Movie Review: Birdman

IMDB, Birdman“Birdman” on IMDB

Drama, 119 Minutes, 2014

Campering-crippled-christ on a crusted-crooked-crutch: this was amazing. You may have heard the film is pretentious, but that would indicate that it’s trying to fool you into thinking that it has more ability or talent than it demonstrates. The film could have devolved into pretentiousness in a thousand ways, but despite the numerous risks involved it didn’t. This is the real deal.

It’s an ever-expanding onion of layers upon layers. Life imitates art and then art imitates life. Michael Keaton [IMDB], arguably most well-known as the 90’s Batman [IMDB], stars as an actor most famous for a series of 90’s comic book movies. Both Keaton and his character left their iconic roles at the height of their popularity. He’s now trying to legitimize himself by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway show.

Edward Norton [IMDB], who chose not to continue playing “The Incredible Hulk” and has a reputation as a diva, plays a diva stage actor who despises blockbuster films and the people that make them. Emma Stone [IMDB], a comic-movie veteran from the new “Spiderman” franchise, plays Keaton’s long-suffering daughter who laments his inability to accept new things. Direct references to the current crop of superhero blockbusters support these indirect ones to further contrast the worlds of film and theater.

Technically, the film is without fault. With very minor exceptions, the entire film is masterfully edited to appear as a single, insanely complex tracking shot. The camera follows characters fluidly through the cramped halls and hidey-holes of the famous St. James theater and through the streets of New York. Clever color and location queues signal changes in time and tone. Subtle (and a few not-so-subtle) visual effects illustrate what could simply be Keaton’s flights of fancy or the effects of a truly disturbing mental illness.

The dialog is crisp, smart and passionate.  It exhibits a “theater sensibility” that would have seemed stilted elsewhere, but feels appropriate given the setting. The actors needed to be at their absolute best to make it work, and they were. It was a risk, like so many others, that paid off sweetly.

I tend not to make Oscar predictions. Mostly because they bore the living hell out of me and I don’t watch them. For this I will make an exception, however: this is going to win everything. It’s going to win Best Picture. It’s going to win Best Actor. It’s going to win Best Foreign Film and Best Animated Feature. People, this thing is going to win Best Title Writing and that was only given out once in 1928.

This is that god-damn good.

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