This Is Why “Birdman” Deserved the Oscar…That It Won.

12 Mar

birdman

It might seem silly to defend why a movie should win an award that it has already won, but I’m just much better at defending things that people already like. I tried writing a post in defense of getting your car towed in the winter, but the only thing I could think of was that you get to meet new people at the tow lot.

I was 100% positive that Boyhood (a movie I loved) was going to win Best Picture, so imagine my shock when I learned that Birdman, (a movie I loved even more) took it. My shock was at 100%. I didn’t actually watch this win happen because I had the flu, and the flashing lights of the Academy Awards were too much for my tender eyes and stomach. The Oscars literally made me want to vomit, so I had to turn them off. I did watch it about a week later, but at that point, it’s no longer an exciting cultural event. Rather, it’s an old awards show left on your DVR that every single person you know has already watched, talked about in detail on Facebook, and now has forgotten about. I needed to see Julie Andrews hug Lady Gaga (which was totally worth the wait because Julie was everything), but once that was over, I turned it off.

When I saw Birdman, it took a good 45 minutes for me to not think it was crazy and all over the place, but once it came together, there was no going back – I thought it was amazing. With that said, here are the  reasons why Birdman deserved the Oscar for Best Picture.

Michael Keaton

michael-keaton1

This is the 110th time I’ve written this sentence on a blog post, but I will now write it again – I love Batman. I love all the Batman movies, and I have always loved the original the most. It is over the top, it is Jack Nicholson, it is a Prince soundtrack, it is Tim Burton. But more importantly, it is Michael Keaton. Michael Keaton was the original Bruce Wayne, and I will always think of him as the rich kid of two murdered parents who spends his nights defending the defenseless while his butler, and only friend, Alfred makes his dinner which is to be eaten in front of the nightly news featuring the heroic stories of his alter ego.

So I was BEYOND when I heard that Michael Keaton was starring in any movie, let alone a movie about a washed up actor, Riggan Thomson, who had once played a superhero named Birdman. In the movie, Riggan is trying to put his Birdman character behind him, and decides to produce, direct, and star in a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. No one can see him as anything other than a washed up actor who was once big, and is now trying to appear intellectual, even though he can never be anything more than an action movie star who depends on amazing effects to make him look good. The story is so specific that I wondered, along with many others, if it was about Michael Keaton. Apparently it is not, but if he suddenly stars in a play entitled, What We Sing About When We Sing About Adoration, I’ll be suspicious.

Michael Keaton was amazing, and like any good actor, he makes you hate him and love him all at the same time. I think he deserved the Academy Award for Best Actor, but can an egomaniac beat out a killer Stephen Hawking impression? No, it cannot. Those are just the rules of life. And awards. On that note, here is the saddest screen shot I’ve ever seen of Michael Keaton apparently putting away his Best Actor speech he was going to give when he lost:

opmichaelkeatonspeeeeeech

The Drums

Fred Armisen drumming

Other than a few classical pieces of music, which I hardly noticed, the soundtrack to Birdman was almost exclusively drumming. They hired a jazz drummer, Antonio Sanchez, who would improvise songs just by getting some basic cues about the feel of a scene. I firmly believe that a soundtrack can make or break any scene (and I am THE biggest sucker, as in you could show me a Tom and Jerry cartoon set to an Adele song and I’ll be in tears before Tom even sets out the cheese trap), and at first the rapid, loud streams of drumming made me straight up anxious. Because the movie was filmed with so many long, continuous shots, there would be a scene that foreshadows something crazy is about to happen, and the viewer is suddenly bombarded with “bah bah bah bah-bah-bah-bah-bah” as we watch Michael Keaton storm angrily down a long backstage hallway. Knowing something bad might happen already makes the viewer (or maybe just me) a little tense, but the banging on the drums makes your (or just my) stomach churn! But after a while, I began to embrace the ferocity of the drums and it would get me really jumpy and excited that bizarre shit was about to go down.

When we left the theater, one of the first things I said to my husband was how much I appreciated the drumming and that this would have been a very different movie without them. For instance, they could have just played this song over and over between scenes, and I would have felt sleepy for two hours.

The Long Shots

So, I am not enough of a film buff to say anything intellectual about the filming of this movie, other than that scenes seemed to go on for a long, long time and it was super neat looking. All I  know is that the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, made sure every single scene was perfectly rehearsed so that they could be filmed in long, continuous shots. The camera follows the characters around closely, never losing track of anyone, so you feel like you’re living in the scene with them. One minute you’re in Riggan’s dressing room, the next minute you’re frantically following him down a long and winding hallway to get to the stage, there’s a quick rehearsal of a scene, then it’s back to the dressing room before taking a break outside for a cigarette. Am I making this sound as engaging as it was? No, I am not. But you’ll have to trust me that it was…super neat.

I'm not even sure if this is a picture of a real camera, or just a drawing. That's how little I know.

I’m not even sure if this is a picture of a real camera, or just a drawing. That’s how little I know.

I thought the way it was filmed was actually brilliant – it kept the pace fast, transitions were seamless, and it definitely made the movie feel unique. It was like watching the “walk and talk” scenes from the West Wing, but with more drumming and less witty banter. And more confusion. And less politics. And in this scenario, Michael Keaton is the president, which is far less reassuring for the country than Martin Sheen.

Edward Norton

Could Edward Norton be more of a genius? I say no. Do I throw around the word genius too liberally? I say yes. Do I care? I say no again.

Norton Birdman

He is so good in everything, and I can’t explain why. I can only surmise that he always seems like this normal guy with a slight lisp in real life, but you turn a camera on him and bam! He’s brilliant. I guess he good at actor job? (said in the questioning voice of Cookie Monster). In Birdman, Norton plays Mike Shiner, an infamous stage actor who comes in to save the day when a cast member gets (purposefully) hurt and can no longer be in the show. At first, Shiner is the hero who bring the promise of good press and a large audience, but he quickly turns into an unpredictable asshole who could screw everything up for everyone. Later he morphs into the only responsible adult, but then full circle back to asshole.

You feel all the feelings about his character, which is a reflection not only on Edward Norton, but on his crazy talent. Remember in Fight Club when you start out by feeling bad for him when his apartment burns down, and then you have moments of hating him later on when he’s a dick? I was going to say you hate him until he competes in the athletic competition to keep the frat house…and that’s when I realized that I was mixing up Fight Club and Old School. Both of these are movies I adore, so I would argue that it’s a very easy mistake to make.

Emma Stone and Her Large Eyes

big-eyes-joke

Emma Stone eyes

To make this movie even better, Emma Stone plays Riggan’s emotionally lost daughter Sam, who’s in recovery for alcoholism and is reluctantly working as her dad’s assistant. I fucking ADORE Emma Stone, so this is said with love – her eyes are pretty large in normal life, but in this movie they somehow enlarged them each to the size of a small softball. Or a large golf ball. A medium jalapeno popper. I think it made her scenes better? I’m just saying that because I’m supposed to feel that way since it was obviously done with a purpose. I thought she was wonderful in this movie (and let’s be honest, have I ever not liked her in a movie? No.), and she gives the most heart wrenching, Oscar clip worthy speech to her dad about what a loser he is. (She didn’t win, but the clip was begging for Oscar time).

Youch! Watch out for this truth bomb, dad.

Youch! Watch out for this truth bomb, dad.

I’m not sure I needed so much big eye to get the intensity of her character to come to life. Although I’m just realizing that her eyes did look like that of a wild bird who uses its massive lenses to avoid predators and to catch prey in off seasons for its young. You know when it was the worst? During the many scenes where she’s precariously dangling her legs off the roof of the theater. I already hate watching risk takers who could fall from somewhere high up, but when you add on those intense eyeballs, it’s downright nerve wracking!

So I guess I found her eyes a little distracting, but again, maybe that was the point. She is a genius, so I’ll take Emma Stone blond, red headed, tattooed, not tattooed, cool, pretending to not be cool, big eyes, or extra big eyes. I will be her BFF (Best Fan Forever), no matter what.

Emma Stone wears a white dress on 'Good Morning America' in NYC

Big Bird

Watching a Play within a Play

I really like the theater, and I like watching anything that tells me about the goings on of backstage. I used to help set up for my dance shows, and I thought being in an empty theater watching everything come together was magical. Other than occasional scenes in a bar, or wandering through New York City (including one AMAZING scene that involves flying, and confusion, which solidified my love for this movie), Birdman takes place almost exclusively at the theater that the play is being performed at.

Beyond the backstage antics, we even get to watch scenes from the play. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love actually looks pretty good, and I would pay to see it performed live. So the movie was basically like a show within a show, for almost the same price as an actual Broadway ticket! A two-fer!I always wanted to be on Broadway, but I’m just as happy to watch other people live out my dreams. Like, I’d rather watch someone else interview Julie Andrews because if it were me, I’d vomit on her elegant shoes and then ask if she wants me to move in with her.

"Oh deah. I wish she'd stop vomiting so much."

“Oh deah. I wish she’d stop vomiting so much.”

The Ending *SPOILERS GALORE*

So, the ending. I thought it was genius, but I am very comfortable with not being given..well, an ending. Let’s reflect and see if by talking about it we can figure out what exactly happened: first we see Riggan try to kill himself on stage, but instead shoot off his nose during the play; then we see him in the hospital, surrounded by friends and family who are telling him that he finally got the good review he yearned for; then we see him look out the window at the birds flying outside, and we get a funny feeling in our stomachs that something bad is about to happen; then we see Sam (Emma Stone) return to his room and not find him. She walks over to the same window, looks up, and smiles. And then the movie is over.

Emma Stone large eyes

So, here are some possible answers:

1. Riggan somehow turned back into Birdman and was flying by, which made Sam happy. He flies back into the room, his nose is better, and everyone lives happily ever after.

2. Sam forgets what she’s looking for, and gets distracted by an enormous, and magical looking blimp. As soon as the blimp is out of sight, Riggan returns from the bathroom. They share a sandwich, but Riggan can’t smell it.

3. Sam knows that Riggan has killed himself, but she imagines him heroically flying by, and knows that he is finally free.

4. After the blimp disappears, there’s a giant sun wearing sunglasses. This finally proves that all of my childhood drawings of the sun wearing sunglasses were accurate. Sam feels triumphant, like I do. At this point, who cares about Riggan? The sun is being so sassy!

I bet the answer is #3, but I would like it to be #4.

 

You literally have no idea how long it took me to make this.

You literally have no idea how long it took me to make this.

 

So, there you have it. This thorough and extensive list gives you every reason under the sunglassed sun as to why Birdman did, indeed, deserve the Oscar for Best Picture.

And now, let’s watch a funny spoof of the movie starring celebrities I love.

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