Monday, November 3, 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Review

Yes, that's the full title of this movie, stylized just like that. However, instead of typing up Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) every time, I'm just going to refer to this as Birdman. That's easier to type. A lot of sites or reviews have left off the whole subtitle altogether, but I wanted to make sure to include it at least once because, outside the fact that it's the full title of the movie, it's also a very key theme of the movie as when you think of the phrase "the unexpected virtue of ignorance," there is a lot of deep insights that you can pull from that just from reading that. But then if you watch the movie, the deep insights that enter your mind don't end with you reading the title of this movie. The whole movie is very deep, psychological, and metaphorical. It's a movie that I'm glad I gave myself a day or two of thinking about before typing this review, because the more you think about the events in this movie, the more powerful this movie becomes. I'm not one to predict the future, but I have a feeling that when we look back onto the year 2014, Birdman is going to be one of the movies that stands out among the crowd.

If you don't know what Birdman is, it's now time for you to be educated. Ever since this movie's initial festival release some time ago, it's received nearly unanimous praise from the artsy crowd to the critics to the general public. It's even had an excellent box office run in it's early release. This is a movie that is going to get nominated for a ton of awards when award season rolls around. So what is it and why is it receiving so much praise? Well first off, let's talk about what this isn't. This isn't a superhero movie. This isn't a movie about the rapper named Birdman. This isn't a movie about the basketball player Chris Anderson, who nicknames himself Birdman. This isn't a comic book adaption. This isn't a book adaption. This isn't a TV show adaption. None of that. This is a 100 percent completely fictional and completely original story. And by original I mean it's not adapted from any previous material and will thus be eligible for the best original screenplay award at the Oscars. So what is it? This is a story about a washed up actor who used to play the lead role of trilogy of superhero movies called Birdman. Now Birdman is long in the past and this actor is trying to make a comeback by writing, directing, and starring in a new Broadway play.

Michael Keaton plays the lead role of Riggan Thomas, the former Birdman actor. The funny thing about the casting is that it's almost a reflection of Michael Keaton's actual life. No, I wouldn't call Michael Keaton a washed-up actor. But there was a point in time where he did play an iconic superhero also named for an animal. This of course is Batman. But now when you think of Batman, Michael Keaton isn't the first name that comes to your mind. In fact, when you are coming up with a list of actors who have played superheroes, Michael Keaton's name might not come up for quite some time. Also, Michael Keaton hasn't disappeared from the acting scene, but it's been a while since he's had a huge role and an Oscar nomination isn't something he's been able to add to his resume. So I found that a fun connection. Personally I've always liked Michael Keaton, so I was excited to see how he did given the buzz following. And by goodness does he give a legendary performance. Right from the start, you know there is something wrong with this man because he has a voice talking to him throughout the movie and when he gets mad he starts acting like a jedi by moving and throwing things without touching them. What the heck? What's happening? I'm not going to tell you the answer, but those are the thoughts that go through your mind as these things are happening to Keaton's character.

Keaton, though, is far from the only actor who kills it in this. The whole cast in this does a really good job and there are quite a few big names. My favorite outside Keaton is actually Emma Stone. This shouldn't come as a surprise if you know me. I love Emma Stone. In fact, if you ask me who my current favorite actress is, Emma Stone is my answer. She is brilliant and perfect in everything she does and this is no different. She plays Michael Keaton's daughter in this and the two of them have a very rough relationship that is very interesting to watch as the movie goes on. Like Keaton, Emma Stone has her own issues that she is going through and she is fantastic. This is a role where she is almost guaranteed to get an Oscar nomination and I am excited for her. I even think I know the exact scene they are going to show when the announce her name during the ceremony. The third actor that is getting a lot of award buzz for this is Edward Norton. I actually like his character, but he didn't quite blow me away like the others did. Instead, I was like, 'this is the role he gave up The Avengers for?' Oh well, Mark Ruffalo was better anyways. Now in my personal opinion, if anyone from Birdman gets a nomination for supporting actor it should be Zach Galifianakis. I love it when a comedy star takes a dramatic role and nails it. That's exactly what happens here with Galifianakis.

Yes, the acting in this movie is absolutely superb and I didn't even talk about everyone that does a great job. But there's a lot more too this movie than just the acting. Unfortunately, I've already spent a ton of time talking about this movie and thus I can't do this movie justice in this review because that would require writing a whole novel and I'm going to spare you that. But I'll do my best and leave the rest for you to discover on your own because there is so much good about this movie. The first thing I want to touch on is something that I don't usually talk about and that is the editing. I'm not an expert on video editing and so I don't know all the techniques used to make this happen, but I do know that there is a lot of magical camera trickery, superb editing, and even more props to the actors for long camera sequences because this whole movie gives the deception of being done in one shot. There's no visible cuts, jumps or anything like that and it was amazing. To go along with this, the cinematography is beautiful. Also, the score in this is very unique as it's all done by drum. Things like this were very unique and left me in awe.

I'm not even close to being done with the thoughts I have in my head about this movie, but I'm going to wrap this up now. Despite the acting being being amazing and the technical aspects of the movie being one of a kind, the most impressive feature in this movie is the story itself. Like I said in the beginning, this movie is very deep, psychological, and metaphorical. This can also be very relatable to pretty much everyone. I could spend a whole ton of time on the specifics of this. I could even write a whole separate spoiler review discussing all the themes in the movie, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to let you discover these things and ponder on them on your own time. Needless to say, all these aspects of this movie combined make it so that this movie is an absolute masterpiece. I was totally blown away and am even more blown away the more I think about it. I said earlier that when we look back on the year 2014, Birdman is a movie that will stand out of the crowd and I stand by that. I honestly think that in 20 or 30 years from now that this could be a movie that is studied in film history classes. When this movie comes to your town, please go see it. I'm giving this a 10/10. It deserves it. To me that grade doesn't mean perfect, it means classic or future classic and I think that's what Birdman is. It's not just good. It's not just great. It's a masterpiece. A future classic.

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