Why is it that any piece of media that attempts to exult art just ends up a total garbage heap? Never trust a movie that gives itself a standing ovation. Birdman might be the worst film of the year. It’s pretentious, overlong, and witless. It contains merely character sketches portrayed by numerous humans with mouths that spit words. Words, such meaningless things. I say that not because I devalue the dialogue or the written word, but for what Birdman tells me. Characters talk and walk and the soundtrack booms an incessant drum beat, never building to a groove, just hanging there as noise. Characters are angry and dejected and betrayed and surprised and saddened and bewildered but who are they? Who are these people? Why should I care about them? The camera moves with confidence and it all looks great I guess but why do I care? Sure I like Michael Keaton, but I like him in movies where he has something to do. Director and co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu is merely using Keaton as a vehicle for his own pity parade. Iñárritu is an artist! He’s working over here! You wouldn’t understand, critic!
Birdman loves low hanging fruit. Superhero movies take some obvious hits because superheroes are so stupid, right you guys? Not like this movie that uses superheroes as the hook to get you to see it and even has a superhero sequence with tanks and monsters and the main character flying around the city. But yeah, fuck superhero movies.
I’m going to share a tidbit from the IMDB trivia page:
“According to Alejandro González Iñárritu, he had dinner with director Mike Nichols in New York two weeks before he began shooting the movie. Inarritu told Nichols of his plan for how he was going to shoot the movie as one long take. Nichols predicted it would be a disaster because not having the ability to use cuts in editing would inhibit the opportunities for comedy. Inarritu said the meeting didn’t deter him, but was instead helpful in raising his awareness level of the difficulty of what he was about to do.”
Mike Nichols told you, Alejandro! Iñárritu’s style meshes with comedy like oil and water. Or critics and artists!(amirite Al?) I can only figure that Iñárritu shot it that way because otherwise what would there to be to talk about? I read a guy on Letterboxd calling Birdman brilliant and then just typing “Camerawork!” in all caps. Dude, I know. They used a camera. So did every other movie ever made. Ask around, I’m a sucker for a good long take, but generally they serve a purpose. Iñárritu did it for no apparent reason except that it made his movie really hard to make for all involved. Nothing makes great comedy like stringent rules!
If I have to say something nice about the movie it’s that Edward Norton is pretty great. I’ve read that he is playing a parody of himself but how do we really know? I’m no Hollywood insider! He also gets some really bad lines in a scene with Emma Stone that Stone’s character calls out as bad writing but as my dude Justin Muschong would say, “Just because you point out the shitty thing you did doesn’t mean it still isn’t shitty.” Paraphrasing.
Bless your heart, Naomi Watts. Even after the forced nude scene in 21 Grams you still show up to work for this guy. Watts joins Emma Stone, Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough as one of the women in Keaton’s life who is there to love him and deride him. He’s a shitty father, a terrible husband, and a bad boyfriend. But you know what, even though he doesn’t really change, they still give em a little smile at the end. Riseborough even has a miscarriage and then turns into a lesbian with Naomi Watts. This has no precedent, except maybe Iñárritu yelling off camera “Why don’t you ladies kiss now? That’s what women do when they’re alone together, right?” Amy Ryan is one of our finest actresses but she is reduced to sighing (ex)wife here. Emma Stone has a monologue where she yells at Keaton about how old and irrelevant he is and then she just walks out of the room, leaving Keaton to fiddle with a joint for an extremely long period of time, probably because they couldn’t cut to a new scene because our boy Iñárritu is already married to this continuous one take style. Stone later warms to her dad because he’s the star of viral video that gets 300,000 views. (Birdman is the kind of movie that talks about things like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter from the point of view of someone who has heard of them but never used them. 300,000 views is not that impressive. Too Many Cooks has over a million!)
Any jokes are either obvious or dead on arrival. There is a scene where Norton and Keaton are wrestling on the ground and Norton is wearing nothing but briefs. So wild! Scenes like this always remind me that a director told them to do this stupid shit and they said yes without hesitation. Keaton later gets stuck walking through Times Square in just his underwear and I guess I should be impressed that it is a long take? The whole movie is a long take! This isn’t impressive anymore. The bloom is off the rose. Also, they film movies everywhere. You can’t just film in Times Square and expect me to stand and applaud. You know who else filmed in Times Square? Total Request Live. And they did that shit every day for years!
Birdman isn’t funny ultimately because Iñárritu came with an axe to grind. If he was simply telling a tale of wild times behind the scenes, well, he might have carried it off. But instead wants to tell us he is An Artist and that critics are Lazy. Michael Keaton’s critic rant is easily the most embarrassing moment in film in 2014. Critics don’t have any power, Al! Just ask Michael Bay and his pile of money! Having the critic say she is going to pan Keaton’s show without even seeing it is the stuff of dreams. Lots of laughs over here.
Has anyone talked about the fact that the play within the movie is not very good? The costumes are shabby, the characters never block towards the audience so someone always has their back to the crowd. “We didn’t pay good money to look at your ass, sweetheart!”
I really wish someone could make a really great film about the behind the scenes of show business. OH WAIT someone did it was Robert Altman it’s called The Player it’s a masterpiece. It even has a long take at the beginning if you want to watch it and need to type out “Camera work!” in your Letterboxd review.