“Birdman” Shows Abstract Image Of Michael Keaton’s Past

By Scott Kurland
Film: Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtues Of Ignorance.)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan
Rated R
Director:Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

It has been said that celebrity is in the eye of the beholder, and in all honesty I have never believed that. Maybe that’s true for reality television stars, like Honey Boo-Boo and “The Real House Wives.” Their celebrity is fleeting I doubt in twenty years we’ll remember Ms. Boo-Boo, but in my most humble opinion there is undoubtable celebrity. Just bear with me here, if you are any of the following you will always be a celebrity. If you are an Academy Award Winner you will always be a celebrity. You have a gold statue that confirms it, or in Jack Nicholson’s case three statues that confirm. If you are magazine cover more than three times (which sadly means the Kardashians are celebrities) you are a celebrity. 

Finally, if you are a superhero actor....you most definitely are a celebrity. That last category leads us to today’s film “Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtues Of Ignorance)”  starring former “Batman”  Michael Keaton as a struggling actor once known for playing a superhero...sound familiar? It should because his role was “Birdman”....a little too close to “Batman” if you ask me. Let’s see if this was any good.

Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson a washed up super hero actor who may posses some super abilities himself. Riggan is staging his first broadway show as lead actor, director, and financier he’s put everything he has into this film. Yet, problems arise when one of the leads is injured and Riggan must call in Broadway superstar Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) a selfish usurper who is slowly destroying Riggan’s vision. As Riggan’s world slowly comes apart he must deal with his past which includes a recovering drug addicted daughter (Emma Stone), a basket case producer (Zach Galifianakis), and a vengeful theater critic (Lindsey Duncan). As Riggan slowly teeters on fantasy melding into reality is starts to wonder one perplexing question. Is he really “Birdman”?

The real question we have to ask ourselves is if Keaton is playing a character or playing a version of himself. I’d like to think it’s an exaggerated version of both in some form. We all know Keaton was “Batman”, and we identify with him as “Batman”. Headlines for him still reads “Batman actor, Michael Keaton Did Charity Work....” That’s undeniable celebrity right there. I’m going to call it right now that Keaton is a shoe in for Best Actor  this award season. He’s near perfect here as Riggan, the only flaw is the ones embedded into his character. Keaton has always been an underrated actor, he’s never got the recognition he so rightly deserved. Being huge in the 80’s and 90’s was his big claim to fame, but as the early millennium approached Keaton faded into obscurity. Riggan is Keaton’s masterpiece and might be his shot at scoring an Oscar.

Keaton’s just the starting block the entire cast might be fighting one another come award season. Emma Stone gives one of the best speeches about humanity being nothingness and everyone not carrying who exists. I always felt that Stone, was snubbed for her performance in “The Help” she gave one of the best subtle turns in that film. Hopefully this time the Academy will take notice this time around, because she is sensational as Sam. Although the casting is a bit odd, because it’s truly hard to believe Stone is a suicidal drug addict, she makes it convincing.

The real thrown down this award season is Norton. Norton steals every scene he’s in. Norton is known for being a very passionate and difficult actor to work with. His character Mike Shiner is the same type of actor. Although Shiner is more extreme and goes too far, I doubt Norton would truly ask for a five thousand dollar tanning bed in his dressing room or ruin a preview performance because someone stole his booze. Norton is amazing here, best work we’ve seen from him in years.

Director and Co-Writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has made one of the most ambitious films of the year. On the one hand “Birdman” is a subtle film about a man putting on a play. On the other hand “Birdman” is a visually effects ridden masterpiece about an actor who was once a superhero caught in that world. Inarritu plays this film like a play, basically it’s a play within a play. Everyone has a storyline that continues and flows in a continuous tracking shot that fires at the audience one after the other. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki makes this film look like a living breathing entity. 

Lubezki won last year’s Oscar for his work on “Gravity” but he may have out done himself with “Birdman”. Inarritu  himself leads the race as well, so far Inarritu is the only director to be taken seriously in terms of visionary directing. Everything about this film screams genius whether it’s the titles that remind  us of Godard’s “Pierrot le Fou” or Keaton’s battle with reality Inarritu has directed a near perfect film.

“Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance)” is one of the most orginal films to come out of 2014. Part cinema verite part absurdist comedy, this is a must see film. Such an enjoyable piece of art wrapped in a pop culture candy coating. Do yourself a favor and check out “Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance)”.

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