Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence

In the upcoming weeks the movie world will go full throttle into what is known as “awards season”. Awards season begins in the fall and culminates with Academy Awards in February. With that being the case and knowing I had seen some pretty worthy movies in the last few months, I did a quick internet search for projected Academy Award nominations. It was no surprise to find Boyhood and Whiplash, two movies I previously wrote about on here, as part of the projections (links to those blog posts on each of their respective names). Another that was near the top of the list for nominations was the film Birdman, starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts.

I saw the preview for Birdman a few months ago (I actually think it was in the coming attractions when I saw Boyhood) and it looked like a film that I’d be somewhat interested in. Because of that and the high praise it seems destined to receive, I decided to go check it out yesterday. After seeing this movie, it makes complete sense as to why it’ll be on the top of the list for awards season.

The plot centers around a washed up actor, Riggan Thomson, and his quest to get back into the limelight by writing, directing, producing, and starring in his own Broadway play. Earlier in his career Riggan starred as the superhero, Birdman, which gave him his claim to fame. The story really examines Riggan’s desire to be relevant and important to the world and in turn looks at the other characters’ need for relevance as well.

What stood out to me in this film was by far the cinematography. It seemed like it could have been filmed with one camera over an entire day(s) as the movie never really cut to different shots. Instead the camera would circle a character’s body to get a view of another character they were talking to or both characters would get so close together that they were both shown talking in the shot. When a scene ended, the camera would follow one character from the scene until another appeared. Then it would either stay with the first character or switch to following that other character depending on what the next scene required. It was like every scene in the film seemed to be merged together so that the movie looked like one long shot. It’s not something you’d commonly see.

The second thing that stood out was the acting. I haven’t seen that many Edward Norton films. I have seen Fight Club though, which was probably his most notable. Birdman was Fight Club good Edward Norton, but his acting in this even surpassed Fight Club. Actually in the first quarter of the movie it felt like Edward Norton stole the show for me. As it went on though, both Michael Keaton and Emma Stone shined in their respective roles.

So do I recommend you see this movie? I would say only if you’re really interested in seeing a film that’s sure to win a bunch of awards or you’re really interested in the plot line or one or more of the actors. I did enjoy Birdman, but it wasn’t as high up on my list of must-see projected award nominated films such as Boyhood or Whiplash. I would also say to see it if you’re interested in film as an art form because like I said the cinematography is one to be reckoned with. I’ll actually be disappointed if it doesn’t win the Oscar for it. Win or lose though no matter what the award or category, it will probably go down as being one of the best films of the year.

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