Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
It's a Bird! No, it's A Man! It's BOTH! It's Birdman!
Yes, something new! This is the first of my movie reviews that will hopefully result in content being released more frequently.
I'm not one for watching movies in theatres. Maybe it's the often uncomfortable seats, or the annoying children (including those adult jerks who burst into laughter during serious events or boo during emotional scenes). Then there's the annoying people who stand in front of you because they decided to buy those over-priced drinks and need to relieve themselves during the movie. And don't even get me started with the bloated prices and the prescription glasses unfriendly 3D movies. So, when a movie I've been waiting for is released on one of the reasonably priced VOD services, I often quickly jump on the opportunity experience the amazing experience for myself. (Yes, gut-wrenching can be an amazing experience, at times, too.)
Well, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has finally been released to non-theatre going masses, so let's take a look at this first movie I'm reviewing for the year. Was it good? Was it bad? It was... Sorry, you're going to have to read more to find out (or just skip to the end if you don't care about why).
Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) stars Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zack Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough. This movie is drama about a man who used to be a famous actor when he played a superhero, but he has since fallen out of the spotlight and into acting and directing stage plays. Or is it?
Let's start with that question because this movie might have one of the most complex stories we've seen in a long time. The base of the movie seems to be about putting on a play, but it stretches far beyond that when it ventures into the lives of the characters. This will cause most viewers to ask – what is this movie really about? Is this movie about the pressures actors and directors are put through to be successful? Or is it about the stresses of raising a family. Maybe it's about drinking and drugs. Could it be about how major film critics ruin lives? How about living with a dissociative identity disorder? Telekinetic powers also may or may not be a huge part of the story so is it about a mutant living amongst normal people? I could probably go on like this for a very long time, but I think you get the picture. The most amazing part of the story is that your interpretation of the ending will greatly depend on your perspective of earlier events. I watched it three times and looked at the ending differently each time. Just don't blow your brain all over the stage trying to figure it out; I'm sure the writers made it so there is no right or wrong way to look at the ending.
The story isn't the only amazing part of the movie, though. The characters are brilliant and they just feel... real. This is something that most movies, especially major theatre released movies, have forgotten how to do lately. Many characters nowadays seem to exist purely for moving the plot forward, making it difficult to believe that they existed outside of the events that took place. That wasn't the case with Birdman. It felt this was shot using real people in our real world with real screwed up lives.
I also loved the way that parts of this story almost seemed to mirror Michael Keaton's career after he left Batman. Sure, he isn't the huge name he was back then, but there are still many movies he is wildly famous for. Even though it wasn't a perfect mirror of reality, it still made his character feel even more real.
The writers and actors definitely deserve praise for bringing these characters to life. Not only were they well written, but the acting was superb. The largest difference between actors and celebrities is actual talent (which is also touched on in this movie), and these actors are certainly not talentless celebrities who sells tickets by looking sexy or being filthy rich. (There are a few who are both an actor and a celebrity, but they are very rare.)
The way this film was shot to make it appear as if it was one continuous shot is also very memorable. I really hate the constant cuts in modern movies, especially during action scenes, so the cinematography made this film feel even more amazing for me. By limiting the cuts made it felt like I was actually with these characters during this very emotional ride instead of just witnessing highly edited events. Sure, this made the movie drag on at times, but real-life isn't a series of events like most movies would like you to believe. I wish more filmmakers would use tricks like this to blend takes together and get rid of that garbage and lazy quick-cut editing that has spread across the industry like some rank and foul festering disease.
Unlike most dramas, the special effects in this movie are also quite spectacular. You don't really notice them for the most of the movie, which makes them amazing on their own, although there are parts that feel like your typical CGI-filled blockbuster, too. Just don't expect this to be an action movie – it definitely isn't.
I was also impressed with the jazz musical score, which is primarily just percussion instruments. Instead of the famous songs or grandiose symphony orchestras, which are both far too commonly used, the music stuck with a beat that almost sounded like the erratic heartbeat of the story. This gave the scenes a more earthly feel rather than the larger-than-life experience which overwhelms other movies. I'm sure the movie would have come across very different if it wasn't for the choice of music.
There aren't many movies that truly impress me, but Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is absolutely one of films that did. It seemed to do almost everything right, and what small flaws that existed are mainly there because of the choices to make the movie feel more organic than others. This is by far the most enjoyable movie that I have seen in years. Sadly, that doesn't mean it will be for everyone.
Those who seek out adrenaline-filled action movies, terrifying or gruesome horrors, or the silly comedies that keeps you giggling, will probably not find this movie fun. It is a strong character-based drama that will make you feel for the characters and will also try to crack open your imagination and your beliefs. If you like amazing characters, thought provoking stories, and/or a realistic venture into the lives of others (not to be confused with the reality-TV experience), you will likely love Birdman and should watch it whenever you can.
If you've already watched Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), what did you think about it? Let me know in the comment section below. Just be kind; not everyone is going to share your views, especially with a movie such as this. Also, if you're going to spoil something major, please mark it as such.