Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

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So, we have Michael Keaton levitating in only his underpants in the middle of his dressing room, during the first clip of the film, sort of talking to himself, or is he talking to his alter ego/tormenting soul, or is someone actually talking to him. Either way, we are immediately invited into this intensely dark presence of mental incapacity within Riggan Thomson’s, played by Keaton, slow, delirious breakdown as a washed-up actor trying to revive, and adapt to a new, less comic-book character-driven, career, ironically, through a Broadway adaptation show.

Irony, in fact, plays a pivotal role throughout the film, from which a great portion of its comedy derives from, most heavily represented through Riggan’s portrayal of Raymond Carver’s Mel, when in actual fact he is spewing his life’s woes to the ignorant audience, right to the dramatic climax of the opening night performance, all the while denying his mental instabilities in the big bad world of showbiz. So, it is a play within a film, ricocheting between three stories, Raymond Carver’s ‘What We Talk About When We Talk about Love’, the actors’ lives during the build-up to their opening performance, and then solely Riggan’s psychological torment, at the hands of his Birdman character/alter-ego, which also happens to be another film. So, González Iñárritu has invited us into a destabilisation of conventional modernist art, and opened audience’s eyes to a postmodernist style of intertextuality and bricolage.

The story plays with our imaginations, the enigmas of higher powers within the capacity of the ordinary human. So, can we all just simply levitate into the sky and fly across the city of New York, freeing ourselves from soul-attacking shackles, or is that a mere hallucination of drunken loitering? González Iñárritu gives Riggan all the power in the world, from levitation to telekinesis, but forbids him the mere control of his own life, as the very attribution of these powers is due to his critically-invasive double identity, voiced, and soon visualised near the end, as his alter-ego, Birdman.

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Emma Stone and Edward Norton, respectively nominated for Oscar’s in supporting categories, along with the many other accolades Keaton has already, and is yet to, receive, played into their subversive, destructive and partially delusional characterisations exceptionally well, heightening secondary character’s broken identities, just as much as the protagonist. Its hard to find a fault in a film openly showcasing dysfunction as both, comedic and dramatic in the same sitting, and actually doing it well enough to garner many of the prestigious honours, like Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Academy Awards.

The cast and crew of Birdman push the boundaries of generic filmmaking to stage immense creativity originating from a rebellious postmodern release of humanity into a world of the unknown. Instead of showing us what we want to see, we are prohibited from witnessing Riggan’s final soaring into his own, but not before telling his destructive other to fuck off, and simply have to concoct our individual conclusion of events from Stone’s embellished wide-eyed expression of awe as she gazes up, smiling at, what we assume to be, his well-deserved hurrah of liberating peace.

To conclude, Birdman is a creatively conceived deterioration, developed into a rebellion, of the mind, body and soul, delivered through a postmodern tone of ironic hilarity, the typical psychological drama film – a hybridisation of sorts.

Image sources: http://redcarpetcrash.com, https://redheadbooknerd.wordpress.com.

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Ones to Watch in 2015

The buzz on Birdman, The Theory of Everything, Into the Woods, American Sniper and Ex Machina.

  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifinakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts.

Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

With an ensemble cast, a director that brought us Babel, in 2006 and a cleverly eccentric plot, Birdman has reached great heights since its October release in the States, with Globe wins, and SAG and Oscar nominations, not to mention festival and box office acclaim of $34.2 million gross worldwide. I already have my slot lined up, ready to watch in awe. Critics have been rampantly praising it, with the Telegraph calling it ‘a Dark Knight of the soul’ and Michael Keaton’s portrayal of lead character Riggan Thompson has been credited as bold and ‘soaring in this electrifying character study’, as reviewed by online entertainment site Digital Spy. It’s a must-see psychological and darkly funny drama that I have had my eye on ever since that odd teaser of a half-naked Keaton jogging through a busy (its always busy) Times Square.

  1. The Theory of Everything

Directed by James Marsh.

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis and Harry Lloyd.

Written by Anthony McCarten.

Biopics have been making their mark in recent years, from the likes of My Week with Marilyn, Lincoln and The Kings Speech, all faring well at the box office and garnering critical recognition and success. Well, the life and work of Stephen Hawking is the next biographical venture for film, headed by James Marsh, from Man on Wire and Project Nim fame. Adapted from Hawkings’ first wife, Jane’s, memoir, ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen’, Marsh touches upon themes of science, romance, and ultimately, life during the time of Hawking’s biggest achievement till date. Eddie Redmayne fresh from his Golden Globes win for Leading Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and Felicity Jones’ portrayal of the Hawking couple has been met with praise and appreciation by The Guardian, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as cinematographer Benoît Delhomme and Jóhan Jóhannsson’s score receiving acclaim. If you like learning as well as being entertained, this scientifically-driven romantic drama about Stephen Hawking is just right for you.

  1. Into the Woods

Directed by Rob Marshall

Starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Lilla Crawford, MacKenzie Mauzy and Daniel Huttlestone.

Written by James Lapine

Another ensemble cast of brilliant acting abilities, who can hold a tune, which is exactly what Stephen Sondheim and Rob Marshall wanted for the film adaptation of the former’s classic Tony-award winning Broadway show. Sondheim and Marshall team together to bring us a beautifully dark big screen version of the Brothers Grimm tales entwined into the fictional story of a baker and his wife. If its $120million and over worldwide gross is anything to go by, I’m sure the public were raving to see this movie. With many surprising performances and awe-dropping vocals of the younger stars, families across the world who have a love for fairy tales will turn out to watch and enjoy this fantasy musical. Meryl Streep takes centre stage as the frightening Witch, but I am sure nobody will care if she looks ugly and old, her voice alone will steal the show.

  1. American Sniper

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.

Written by Jason Dean Hall.

Since that teaser was released of Bradley Cooper’s character, Chris Kyle, a United States Navy SEAL, silently and calmly in the midst of a sniper attack, I was intrigued to know more about this film. We know Cooper can do comedy well, he can do romance well, and since Silver Linings Playbook, he can let audiences into a more dramatic depth of personality, so I was under no impression of negativity when he was cast as the lead in this Clint Eastwood production. My surprise came from its many Academy Award nominations, but with Eastwood for a director, and after his many successes with Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, this is not his first dance at the Oscars. Based on the memoir of Chris Kyle, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, this biopic tells the mentally and physically tumultuous tale of a man torn between his love of the job or his true love at home. The sedate darkness of Eastwood creations with a harrowing story of the American Sniper is a match I would like too see.

  1. Ex Machina

Directed by Alex Garland

Starring Domhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander.

Written by Alex Garland.

This eagerly anticipated British Science Fiction production is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, known for his writing abilities in the Danny Boyle films 28 Days Later and Sunshine, about a man unknowingly becoming involved in the investigative challenging of the powers of humanity in the latest Artificial Intelligence experimentation, Ava, portrayed by Vikander. Gleeson’s character Caleb and Isaac’s Nathan go head to head in this thriller-esque reconfiguration of typical Sci-Fi to stimulate our minds into either accepting the unsettling notion of a new mechanically engineered world or undeniably fearing the lengths one would go to, to succeed in such a task. With his previous roles in the shadows of other actors, Gleeson comes into the forefront as the face of good against the aesthetically unnerving and formidable characterisation of Isaac, recently famed for his portrayals in Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year. Still in post-production, the film is set to storm the UK and US film industries, elevating the Science Fiction genre to new heights of mysterious emotional instabilities.