Saturday movie review: Birdman

I just might be the only movie reviewer in the country that doesn't think BIRDMAN should be included on the list of Best Picture nominees for this year's Academy Awards. A quick Google of the film results in endless accolades for the movie. Sure, I thought the acting was fabulous, the filming genius. But Best Picture? Nah... not in my mind.

Birdman movie

BIRDMAN—subtitled OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)—is a black comedy starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor whose great achievement was starring as the super popular superhero "Birdman" in the '90s. He's now hoping desperately to make a comeback as a true actor by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play. Emma Stone plays his just-out-of-rehab daughter and assistant; Edward Norton is the actor destined to make Thomson's play a success; Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan have prominent roles, as well.


Seems kind of funky, right? There are awesome parts of BIRDMAN, though, despite it not being in my eyes—as some big-name reviewers and critics claim—one of the best films ever. I do believe the film is worthy of the other eight Oscar nominations (and numerous other awards nabbed from the Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes and more), though, and here are a few reasons why:

  • The meta story aspect is intriguing, watching Keaton masterfully play a character seemingly to the general public (meaning those who don't know him personally) much like himself. Keaton was Batman years ago, with nothing major since then. Similarly, Thompson was Birdman and now struggles to be more, do more, be appreciated, loved, and glorified for being far more than Birdman. All the while, his biggest enemy is himself. Keaton provides engaging, often heartbreaking moments big and small, proving himself to be a far better actor than previous roles showed. Certainly not the role of Batman. In BIRDMAN, Keaton gives what is undoubtedly his best performance ever. On that, I agree with critics and those who have honored him with multiple Best Acting nominations and awards.
  • All the actors turn in amazing performances. Stone and Norton have earned multiple nominations and awards for their parts. Each and every actor in the film is fabulous and deserving of applause and accolades, if not awards. There's such sadness to most of them, desperation that had me mentioning to my husband several times that I wonder if that is how it really is for actors and others in that realm.
  • The filming. BIRDMAN is filmed in what seems to be one continuous shot. Director (and co-writer and producer) Alejandro González Iñárritu makes it look like the camera glides along from the beginning to end, following the actors from one scene to the next with nary a snip. It's an amazing feat, and I exclaimed "How did they DO that?" to my husband several times while we watched. (One note: We watched at home; I'm not one of those chatterboxes at the movie theater.) Truly incredible filmmaking.
  • The story quite heavily touches on the importance of social media in today's world and how it can make (or break) one's career. The idea of "celebrity" in our society is ridiculous, and BIRDMAN unflinchingly underscores how social media plays into that. Actually, how it initiates it. Where would many of today's celebrities be if not for Twitter, Instagram, even Facebook? It's not the primary theme of the film, but considering my line of work and my need for social media, it struck a chord.

Despite all that awesomeness woven into BIRDMAN, I still came away with a "hmmm..." sort of feeling once the credits began to roll. Mostly because I just didn't like the ending. Not in an "I wish THIS or THAT would have happened" way. I get that story lines will often be opposite of what viewers might hope for or expect. But the ending of BIRDMAN turned out to be some surreal sort of something that was just a tad too unsatisfying for me. Perhaps, in all honesty, I just don't get it. Clearly the nearly 170 critics and reviewers who placed it on their Top 10 lists do.

As I mentioned above, the similarities between "Batman" and "Birdman" are intriguing. Michael Keaton and Edward Norton discuss that comparison with Charlie Rose:

BIRDMAN (rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence) was released theatrically in 2014. It comes out on DVD and Blu-ray February 17. Find out more on the movie's official website.

Disclosure: I received a free screener of this film courtesy Fox Home Entertainment with no obligation to review. All opinions are (obviously) my own.