Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

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I didn’t care for this film, not being a fan of the surrealist style. Birdman is certainly a unique picture, heavily self-reflective, and even sarcastic. Is it a comedy? Is it a suicidal tragedy? Is it a dark philosophical or analytical film? By the end, the audience is left feeling a certain sense of sympathy for the profession of acting, gaining a better understanding of the struggles faced by actors (and also playing to the Academy’s ears), however, having seen this movie a couple times now, I find it to be overtly self-indulgent and mostly uninteresting. At least the cinematography in the film is extraordinary.

Birdman is a modern surrealist, experimental, and deeply psychological exploration into the mind of a washed up actor in New York City. The film is edited to appear as if shot in a single shot, to give it a blurred, dream-like quality. It stars Michael Keaton (perhaps as a nod to his role in Batman), as well as Zach Galifinakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan (Holly from The Office) and others. Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is a washed up actor, haunted by his most famous performance as “Birdman” -as Birdman becomes his alter ego throughout the film. He is cast in a Broadway performance of a Raymond Carver story. Reality is regularly turned on its head throughout the film as he has surreal capacities to fly and commune with the manifestation of Birdman. He encounters rude reviewers, his abrasive daughter, fellow actors, and he gets locked out of the theatre on accident and is forced to run through Times Square in his underwear before he enters the stage and delivers a dramatic performance and at the conclusion, he shoots himself in the head. He wakes up in a hospital, having only shot off his nose. He reunites with his daughter and when she leaves the room he climbs out the window and jumps. His daughter returns and she smiles as she sees a bird flying in the sky. Thus the film concludes, as his mental stability steadily declines, and we are not given a conclusion as to whether or not he has killed himself. The theme of Icarus runs throughout the film. To summarize this film in one word, I would choose “ambiguous.”

Birdman won an avalanche of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and others.

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