FILM Review — Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) #NYFF
Birdman This is Michael Keaton's best work since Clean And Sober, in a film about a man slowly losing his mind. This is Edward Norton rising to the challenge for the first time since Fight Club/American History X/ 25th Hour revealed his talents. playing emotional tennis with an ensemble unafraid to power repartee back to him as hard as they can, in a script that enables him to provide nuanced and unusual dialogue polished and sometimes searing off edges of self assessment This is a film with Oscar winning Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki, 2014 Oscar Winner for Best Achievement in Cinematography for Gravity, 6 time Academy Award nominee, holder of 92 wins and 24 additional nominations for various awards in various countries, coming off Gravity and Children of Men and orchestrating shots with a director unafraid of fluid lightning and mastered complexity. A sharply observed script allow director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu to make his most commercially accessible film, easily one of the better films of the year and arguably one of the best films at this year's NYFF, the closing night selection that gave one of the better understandings of what a Broadway run feels like to someone working in it and for whom the stakes of Opening Night could mean longevity or complete disaster. It might be a metaphor about Broadway and career anxiety or meta - episode about understanding your past, forgiving yourself and transcending your failures while accepting that your biggest mistakes in life may have been misunderstanding your biggest triumphs because you wanted more. Hell- maybe not. Maybe it's just a small quiet film that occasionally soars. But I have known theatre actors and Broadway people for decades, and this film brought me closer to understanding their world more than decades of really knowing them ever did. Anxiety mixes with vulnerability more for an actor more acutely than anyone thrust on a stage to give a big speech for the first time should ever know. And, for an actor, it happens every night. And, thus, it shades their interactions with other human beings in a way that every encounter feels like a first date balanced on the precipice of being tragically wrong. And then that anxiety can be exorcised every night when on stage they can hope to be truly free and release the anxiety and be themselves. This is a story about the insurmountable anxiety of a guy who has put everything on the line for the Big Day who can never be sure that anyone has his back or is ever looking out for his best interests as that Big Day inexorably approaches. It's the metaphorical nightmare of giving that big speech in your underwear with everyone who matters to your future watching. So, yes, it's not a mystery because everyone can have those feelings. So, yes, it's satisfying because everyone can have those feelings. It's nice to see Keaton and Innaritu and a whole company of technicians and performers pull it off. Broadway insiders will tell you they already know this stuff. But it's not really a film about Broadway or theatre. So see it and enjoy it for the filmmaking and the performances and the slips of witty dialogue. It's quietly but clearly one of the better films of the year, and it deals with character for 90 minutes in a way gamers never get to experience. During the #NYFF, Edward Norton discusses his travels with Michael Keaton the previous night to NYC ComicCon, wondering if fans might rush to see Birdman, mistakenly thinking it a "superhero" epic. Michael Keaton relates his experience of rushing to a cinema for the opening day of John Huston's THE DEAD, the film version of James Joyce's short story of the same name from the collection of THE DUBLINERS, and the horrified reaction of two male patrons seated behind him who slowly realized they would not be watching an action/horror film. One of the wonderful enterprises that Edward Norton has championed in real life is CrowdRise.com, an online fundraising platform that has benefited many and funded many good and worthwhile causes. http://www.crowdrise.com
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