Stars – Michael Keaton & Ed Norton
Genre – Black Comedy
Run Time –120 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Oscars – 4 wins from its 9 nominations
Awards – 170 Wins & 253 Nominations
Amazon – £5.00 DVD £8.00 Blue Ray
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
So Birdman, officially the best film of 2015? Well, according to The Academy Awards it is. Recently they have increased the Best Film nominations to 10 on the day to be more inclusive of populist films but just window dressing as you know the boring talky issues and aimed at broadsheet critics movie is going to win anyway. Birdman is obviously not the best film of the year for the general public but you feel obliged to see it because it won the big one and three other Oscars so they must be right and you must be wrong. All the other award festivals followed suit and a heavily lobbied movie makes a lot more profit that it would have without that festival momentum leading up to The Oscars, taking $106 million to date. It almost certainly spent a big chunk of its $16million budget lobbying for those Oscars over Christmas and New Year. You may have noticed that most Oscar winners are released in late autumn or early January to avoid negative word of mouth from the people that actually matter. The punters. The last 10 Best Picture Winners are a mixed bunch: 12-Years A Slave, Argo, The Artist, The Kings Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country For Old Men, The Departed and Crash. Slumdog and Crash were the only ones I gave more than 3 stars to.
Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson
Zach Galifianakis as Jake
Edward Norton as Mike Shiner
Andrea Riseborough as Laura Aulburn
Amy Ryan as Sylvia Thomson
Emma Stone as Sam Thomson
Naomi Watts as Lesley Truman
Lindsay Duncan as Tabitha Dickinson
Merritt Wever as Annie
Jeremy Shamos as Ralph
Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is washed up actor who was famous two decades ago as comic book superhero Birdman. To get this mojo back he and his writer friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis) decide to put on a Broadway play and for Thomson to headline. When his big name co-star has a drug relapse in rehearsals, female lead Lesley Truman (Naomi Watts), recommends her current boyfriend in temperamental movie actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), who is soon making waves at the theatre with his obnoxious behavior when hired.
Riggan is dating younger co-star Laura Aulburn (Andrea Riseborough) whilst his ex wife Sylvia Thomson (Amy Ryan) is having her Broadway debut in the play thanks to Riggan. The family affair is completed with their pretty daughter Sam (Emma Stone) working as dads P/A and general dogsbody during the production. But dad is having self doubts about his ability to pull this off, haunted by his Birdman alto ego, lurking in the shadows telling him what a loser he is on stage and he should return to what he is good at, the movie star behind the mask.
Sam is soon hitting on Shiner, who seems disinterested in the challenge, more interesting in having real sex on stage under the sheets and insisting Riggan uses a real gun for the closing scene in the play for final rehearsals. But with curtain up nearing and Broadway’s most vicious critic promising to destroy his show regardless with a horrid review, only because she hates him and his untalented movie star kind dominating the Broadway stage, his self doubt Birdman in his ear more than ever with his Christian Bale Batman growl telling him to run away before he is exposed as a fake.
Birdman winning an Oscar is classic self-indulgent Academy behavior awarding a likewise self indulgent movie about the industry they are in. I want to be wowed by the best film and I know you do. Birdman is OK but nothing special. Its well acted and paced in that subtle in-joke way that made the critics chortle but it’s not the sort of film the people want to see win Best Picture. Woody Allen does this knowing metropolitan talky relationship Manhattan showbiz comedy so much better and simply arty directors like Alejandro G. Iñárritu having a go at filling that void now that Woody Allen has forgotten how to do it. Mexcian born Iñárritu also did the rather tedious Oscar nominated Babel and 21 Grams and hot favorite for The Revenant this year.
I get that it’s a tongue-in-cheek pop at movie stars dominating Broadway stage shows these days to shift tickets, ‘the craft’ somewhat lost these days, making it on the stage some sort of validation these days for movie stars. I get that the likes of Michael Keaton set back the Comic Book genre by two decades with his Batman, clearly this a parody of his career somewhat, as is Norton’s obnoxious character, the real Ed Norton known as being temperamental and difficult on set. But that is niche humor and can’t be stretched for two hours.
The one continuous shot technique is impressive by the director and it has other technical merits too. And fairplay to the director for making this the first comedy to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since Shakespeare in Love (1998), 16 years earlier. Also the first comedy to win the Academy Award for Best Director since Annie Hall (1977), 37 years earlier. Sadly it was the first movie in 34 years to win a Best Picture Oscar without a coinciding Best Editing nomination. Again it’s a knowing insider’s movie aimed at winning the broadsheet movie press critics over, not the multiplex audience. The annoying gentle Jazz soundtrack drum solo throughout the film doesn’t help and it appears there only to get the only Black man in the movie.
This is the sort of movie that will appeal and be liked by a niche self-proclaimed erudite middle-class demographic that only watch it because they think they are as clever and observant to get it and won’t admit its just solid and nothing more. If you were inviting friends around you would not recommend Birdman. It’s an acting led talky movie with subtle humor that is too long and too subtle to recommend a film that justifies its status. It’s the type of film that wins Oscars but loses public support for The Oscars.
Imdb.com – 7.8/10.0 (356,234votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 92% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 78% critic’s approval
-Birdman: Access all areas-
Behind the scenes stuff from cast & crew, the director a bit of a perfectionist.
As the film was shot so there would be no deleted scenes there is only one.
San Francisco Times –‘Light as an anvil, Birdman is a sometimes dazzling, often infuriating act of gaseous virtuosity. I was never sure if I should applaud or roll my eyes. A lot of the time I was doing both’.
Cinema Sight –‘Sterling performances, a thought-provoking premise and a gimmick that doesn't feel at all like one.
The Mail –‘But the film's running gag - narcissistic, insecure and attention-starved actors - eventually becomes woefully one-note’.
San Francisco Times –‘Whatever the film 'Birdman' is this unsettling black comedy, might be the greatest comeback by an actor in film history’.
Film Australia –‘ Admirably daring and filled with wonderfully vivid performances, Birdman also feels at times more like an exercise in style than a genuine emotional experience’.
The Melbourne Herald –‘Michael Keaton is astounding in this brilliantly conjured piece of stream-of-consciousness cinema by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu...Prepare to be enthralled, dazzled, delighted and disturbed’.