Finally, a 2014 Oscar contender I can unequivocally say I loved. LOVED. “Birdman” may not be for everyone – it’s experimental in form and structure and cinematography – but this writer with her short attention span wasn’t bored for a single second. It was riveting. I literally don’t think I took a deep breath during our two-hour Cinema Society screening.
It’s the story of Riggan Thomson, a comic book action hero of the “Batman” variety (the casting of former “Batman” Michael Keaton was inspired and perfect), who, after turning down yet another fatuous sequel, has suffered a career crash. He’s washed up, no longer relevant – not to his once-adoring public or his ex-wife (a terrific Amy Ryan) or his angry just-out-of-rehab daughter (Emma Stone as we’ve never seen her). His only friend is his lawyer and now producing partner (Zach Galifianakis, who more than holds his own) in an all-or-nothing venture on Broadway that Riggan is writing, directing and starring in – all in an effort to prove he’s not just his feathered movie character but rather a serious actor. Stuff happens, to say the least, and I won’t give any of it away.
Alejandro Inarritu, who directed “Babel,” one of my favorite movies of the last few years, managed to shoot “Birdman” in what appears to be one long continuous take – and in a mere 29 days, we learned at the Q&A. What he didn’t have in budget he made up for in creativity. The setting is the cramped quarters of the St. James Theatre on Broadway and we see Keaton moving from stage to dressing room back to stage in one swooping motion. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, who, along with Keaton and the others, worked for scale, are great as actors Riggan casts for his play.
I could blab on and on about this movie – whether Riggan lives or dies at the end, whether he gets his act together, whether he stops hearing the Birdman voice in his head, what it means to be a celebrity versus what it means to be an actor – but I just hope the Academy voters recognize the brilliance in it all. It’s probably too edgy for a Best Picture statue but Keaton is about as close to a lock for Best Actor as it gets.
And just as a P.S., there was a reception for him after the screening and he was as accessible and friendly as could be. I like when that happens.