Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Short- Every now and then a movie comes along that should be talked about and studied for years to come; this year that movie is Birdman. Iñárritu’s direction is beautiful and the film’s cinematography is absolutely remarkable but nothing compares to the Tour de force work by Michael Keaton, who delivers the kind of performance that should be regarded, as one of the greatest pieces of acting in the last decade.
“How did we end up here? This place is horrible…Smells like balls” This is how Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) begins, with Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) floating 3 feet in the air in his underwear staring out the window of a dressing room in Broadway’s St. James theater. Thomson is looking to reinvigorate his career after he fell out of the public eye following his turning down the role in the fourth Birdman film, a superhero role that made him popular in the 90’s. Thomson is now sitting in the St. James Theater about to begin his Broadway run remaking Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, dealing with his unruly daughter (Emma Stone), and bringing in an actor who is both a critically acclaimed Broadway actor and royal pain in the ass (Edward Norton).
Birdman is a lot of things; it is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s masterpiece, a visually pleasing, beautifully written, impeccably cast movie more about the ego it takes to act. Showing off the talents of Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity) the Oscar winning cinematographer whom along with the help of the visionary Iñárritu, Lubezki manages to make Birdman to look like one continuous tracking shot, along with the frenetic drum packed Score the cinematography helps us enjoy this wild ride. The cinematography and Iñárritu’s direction would have been enough to make Birdman a worthwhile experience but the acting especially from Keaton, Norton and Stone is unlike anything we have seen from a film so far in 2014. Keaton whom has always been a pretty good actor reaches a rarified air in Birdman, As Riggan Thomson, Michael Keaton gives one of the greatest acting performance’s in the last 10 years a beautiful study of a man more worried about being liked than anything else, a man holding on to his sanity by a very thin thread and Michael Keaton gives a powerfully unhinged performance. Following right behind Keaton is Edward Norton who plays a brash, self-absorbed Broadway actor Mike Shiner, brought in to help take a lead role in Thomson’s play and instead he drives everyone around him crazy. Some of Norton’s best moments are with either Keaton or Emma Stone but the actor is a wonderful oddball thrown into the mix. Norton plays the vain actor with such precision adding a lot more to the films hilarious moments, and even getting serious in a wonderful confrontation with a shrewd Broadway writer from the NY Times played by Lindsay Duncan. Duncan provides two of the films best moments in a later confrontation with Keaton’s character that is 1 of about 9 Oscar moments for Michael Keaton. The other actress who deserves a hell of a lot of Oscar buzz is the already wonderful Emma Stone. Her character, a recovering drug addict is also Thomson’s rebellious daughter and assistant. Stone gives a breathtaking performance where her most memorable moment is actually one that Keaton said has made him tear up each and every time he has seen the film. When she scolds her father on his yearning to be noticed, to be relevant again, it’s a nearly 2 min scene that left me utterly speechless.
Those are the three top acting performances in Birdman but you can’t forget Zach Galifianakis as Thomson’s best friend, lawyer, and partner on the play. Galifianakis gives a good performance in his supporting role even if by comparison he is not the film’s most memorable actor he does deserve credit for one of the better performances of his career. Birdman also gets great performances from Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan, Watts as Norton’s former flame and an actress who’s getting her first big break in this play. Riseborough plays the girlfriend of Thomson, a talented if not particularly odd character her gives a good performance. Ryan might be the most underrated and underutilized member of the cast, she plays Keaton’s ex-wife, and has only a number of scenes in the film but she might be the only one with any sanity.
Birdman is so far the best acted movie of 2014, and right now it is being called 2014’s Best Picture. Whether that lasts is uncertain but critics seem to be in love with it and Vulture has it competing in nearly every category of their Oscar Futures page. Birdman is an absolute Must See!