Soooo, looking at other blogs, the Oscars are on it would seem… I wouldn’t know if a meteorite struck the earth, let alone the date of a film awards ceremony, so thank you, other bloggers!! I have never been one to give two shits about red carpets, style and popularity contests, so the awards have never really captured my attention. Then I came across this must see movie, this ‘revolutionary’ movie that Ed Norton tells us will have film-students drooling (I am para-phrasing here). I know little about the Oscars but nine nominations seems like a lot. In a first for me, I’m going to run through a few of the nominations it has been chosen for:
To start, Birdman possesses easily one of the most original scores ever conceived, if not a little jarring at first, as it is almost entirely percussive. The score was the first thing I instantly noticed about thi-…. wait…. Let me get this right; this film received nominations in sound editing and sound mixing, but not the score itself? Now how does that work??
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Birdman’s fly on the wall approach puts you into the movie, behind the scenes of a play, as it swoops around characters as they have conversations and weaves its way through the claustrophobic corridors of the backstage. The much talked-of single-take effect is certainly stunning and while it may be considered a gimmick by some – all it did for me was enhance the movie further as I was entranced by the movement of the camera, the entire film sewn into one continuous shot that actually takes place over a couple of weeks within the movie. Especially memorable is the extreme close-up of Emma Stone as she launches into a tirade at her father. I think Mr. Norton was spot on; the movie was choreographed immensely to achieve the desired effect. While tricks were used to make the entire film look like one take, there were many takes that lasted a long time. The crew practiced and worked on the choreography before filming began – and it shows: as the camera swerves through the corridors following Riggan, doors open and people suddenly pop into frame as if on cue – immersing me further into this world of theater. The cinematography in this film is unlike anything I have ever seen, and perhaps the best I can recall.
Another no-brainer as far as I am concerned, firstly because of the abundance of true story films released last year. But this film’s script and dialogue covers so much ground it takes a few viewings to take it all in. Yes, we have the satire of comic book heroes/movies, we have the art versus popularity discussions (“popularity is the slutty cousin of prestige”, Shiner remarks at one point), and the consequences of fame and the expectations it can cause. But these consequences go much deeper, as I think all of us at some stage have worried about how others think of us. And Riggan’s actions are all motivated by this notion: what his daughter thinks of him, his ex, the public… it all ties back to the examination of ego and how one can choose to let it dictate their life. Mike Shiner is the opposite of Riggan, he ‘doesn’t care what people think’. Riggan does and is broke because of it. This is about more than fame – in Riggan’s dressing room mirror you can see the quote “A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing” which ties not only into this concept of our ego, but also into the way the film explores how each of us have our own perspective of reality.
If you truly believe you have superpowers, can you throw shit at all wall with your mind? Can you ignite carnage with the snap of your fingers? If a former version of yourself never ceases to talk and talk to you, sounding as real as any other voice; is it all real? The debatable ending relates to these themes I feel, as otherwise it would just be an ambiguous ending just for the hell of it, just to be different. But I felt the ending truly solidified that notion of what is real, whether it be superpowers or the opinions of others – only you can make these things true or false, real or fake. We make our own destiny.
Keaton’s career ‘resurrection’ and his former Batman-days no doubt has something to do with his nomination, but his depiction of a desperate, fading movie-star is amazing in its range and its intensity. Riggan goes through every emotion possible, his moods often swinging sideways and backways; whichever way they choose. Almost each time these are reactions to news or the behaviour of a colleague, which highlights another aspect of his personality; he (thinks he) is never wrong. And Keaton really milks this character for all it is worth, overacting when needed, playing subtle when appropriate. His charge through the streets of New York was also truly epic, though certainly a minor part of the film. It however shows yet another side to Riggan character, and this cauldron of personality traits is done effortlessly by Keaton. It honestly doesn’t look like he is trying at points. Obviously being able to relate to the character helped, but this actor has the talent to fill big shoes, to play any character of any role. Whether he wins or not doesn’t concern me in the slightest, but I hope that his performance does resurrect his career as people have alluded to. He is one hell of an actor.
I do rate The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash slightly higher than this, and while it is so close to perfect, it arguably can go too far into ‘arty’ territory – mainly concerning the dialogue. But, its innovation in its narrative structure, the variety of themes it touches on, not to mention the mind-boggling cinematography, makes up for an arguable flaw. Ultimately, I don’t particularly care who wins, but it seemed like an apt time to write about a truly unique movie, and one that is very unconventional by Oscar standards. This is a very memorable movie that I feel I will be watching many times over the years. In fact, I have already seen it four times!
As you may have been able to tell, I fucking loved this movie. I am now very keen to dive into the director’s past work, which I am completely unfamiliar with, though I hear they are of a very different tone.
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