The rules are simple: The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
Birdman is stylized film-making. The technical aspects of this movie are center stage. The performances are some of the best of last year but the camera work and direction are the true stars of the film. Needless to say Birdman is a fantastic movie. A movie that screws with the viewer’s perception from the opening scene and doesn’t stop messing with your head until it ends (and even then that’s debatable).
Birdman is the story of a so-called washed-up movie star, who played Birdman for three big budget blockbusters and then called it quits. In the movie he is in previews for a Broadway play that he adapted, directed and stars in. The film opens with him meditating in his dressing room. He is floating in the air three feet off the floor… or is he? Look again. This is the first five seconds of the film and you cannot take your eyes off the screen for a second or you’ll miss something. It’s that good.
Emma Stone is impressive and I’m going to mention her first because this is the best I have ever seen her. I guess it’s her role in Amazing Spider-Mans 1 and 2 that made me forget how well she can act. This is an award-winning performance she gives us in this film. She has one scene where she sits with her legs dangling off the side of the building over the street below. The acting in the scene is great but that’s not my point right now. She leans over the edge to spit on a passerby (long story) but she doesn’t just lean she practically defies gravity. It is so subtle. And such fucking good directing.
The other actors do fine work. Of course Michael Keaton is brilliant not to mention the fact that he carries the whole thing on his back. He kind of carries the camera on his back. Ed Norton is outstanding but I have to say “ho hum” to that because it’s his fault for ALWAYS being outstanding in everything. (My favorite movie of his is still The Hulk). Zach Galfianakis is great in Birdman as well but he’s also one of those where I expect it from him every time out. Zach does not have a dimmer switch. However Emma Stone’s performance is the standout for me. Give her an Oscar.
I must now direct all eyes to the center ring. In the center ring is the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. He is front and center like Alfred Hitchcock used to do be. The directing is the most important part of the story. His style in this is like a cross between Terry Gilliam, Alfred Hitchcock and Julie Taymor. It moves like a theater piece. Like an art installation. Like performance art. Fluid and beautiful and lyrical. I can’t wait until someone does a stage adaptation of this movie just to add another layer to the inception mind-fuck at work in this shear act of genius.
Birdman is full of practical special effects but so is the theater in general. It is an amazing example of stagecraft. The movie takes place over several days but in one continuous shot. My favorite thing is that when he changes the time or the day he does it without an edit. Not even a hidden one. There are hidden edits everywhere throughout the film flares or swish-pans but these are, as far as I can tell, always within one continuous scene. But when he changes the day, or advances time significantly, he does it in the camera with a pan or dolly round a corner or into another room. No edit, just with spectacular stagecraft and practical effects. There will be books written about this movie and this production.
This is my pick for Best Director hands down (put your hands down Linklater). And this is my pick for Best Supporting Actress. Alejandro González Iñárritu and Emma Stone are fantastic at their jobs. And BIrdman is my new favorite film from 2014. Birdman challenges our perceptions by separating fiction from fantasy and real from reality. It doesn’t just make you believe. It makes you desperately want to believe. I believe.
I believe. This is one for the collection.