I feel like this misuse of characters cheapens an otherwise inspired script.  I like this because it is something different, from its single tracking shot approach to its use of a real Broadway playhouse for its set.  It is rare that a director can create a film that defines its own style, but "Birdman" is undoubtedly one of a kind.

[Pictured: This image just has to make you curious]

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