And the Oscar Goes to:
Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), 2014
Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts
Birdman: or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) tells the story of Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton (Spotlight), an actor known famously for his portrayal as the superhero Birdman in three comic-book movie adaptations, the most recent being in 1992 (the same year Keaton played Batman for the final time). Thomson is now trying to prove himself as a serious actor in a world which looks down upon his Hollywood background by directing, writing and starring in his own play. Despite the many problems with the play (from injuries to key actors, to Mike Shiner’s difficulty to work with, Shiner being played by Edward Norton) Thomson forces through with it while constantly fending off a voice inside his head: the voice of the Birdman, calling him back to Hollywood. Thomson also has to deal with problems with his daughter, ex-wife, current partner and a host of other characters while trying to find a balance with it all.
One instantly noticeable thing about the presentation of this movie is how it appears to all be in one large shot with no cuts (aside from a scene at the very end), which is a bold move to take in a movie that lasts nearly two hours, spans multiple days and locations within the film and with amazing special effects. Paying attention you can see where the cuts in filming are but it is absolutely incredible how they manage this feat; it’s even more impressive considering the acting is borderline spot-on throughout. Michael Keaton (appearing in the first of his two Best Picture winners in a row, the other being Spotlight) is flawless as a man who is struggling to fight of his inner demons and the outer world’s problems. Keaton’s performance aside, performances by Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis and Emma Stone are all brilliantly delivered, a feat even more impressive considering the sometimes lengthy scenes.
The whole film from start to finish is incredible; with comedy, romance and suspense blissfully wrapped into a seamless transition from one to another. And it ends on a picture that leaves a plethora of interpretations. Definitely, definitely, one to check out.
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Overall Rating: * * * * ½