Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! The film doesn't go into detail but I'm assuming that Birdman's powers involved waking you up early on a weekend with his nonstop chirping and pooping on freshly washed cars.

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – 5 out of 5

Birdman is one of those films that I am having a hard time trying to come up with an opening paragraph for the review. I sat staring at this blank document for a bit and tried to figure out the best way to start this off. Do I talk about how I really wanted to see it when it got released into limited theaters and how I just didn’t have the money to hit the theater? I could do that…or I could just talk about how I spaced on an opening paragraph and just waste time until I get to the synopsis like I do every time I can’t come up with an opening paragraph. And now that I’ve officially wasted enough time…

There was a dark period of time where Michael Keaton wasn't in any movies...
Let's never return to that awful era.

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed up actor who once held the Box Office in the palm of his hand when he was in the comic book adaptation of the popular superhero Birdman. Now he finds himself on Broadway trying to adapt Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Aside from the usual troubles in getting a show off the ground, Riggan has to deal with his former drug-addicted daughter Sam (Emma Stone) and a newcomer to the show who proves to be unruly to work with (Edward Norton). Meanwhile, Riggan battles his own psyche which takes the form of the hero Birdman who is trying to persuade him to cast off the theater performance and make a triumphant return to the Silver Screen.

Emma Stone can do no wrong in my book.

The closest we'll probably ever see to getting a live-action
Hawkman movie.
Birdman tells a wickedly enthralling story with some intriguing characters and it does so in a captivating way. Writer and director Alejandro González Iñárritu presents the film as if it was one continuous shot that never stops flowing in and around the action. If you know what you are looking for, you can easily see the cuts and edits mixed in at certain moments but, aside from that, the effect is flawless and really made me feel like a "fly on the wall" with the events occurring. I’ve seen this formula done on other films and, each time, it felt like it was a needless gimmick meant to mask a story that was going nowhere or was something that has already been told numerous times before. However, in the case of Birdman, the story is strong enough and interesting enough that this addition feels like a compliment that is working in concert with the story rather than something that is just around to try and cover up any weakness.

Here's the first of two stills that has a character in his underpants...
I include this because there's a couple of scenes of dudes in tight-fitting underwear.
This film was clearly in the pocket of the Anti-Boxers and Anti-Boxer Briefs

Additionally, Birdman has some truly amazing performances from everyone on the cast. Everyone from Keaton to Stone to Norton to Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts are giving off passionate and intriguing performances. These performances make the already interesting characters even more captivating and just acts as another compliment that blends perfectly well with the presentation and story. It all comes together to make a film that is beautiful, dramatic, interesting and unique.

"Here's Johnny...or something."

The only thing I didn’t really care for (and, as you can see, it didn’t really have any impact on my score) was some heavy-handed, internet-complaining like commentary. Too often the film lacks subtlety and Iñárritu comes off like a ranting spoiled child with this commentary. For example, it’s clear that Iñárritu really hates the comic book superhero genre and the character of Birdman goes on a rant that, basically, states that those who like these films are uncultured, pimpled, gamer geeks who are too stupid to appreciate artistic endeavors. This same snobbish, nose-in-the-air, "I’m better than you because I say I am" attitude is seen with his not-so-subtle attack on critics. Riggan goes on a long rant and attacks a critic (who, in fairness, was a pretty terrible person and is how critics SHOULDN’T be) and the diatribe is so long and drawn out (and the critic isn't even in shot during this so it's clear who the "foam at the mouth" bit of vitriol is aimed at) that this isn't just a character attacking another character for story purposes but, rather, the writer/director getting his undies in a twist because he can't handle criticism. 

And speaking of undies...here's another still of a guy in his underpants.
The director sure liked his tightie undies in this film.

These commentaries are, by themselves, fine but when you have them both in the film, Iñárritu comes off like a gigantic hypocrite in his writing. Iñárritu is not quiet about how he hates comic book films and having him go from one scene where he attacks critics and proceeds to shit all over comic book films and their audiences in a long critique makes him just look like an asshole and the kind of dude who thinks he’s better than you and probably starts all of his sentences with "Well, actually…" He hates critics (an especially nasty one) and then gives a nasty critique of comic book films?  He basically just pull the typical internet comment of people complaining about people complaining about stuff...and then here I am complaining about his complaining about complaining. Maybe it’s because I’m an unapologetic big fan of comics and superheroes and really love the Marvel and DC films out there but I found this element of the film to be less of the commentary of a devoted artist yearning to create and speak to his audience and more like the whiny complaints of a child who thinks that because he doesn’t like something, you must hate it too (he should probably start writing for Cracked.com.  That's pretty much all they do there now).  While it doesn't feel completely out of place in the story, it didn't stop from coming off as a little petty.

I wish the nagging voice in my head manifested as a winged superhero.

These complaints aside, I still found Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) to be an amazing film that was put together with some awesome care. The performances are incredible and the film is so fantastically put together that the replay value on it is big and the entertainment value and creativity of it is priceless.

1 comment:

  1. Why does Emma Stone have to be so awesome and talented, Ron?


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