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Birdman Movie Review

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Birdman Movie Review

I watched Birdman in wonder of how this film has won the most number of Oscars in the Academy Awards this year namely: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

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I love all the nuances of this film. Here you have Riggan, a man Michael Keaton struggling with an issue of losing popularity as an actor. His last stint as a famous celebrity, the Birdman, a superhero inspired by an eagle was 2 decades ago. Now he has gotten old, crinkly with just barely some puffs of hair left in his head.

He is now gambling his fortune for a story written 60 years ago where he now adapts for a Broadway play where he wrote the script, will lead as an actor, and be the director, all four roles at the same time including the producer, in hopes to be glorified as someone who did it all. After all, people regarded him just as a fad of a celebrity, not an actor.

He is assisted by his bestfriend Jake (Zack Galifianakis) who held everything together to make the stage play a success and his personal assistant is none other than his just-recently-rehabbed-from-drugs beautiful daughter Sam (Emma Stone) who feels estranged from him.

The initial choice as an actor was a bad choice indeed that he intentionally hurt him in the process just to have him replaced. And in his place, as suggested to him by one of his actresses (the ever lovely albeit aging Naomi Watts) is the sought after actor Mike Shine (Edward Norton).

Mike is terrific! He's just perfect for the role just by their first rehearsal alone. But come the first preview of the play, Mike just lost his nerve before the very eyes of the audience. Riggan thought he'd call the shots but instead, Mike was ruining the play before it even has the chance to soar high.

Perhaps, you'd think it's Mike's egotism that will put the play on the verge of failure. This is one perfect nuance of the film. As a cineaste, I understand it's Riggan's megalomania that is short-circuiting the production of the play. After all, Mike has other ideas that Riggan doesn't want to entertain as he believes that it is only him who will create the success of his Broadway play.

I would take on Mike's side as I believe in the concept of artistic freedom that Riggan fails to see.

Mike was creating a stir to get noticed and Riggan's all the more insecure of him. Even his daughter Sam became Mike's current flame.

Another nuance evident in the film is a war between the old and the new, which could be [1] reliance on printed reviews (i.e. Times) vs. people's buzz on the social media, [2] old play adaptation methods vs. modern methods, [3] commitment to time period vs. anachronism. We could even add slow-paced philosophical movies vs. fast-paced action-packed movies.

Now let's talk of the cinematography. At first, I find it dizzying the way the cameraman handles the camera. The Broadway setting looks claustrophobic behind the stage that to make it spacious, the camera has to do lots of closeup. The closeups are way too close to the face to the point that Emma Stone's face looks so ugly with her too huge eyes and now crinkly face.

Emma Stone Birdman

The camera moves a lot like it's just a man following your every move and not the conventional omnicient eyes. It's easy to realize that the camera's constant panning does not look to deviate the background at all. Usually, in a film, the picture fades to give way to another setting. Here, the transition is seamless. To focus from one character to the next, the camera pans from the 1st actor to the 2nd and to tell how much time has lapsed, the camera will just pan on to the next room (behind the 2nd actor), zoom in, zoom out so that we'll find that the 1st actor have changed his clothes already and that the sun has already risen up when in contrast, it was dark when the camera had its focus on him before the camera shifted to the 2nd.

And that camera movement is very deliberate. Its intention was delivered effectively near the end of the film. When the camera just stopped doing that (instead of panning seamlessly, it adopts the convential transitioning of fading to black and displaying a new background picture for the setting), I was left to wonder, "Did the character die?"

I say, that was just epic.

That's a unique camera trick I haven't seen before. The camerawork is old but the intention in which it was used for is certainly new in this film.

The usage of a single musical instrument, the drum set for the musical score was kind of off-putting to me. I don't know if it's about the beat or the score just tends to be distracting if not sounding like sheer noise.

Andrea Riseborough

Not to be missed are the performances of Andrea Riseborough (would you believe she's Tom Cruise's space partner in Oblivion?) as a play actress and Riggan's current lover and Amy Ryan as Riggan's caring ex-wife.

I couldn't say that it's a great film but it was worth my while. While Birdman does not arouse emotions, it does invoke ideas.


93%82%8/10

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