The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance

I finally got around to watching the film that won the Oscars in 2014 for Best Picture – and also Best Director for the movie’s director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“21 Grams”, “Babel”) – “Birdman”.

birdman

Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton – “Batman”, “The Other Guys”) is a fading actor, most famous for playing the superhero Birdman in a series of action films years ago.

In order to resurrect his career Riggan is directing and starring in a play he has written, being staged on Broadway, based on a short story by Raymond Carver. Riggan also hears the voice of Birdman in his head, criticising him, and sees himself levitating and moving things through telekinesis.

Michael Keaton & Jeremy Shamos
Michael Keaton & Jeremy Shamos

When his one of his co-stars, Ralph (Jeremy Shamos – “The Rebound”), is injured during rehearsals Riggan uses the accident as an excuse to replace him.

Michael Keaton, Andrea Riseborough & Naomi Watts
Michael Keaton, Andrea Riseborough & Naomi Watts

Riggan’s other co-stars are his girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough – “Oblivion”, “Welcome To The Punch”) and an actress experiencing her first role on Broadway, Lesley (Naomi Watts – “Insurgent”, “Dream House”).

Edward Norton
Edward Norton

It’s the latter who suggests the method actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton – “Down In The Valley”, “The Incredible Hulk”) as a replacement for Ralph. Unfortunately, Mike proves to be rather volatile and Riggan starts to regret hiring him, especially when he steals the show with his antics during previews.

Emma Stone
Emma Stone

On top of all of these issues Riggan is working on his relationship with his assistant Sam (Emma Stone – “Aloha”, “Gangster Squad”), who is also his daughter, and opening night is fast approaching…

I can easily see why this film won the Oscars that it did. Not only is it thoroughly engaging in terms of the acting and story – it’s funny and it’s moving and thought-provoking – and all of the cast are superb (I wasn’t previously a fan of Keaton but he is brilliant here) – but technically it is astonishing.

From the moment we first enter Riggan’s dressing room in the theatre where his play is being rehearsed and performed until around ten minutes from the end of the movie the camera doesn’t blink. In other words we see what looks like a continuous camera shot filming a two hour movie in one take as it follows characters in and out of rooms and corridors etc. and even onto the stage of an apparently packed theatre. I realise that’s not the case but it’s practically impossible to see any joins and genuinely feels like one long shot from start to (almost) finish.

Andrea Riseborough & Naomi Watts
Andrea Riseborough & Naomi Watts

Add to that the numerous shots where characters are shown interacting directly in front of mirrors with no sign of camera or crew being reflected – visually it’s all absolutely brilliant!

That aside, though, you are still dealing with an excellent drama and all involved have acquitted themselves admirably. I won’t go into any more detail on plot or meaning – the best that I can say is that if you haven’t yet seen “Birdman” then you should make sure you do. An excellent film…

birdman (1)

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