Thursday, February 18, 2016

Movie Review: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Movie: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Writers: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, & Armando Bo

Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, & Naomi Watts.

One-Line Plot Synopsis: A former famous superhero actor (Keaton) tries to write, direct, and star in a play to resurrect his career, dealing with his failure and loss of notoriety along the way.

I try to make it a goal of mine to see all of the best picture nominees each year.  I used to go to the Best Picture Showcase for a couple of years where they play all of the nominated Best Picture Nominees back-to-back, but now that there is more than 5 movies nominated each year, they split it up into multiple weekends and it's just too much of hassle to spend multiple full-day Saturdays at the cinema.  Sooo, that's why it takes me a little longer than it used to to catch up on all the Best Picture Nominees.  I actually caught Birdman over the summer but I never got around to writing about it.

If you're going to start talking about Birdman, you have to begin with the absolutely incredible directing of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.  There's a reason that the guy won Best Director at the Oscars last year and is up to possibly repeat as winner with The Revenant this year.  There are so many extended tracking shots that you really get an intimate feeling for the movie and that personal 'fly on the wall' mentality throughout.  I think I did a double-take when I read that there were only 16 visible cuts in the entire movie.  That's incredible when you think about it.  The movie almost acts more as a play than it does a movie and must have been incredibly tough to get the scenes in one take.  Surprisingly enough, they said that Zach Galifinakis messed up the least amount.  The one great benefit of undertaking in this arduous endeavor is that it only took two weeks to edit because everything was shot in sequence with basically no cuts.

The acting in this movie is top notch across the board.  Both Michael Keaton and Edward Norton play off their actual experiences in the entertainment industry in their respective roles in the film.  Keaton shines in his comeback role as the lead actor in the film, playing a has-been actor who portrayed a superhero earlier in his life, much like Keaton's experience with Batman (although I wouldn't call him a has-been).  Norton is a brilliant actor who is notoriously hard to work with and is very intense about immersing himself in the roles that he plays.  This was the best performance I've seen from Norton since the 25th Hour in 2002.  He's had a couple of moments since then but hasn't really returned to that next level in a while.  My favorite performance in the film might actually have been Emma Stone.  She can act more with just the look in her eyes and her expressions than most of the young actresses in Hollywood can altogether.

The rest of the acting ensemble are all very good in their various roles as well.  It always helps when you have exceptionally good actors at your disposal but Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifinakis, and 
Andrea Riseborough all give very different, but very valuable performances in the film.

As always, the cinematography of my personal favorite cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, is phenomenal.   That partnership between Lubezki and Inarritu is something special.

Although the title of the movie, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a little too long and ridiculous, the movie is anything but that.

Rating: 8/10