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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Birdman--Review and Analysis

I finally saw Birdman, a screenplay about various plays and their players. Riggan, a washed-up action-movie actor, makes a last-ditch effort at a comeback... on the stage--a place to stake a claim for seriousness. He has written and directed a story by Raymond Carver. Some co-actors are less talented than they imagine while the talented ones imagine they can do as they please. Even though these personalities seem to threaten the production, the real threat comes from the opinion of a critic who could unravel them all.

I enjoyed it. This is one of those rare cases where I agreed with Rotten Tomatoes (91%) over IMDB (78%).
Interesting ambiguous ending. It convinces us of something at the beginning, erodes that, but brings it back. However, it does depend on one's perspective. Another caveat must be added to that last, but it cannot be done without spoiling the ending.

It has been quite awhile since I read everything of Raymond Carver's that I could get my hands on, so I cannot speak about how well "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and Birdman align or riff, except tangentially. Carver described the workingman's life with style he popularized (through Gordon Lish's editing) later called "dirty realism." According the Wiki page linked above, Birdman "includes several aspects of the Carver story... but also includes other, more melodramatic storylines that are not part of the Carver story."
The movie also pays small homages to different movies/plays--through background details, images, and dialogue--e.g. Shakespeare, Phantom of the Opera.

It toys with the idea that it's all done in one shot, which is cool, although it's not truly one shot as the scenes do change (time/place). This makes it more interesting than a true one shot. The effect also shrinks and layers the world and time. We zoom in on this tiny artistic oasis. It's almost but not quite a one-room set.

Some viewers might find it vulgar. Below is my favorite quote. It discusses critics and labels, which might tell you whether you'll enjoy it or not.

"That's a label. That's all labels. You just label everything. That's so fuckin' lazy... You just... You're a lazy fucker. You know what this is? You even know what that is? You don't, You know why? Because you can't see this thing if you don't have to label it. You mistake all those little noises in your head for true knowledge.... There's nothing here about technique! There's nothing in here about structure! There's nothing in here about intentions! It's just a bunch of crappy opinions, backed up by even crappier comparisons... You write a couple of paragraphs and you know what? None of this cost you fuckin' anything! The Fuck! You risk nothing! Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! I'm a fucking actor! This play cost me everything."
I like the speech not just for the accuracy but the frustrated awkwardness. He's struggling to find the words. So real. Hopefully, my own reviews get to the heart of the work.

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