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Tag Archive: Birdman movie review


Feast Oscar winner Disney Osborne

Strange how you can be completely in sync each year with the supporting acting categories and the “other” categories at the annual Academy Awards ceremony, and walk away from the Oscars scratching your head over the rest of the wins.  Highlights of the night were those TV-actors-turned-movie-actors-turned-Oscar-winners J.K. Simmons (Skoda!  Chief Pope!) and Patricia Arquette (Alison Dubois!) getting their wins, long-time working actors who have paid their dues and finally got recognized for it.  And I admit I love not being in sync with the Academy each year, and never as much so to their selection of Birdman as winner for this year’s Best Picture, a positively abysmal, unwatchable flick that rested on the acting of Michael Keaton, who the Academy snubbed.  Go figure.  But Hollywood likes to pat itself on the back for its own idiosyncracies so it’s no surprise they did it again (full disclosure: I hated A Chorus Line, too).  You can see how I really feel in my earlier review at borg.com here.

It was another ceremony of young presenters you’ve never heard of all showing their deer-in-the-headlights inexperience with public speaking, making you wonder just how many takes directors had to slog through this year to get anything out of them worth putting onscreen.  (More polished presenters next year like Zoe Saldana, Dwayne Johnson, and Eddie Murphy, please).  When was the last good year of Oscars anyway?  2013.  Contrast this year’s films with the films of 2012 and the corresponding winners at the 2013 Oscars ceremony (Argo, Brave, Skyfall, Django Unchained, Les Miserables all took home at least one statue) and this year seemed pretty shabby by comparison.

Feast poster 2015 Disney

But all is not lost.  Take a look at the winner for Best Animated Short Film, Feast.  It’s from Disney, which can be good or bad, but this time their short film harkened back to some of the best of the classic cartoons produced by the studio.  It’s a love triangle about a little dog, his love of food, and his owner.  It’s full of solid artistry, great animation, humor, action, and best of all–heart.  And you can (and should) watch it now via Amazon Prime or the link below, after the break, via YouTube (a deal at only $1.99).

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Michael Keaton in Birdman

Review by C.J. Bunce

It always makes sense to be wary of movies that trickle out to the public in limited release.  If you’re not in the movie business, you may also want to be careful about seeing films about the movie business, especially shows about Broadway.  Sometimes knowing what is behind the stage door ruins the magic.  A Chorus Line, The Player, Barton Fink, are all about staging theater or film.  But it often seems like writers choose this topic as a crutch–these are the topics drama college professors praise, of characters full of angst, a script riddled with expletives and characters bantering long speeches full of dialogue and situations calculated to shock and surprise.  They hope the industry insiders will latch onto the movie even if the movie-going public could care less.  These movies come off as self-indulgent and trite, the stuff of drama school or Summer stock.  Birdman unfortunately is another one of those movies.

Michael Keaton plays an actor named Riggan.  You would never know Riggan was his name from watching Birdman as it sounds more like Reagan as uttered by the cast.  Riggan has some kind of schizophrenia, causing him to think he is being talked to by the Birdman, a costumed character Riggan played that once earned him fame.  There’s not enough of the Birdman in the film to understand whether Riggan simply has mental problems or he really has some magical power.  Or maybe it’s intended to be allegorical.  It’s hard to know.  Riggan is trying to produce and act in a play, doing something to get recognized, to make himself relevant, when in fact, he’s still a household name.

Keaton in Birdman

Behind Birdman is a variety of movie gimmicks, all arising out of an ambitious director.  Ambition is a great thing, to be certain.  Yet director Alejandro González Iñárritu throws too much at the audience at once, and although he is certainly getting noticed on the awards front, Birdman doesn’t have the balance to stand the test of time.  Slathered in tongue-in-cheek irony, Birdman relies on the misconception that Michael Keaton, who played Batman in real life, is a washed-up has-been who hasn’t had a good job in years and we will all have some nostalgic reaction to this.  (In fact, Keaton has hardly seen a year since he started in movies where he wasn’t in one film or another).

So the publicity folks want to spin this film as the next Sunset Boulevard, another story of a has-been actor struggling with self-worth.  It’s a mirror image of the New York film and theater industry looking back on itself.  A critique?  Poking fun?  Maybe actors care about that.  Maybe producers and movie moguls.  But why should audiences?  It just doesn’t come close to the subtlety and grand storytelling that made Sunset Boulevard so superb.

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