Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

I'd been waiting a long to time finally get the chance to watch this film. Being hailed as one of the best films of 2014, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has crafted a black comedy, that often feels more a drama at times, that will command your attention for the entire duration. 'Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)' is a film in which camera work alone with leave you impressed, but the accompanying performances, led by Michael Keaton, will captivate you until the credits roll.

'Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)' follows the story of Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), decades earlier he famously played the superhero Birdman. Riggan is tormented by the voice of Birdman in his head and often imagines himself doing feats of telekinesis and levitation. Now he is a washed up actor that is trying to reinvent his career by writing, directing and starring in his own Broadway play. The play is an adaptation of Raymond Carver's short story, 'What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love.' The play is being produced by Riggan's lawyer (and friend), Jake (Zach Galifianakis). While his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), who recently got out of rehab, serves as his assistant. It stars Riggan's girlfriend, Laura (Andrea Riseborough), a first-time Broadway actress, Lesley (Naomi Watts) and a role that has been severely miscast. Riggan rigs a spotlight to fall on this guys head, replacing him with a highly eccentric method actor, Mike (Edward Norton). Riggan has gone all in, as we follow the tumultuous days leading up to the premiere of his play.

This film is not for everyone and if you're going into this expecting a superhero film, ala the Marvel Cinematic or DC Universe, you're barking up the wrong tree. In fact, it almost seems that 'Birdman' is at times is being critical of the superhero films that have been very dominant lately in Hollywood. With Riggan knowing the amount of fame he can gain from it, he also wants to be remembered for something he perceives to be a more serious venture. Don't get me wrong, I love superhero films, but I can see why actors, and critics alike, can be so hard on films that usually prefer style to substance. This film deals with this issue well, and coming from an actor who played Batman, he conveys everything perfectly. The supporting cast is also fantastic and play off of Keaton, and each other, well. The scenes involving Emma Stone and Edward Norton feel real. The scenes involving Amy Ryan and Stone with Michael Keaton himself are emotional. Norton brings a crazed edge to the cast, while Zach Galifianakis brings a humorous presence to a scene. Round that out with the talents of Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough and this complete cast clicks on all cylinders. The way this film is seen is also fantastic. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu had the vision of turning 'Birdman' into a film, that had the look of a film, that only took one lone take to make. Each scene, with the aid of editing and some CGI, are blended together effortlessly to look like this film has been shot in one single go. It was a daring way to film this and it worked out brilliantly. It took great writing, a great director and a capable cast, and it was all knocked out of the park. The score also aided to everything happening in the film. The jazz tracks were a welcome addition to a given scene and sounded beautiful. I found myself tapping along a times from the opening credits and being mesmerized by the awesome music throughout.

'Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)' is one of the top films of the year and I loved every second of it. From the opening credits jazz sequence, to the closing moments of hope shown, 'Birdman' will grab you and never let go. Michael Keaton turns is an absolutely fantastic performance and the entire supporting cast follows suit. The story is a great one and the score is awesome. Not to mention the filming and camera-work is phenomenal (and downright fun). This film isn't for everyone, but 'Birdman' needs to been seen by anyone who (at the very least) was a fan of the films that were given their due during last years awards season.

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