Monday, January 26, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)


From IMDB:


Riggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called "The Birdman" had recently turned down a fourth installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story called "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love". The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs - a method actor who takes the job way too seriously. But Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play. Meanwhile, a New York Times critic who Riggan has to woo threatens to shut down production of the play before it even starts with a scathing review of the opening night performance...

Ratings: 8.3/10 from 65,959 users   Metascore: 88/100
Reviews: 344 user | 373 critic | 48 from   

Movie Info

BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) - famous for portraying an iconic superhero - as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself. (c) Fox Searchlight

TOMATOMETER 92% | Average Rating: 8.5/10
Reviews Counted: 251 | Fresh: 232 | Rotten: 19

Critics Consensus: A thrilling leap forward for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is an ambitious technical showcase powered by a layered story and outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.

AUDIENCE SCORE 85% liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5 | User Ratings: 56,888 

Right off the bat you see Mr Riggan floating in mid air meditating. Real or hallucination? ©20th CENTURY FOX

Birdman? Harvey Birdman? 

Ok truth time, when I first heard the title that's what crossed my mind first. A movie about Harvey Birdman? That small time superhero from the Hanna-Barbera from way back in the 70's and then revived by Adult Swim for Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, are they serious? Then of course I looked into it a little more and with a sigh of relief found out that it wasn't going to be a joke of a movie. So if you haven't heard of Birdman then you're probably not the hardcore movie fan you thought you were because ever since word of this movie came out hardcore movie fans have been talking about it. And since it's release critics have loved it, fans who've been waiting for it rave about it and it's been winning awards and accolades left and right.

 Here you see Mr Riggan move a vase and smash it against a wall. Does he actually have superpowers? ©20th CENTURY FOX

So what's the story about? Well, if you've read the synopsis up there you'll know it's about a once famous actor who played an iconic superhero trying to climb back up the mountain of fame. His one shot at doing this is through a play that he's adapted, produced and acting it and one that he's put most if not all his own money in. It's a do or die situation for him. But all is not well. His play is plagued with problems. Before opening night even rolls along one of his actors gets into an "accident" where a light drops from above, he then goes to sue the production. His replacement turns out to be a loose cannon who does things his way or he hits the highway. And of course money's disappearing faster than expected. Add to that the fact that Riggan himself is battling his inner demon in the shape of his famous alter ego Birdman who constantly criticizes him.

And here we see his alter ego Birdman harassing him. Sort of cool in a strange way actually. Instead of just a voice he has a fully realized superhero. ©20th CENTURY FOX

Now it would seem like this movie has a pretty simple story but that's far from the truth of it. This movie is incredibly complicated. There are so many layers to it. A lot of what Micheal Keaton's character goes through is symbolic. For example, when he's alone and arguing with his superhero alter ego he seems to exhibit superhuman powers, he can manipulate things with his mind. Is this his hallucination? Most likely it is as later in a rage over a problem with the play you see him using his "superpowers" and then as someone interrupts him you see him physically toss and destroy anything he can get his hands on.

 So when you're doing a show on Broadway and especially about a movie about one you have to have a scene on the streets of Broadway, right? ©20th CENTURY FOX

And then of course there's the camera work. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has chosen to do something very few directors will attempt to do let alone do it for the entire length of the movie. In Birdman, you're like a fly, flying and following Riggan as he goes about his work and his day. And the amazing thing is that this long shot technique transcends not only from scene to scene, from actor to actor but also from day to day. It's beautiful. But to some it'll be a little disorienting, even a little dizzying. But I loved it.

And then there's the soundtrack. Most movies of this genre would probably go for music popular in the indie music scene, Birdman eschews that by going completely instrumental, classical and only with drums. And man does it sound good and it really helps to drive the mood of each scene. I was totally blown away.

And then of course there's the reference to all the other superhero movies and the state of the world today in terms of staying relevant and "famous". There's just so much going on in this movie.

In one of Mr Riggan's delusions this happens. Which sort of makes me think of the Power Rangers of the 90's. Sort of. Or maybe old Ultraman shows. ©20th CENTURY FOX

So did Birdman impress me?

Hell Yeah, it did! I was expecting something strange, unusual, unexpected and I got it. I wasn't expecting it to be amazing though but happy to see that it was pretty amazing. But this movie is not for everyone. It certainly isn't for those casual movie fans who enjoy summer action blockbusters, it's for those fans who look forward to movies that appear at Sundance or Cannes, movies that don't make it to all the cinemas and only do when there's a lot of buzz going for them. Movies that get tagged with the word eclectic somewhere in the press release. Maybe. But even if it's not for you you should still go and catch it. There's just so many amazing things about this movie that isn't in any other movie that you should go just to experience it. This movie is an amazing feat both in terms of storytelling as well as in technical terms. It's a work of cinematic art is what it is. And it has Micheal Keaton, someone who has gone quiet for so long and now has returned with a bang and deservedly so. This man was himself once famous for Batman and for a very long while disappeared from public eye, his return and new found fame with Birdman is a strange but for me a nice welcome back.

I give this movie a solid 4.7 out of 5. I would watch it again but not yet. It'll just make my head explode.




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