Oscar Nominee Review: ‘Birdman or: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance’


Previously: The Theory of Everything The Intimidation Game The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Edward Norton

Plot: Riggan Thompson is an ageing actor who is remembered by the public for his role as the big screen superhero Birdman. In a move to regain profession respect he adapts, directs and stars in a Broadway show. Standing in his way is his own insecurities, rehabbed daughter, a show stealing co-star and his own insanity.

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Review: Before we get to my personal opinion on the film we need to clear a few things up. Firstly, the casting of Michael Keaton is inspired. It’s hard to see if the movie was born out of Keaton or he was just the obvious choice. For those leading a live with a giant, empty void in the middle of it, Michael Keaton killed it as Batman in the 1989 movie Batman. The actor and role blur together due to this and it’s awesome.

Then we get to the cinematography. If the movie feels…odd…the reason is down to some carefully manipulated camera work and editing. Through detailed planning and slick work by Iñárritu’s team the entire movie appears to be one continuous shot. The long tracking shots that are employed in the movie are impressive in their own right, but linking them all together is a brilliant move.

Now we put the technical achievements and awesome casting aside and look at the experience of watching the movie. It’s awesome. Thompson is a brilliant character, both the insecure and skittish man and the demented voice of Birdman in he argues with. Plus there’s all the special powers that he may or may not have – moving items with his mind and flying. When the actual Birdman appears lurking over his shoulder in the street it stands out as one of the most visually striking cinematic moments of the year.

Birdman

Thompson is a wonderfully complex character, switching from sympathetic in the eyes of the viewer to a dangerously unhinged and disconnected man who is unable to see the damage he’s causing to those around him. This is the performance of Michael Keaton’s career (aside from Batman of course…because Batman). Edward Norton is another performer we don’t see much of these days and it’s good to see him back on form. He has a delightfully repugnant role that he gives his all to. Emma Stone rounds out the main players with another great performance that we’d be happy to see more screen time for. The damaged youth is at the mercy of a father determined to close their bond without any real effort on his behalf.

This is one of the strangest, most unique, most entertaining movies of the year. It will give you plenty to ponder and plenty to chuckle about. Whether it’s for the performances or the unusual experience this is worth watching.

Score: NINE out of TEN

Chances of Winning: Not bad. On one hand Birdman… is the dark horse that gets slipped into the running to avoid the academy from looking like a bunch of stuffy old white men. On the flip side the film is really bloody good. You’d be stupid to think it doesn’t deserve the accolade.

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This can only help.

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