Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Notes on Birdman

Ugh, I'm so annoyed. I was elated after seeing Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) that I started to compose this blog post on my iPad using the Blogger app but, when I went to find out the name of the performer who played the critic in the movie (Lindsay Duncan, who sadly didn't receive sufficient title credit to merit inclusion in the movie's Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble nomination), I lost those 2 or 3 paragraphs.

And they were the best damn paragraphs. Or at least I documented all kinds of stuff that I can't remember now.

I went to Birdman expecting to see a clever deconstructed (or possibly meta--I keep confusing the 2) movie about a washed up superhero movie star trying for one last shot at respectability. What I got was a movie that surprised and delighted me at every turn, never playing it safe or taking an obvious turn.

The film's been getting a lot of love in terms of critics' awards and nominations making these predictions pretty easy. I think the movie/cast/crew are solid contenders for 7 Oscar nominations (announced in about 2 weeks): Best Picture, Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki).

The movie did not make the short list for Best Visual Effects and its score has been ruled ineligible for that category (which is a shame--the score is this loose thread of drum-heavy jazz music that flows through the movie the way the camera does [there are few discernible edits and the camera rarely rests for more than 2 minutes]; regardless of AMPAS's decision, the score is the perfect companion for the camerawork).

This leaves costumes, make-up/hairstyling, art direction, sound mixing, sound effects editing and editing. The lack of discernible editing (as mentioned earlier) keeps me from thinking the movie is anything but a darkhorse is that category (although it's tipped as most likely by at least one prognosticator) but last year's winner Gravity had a smaller version of the "one extreme take" approach (and the 2 movies share their cinematographer). As with its visual effects, the scenes with notable sound effects are limited and easily overlooked in a slate of effects-driven blockbusters. I can't see sound mixing going their way either, more by the merit of several other films. The costumes, make-up and art direction are all solid efforts, but its rare for anything but a period piece or high concept contemporary era film to rate for costumes or art direction.

I don't see the film's make-up and hairstyling (both have non-trivial contributions to the story) outpacing Guardians of the Galaxy, Maleficent or Steve Carrell's nose in Foxcatcher. (UPDATE: And I am correct as the movie didn't make the shortlist for this category.)

I'm probably wrong about the 7 nominations (it will likely be 8).

See this awesome movie (eventually, not like today unless you're someone who would go to a movie theater).