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Bird is the word

Paul Peterson

Paul Peterson

Next week will be my Oscars column and in preparation for that, I went to see Birdman which may or may not get Michael Keaton a Best Actor award.  He’s definitely good in it. In fact he’s the best part but is it enough?  And what is it?  That’s the question.
There appear to be two answers.

On the one hand, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a gritty look at Riggan Thompson, a former megastar who is looking for redemption on Broadway by writing, directing and starring in his version of Raymond Carver’s ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About
Love’. Depending on your take, he’s a washed up star looking for glory or an acting whore who is looking for validation. Maybe that’s the point. This movie is all about ambiguity.
Here’s the thing.
BirdmanI love half of this movie.
The story of Keaton/Thompson trying to make a play that matters, or at least is a hit, is compelling. It’s filmed beautifully by Emmanual Lubezki who won the Oscar for cinematography for Gravity. It looks great. It’s a majestic theatre with crappy dressing rooms and broken down people. It’s funny and interesting and we live Riggan’s desperation.
We see the potential in him and the play and at some point start cheering for the impossible to happen. We want it to be a hit even though we know it can’t be.
We want his daughter to do well. She’s fresh out of drug rehab and working for dad is no picnic.
We want him and his ex-wife to have some tender moments. We want a happy ending or at least not what we get.
Just on that part of the film I would recommend this movie.
But here’s the other thing.
The film opens with Keaton levitating in front of his dressing room. He can move objects with his hand by pointing. We think he’s suicidal but it turns out he can fly.
Oh, and he can shoot himself, blow his nose off and never bleed or bruise and heal overnight from a nose transplant.
Oh, ok.

This film is directed  by Alejandro G Innaritu. Known for films that make you want to consider your own final exit, this is being heralded as a bit of fun. Ok. But how can he fly? And why does his superhero Birdman character follow him around yelling at him and apparently ummm I don’t really know.
It’s all strange
Is he delusional?
Well others bear witness to the delusion.
Is he dead?
Pretty sure not.
Is Birdman a metaphor for all of our disappearing glory?
Who gives a rat?
My brain hurts.
I loathe symbolism if I’m not creating it.
I looked for meaning.
I liked the one movie. The other one made me scratch my head. Like a monkey.
There’s enough to like here.
It’s an all-star cast. I like Ed Norton in just about everything and he’s strong here as the temperamental king of Broadway. Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan and Zach Galifianakis all have strong roles. And then there’s Keaton.
I think this film’s a good watch. I encourage you to go see it and then tell me what I watched.
I’m not smart.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week.  The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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  1. Paulina McMahon says:

    Thanks, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that as the credits rolled said ‘huh’. The performances were very strong but all I can say after watching it was ‘my brain hurt’

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