Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2014: Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Actor Riggan Thomson is known for one role: that of the superhero Birdman, which he played in three movies 20 years ago. He decides to write, direct, and star in a Broadway play, just to prove that he can. The film chronicles the days leading up to the play's opening, following Riggan, his ex-wife and daughter, his lawyer, and his fellow cast members.

I have very mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, I kind of hate the plot and all of the characters. On the other hand, I really like the way it was filmed. From the beginning, I noticed that something felt odd about the camera work, but I couldn't quite place it at first. After a little while I figured out what was going on: it was filmed to look like it was (almost) all one continuous shot. It's not like this is the first time this has been done; Alfred Hitchcock used it in his 1948 thriller, Rope. But while Rope takes place entirely in one tiny apartment, Birdman goes all over the place and even includes a flying sequence. Once I realized that that was why it felt weird, I started to enjoy the movie a lot more than I had been. I was less bothered by the characters and story because I could focus on the technique.

Beyond that, I didn't think this film had much to recommend it. The cast gave very convincing performances, but I couldn't really relate to any of the characters. The few people I was actually interested in were underdeveloped in favor of drawn out conversations between obnoxious characters about boring topics. There were also way too many underwear scenes and instances of unnecessary profanity for my taste. I guess I can kind of see why some people really like it, but it's definitely not my type of movie. Granted, it was very beautifully filmed, so I did enjoy watching it from that perspective. But there were several great movies that came out in 2014 that I enjoyed watching a lot more, so I'm not convinced that Birdman deserved to win Best Picture. Still, I'm glad I watched it. I kind of wish I'd gone into it knowing about the filming like it was one shot thing (although once I noticed it, it did seem vaguely familiar) so I could have focused on that the whole time, but it was also nice going into it knowing very little about it so I wasn't biased one way or the other.

Coming up next: I don't know, but I hope something with a female protagonist. It's been like 10 years since the last one. It's time.

P.S. In case you're interested, I'm also blogging about Best Actress Winners here.

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