Birdman or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance] (2014)

Hubbub central, here we come. While not completely whelmed by the movie, I do get the hype. It’s very different and at times, fantastic. We’ve all seen this type of failed underdog story before, so what makes it special is the execution. The performances, the visual style and let’s not forget the storytelling itself, they are all stunning. Edward Norton probably gives his most gripping performance to date, it’s so exceptionally multifaceted and absolutely giddy to witness, as at time he’s almost like force of nature. Speak nothing of Keaton himself, who just shines in his lead role. Even though I’ve always liked him, he works on a completely new level here, it’s at times very minimal and subtle yet also bears this overbearing desperation to succeed.  You might have seen shades of that in his earlier roles but never this intensely and controlled. Zach Galifianakis  isn’t bad either. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a serious role before, so it’s oddly very refreshing and works marvelously to counteract Keaton’s neurotic uncertainty and looming mental breakdown by being the founding pillar under which the entire play is built upon and who keeps the entire production afloat.

They do some really interesting camera work in the film, so much so that they essentially manage to fool you into  believing that the entire movie is almost entirely shot in one long, non-stop take. It’s a neat gimmick, and makes for a very visually engaging movie. It also makes for a fun activity to try and pick out all the points where the cuts take place. Some are fairly obvious and others are a bit harder to pinpoint. The camera work is also essential in making the more surreal parts of the film work, like the entire absurd bit where they suddenly out of nowhere show the drummer playing the musical beat that has been building the intensity of the scene, because it quickly establishes a non-traditional tone that makes everything feel unconventional and that allows Keaton to move things with his mind without it feeling at all out of place. This is due to the way the camera is usually moving, rotating and following the characters around, through corridors and the sets of the play. You are in essence given the idea that everything is being shown from your own spectral POV, as if you were a voyeur following the cast around without anybody noticing.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this one fares in the Oscars. Personally I have conflicting feelings over what awards it might be entitled to win, as I liked the movie,but I was not blow away by it.  So I have a bit difficulty to come to terms with whether or not it really deserves to win any of the big awards. Not that the Oscars actually mean anything when you think about it, the whole process is a bit of a joke, and there is a reason why we have specifically coined the term “Oscar bait” when talking about the Academy Awards.


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