Thoughts on winner for this year’s best picture.
Of the nominees, I had only seen Gone Girl and The Grand Budapest Hotel by the time the Academy Awards aired last Sunday. The next day I downloaded Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which I hadn’t even heard of before, taking note of its dubious three star rating on Netflix and Amazon. I finished watching it last night.
Less than halfway through I knew why the movie has not reached public acclaim. It wasn’t made with a typical American demographic in mind. Classified as a comedy, it is the dark kind (which makes many people uncomfortable), and it’s a movie that would connect primarily with people in its own industry. In fact it is a self-conscious look at the ego and angst of an actor, a story within a story, full of scenes ripe with the subtext of social commentary.
I also finally understand why Neil Patrick Harris had that gag in his underwear as host of the 2015 Academy Awards. At the time it just seemed like such a desperate ploy for a laugh.
What I liked about Birdman was that the main character, played by Michael Keaton, is not terribly relatable, nor loveable (I found his real-life and open-mouth gum chewing at the Oscars repulsive, actually). I also liked how all the actors’ faces were laid down on film that didn’t edit out all the bad skin. I liked the vitriolic lines of the self-righteous critic, who in telling him she was going to destroy his play without even seeing it, drove the actor to a psychotic break that ironically seemed to rebuild his career (as well as his nose) at the end. I like it that the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, apparently made this movie for his own pleasure and not solely with box office success in mind. He also wrote and produced the film, which testifies to his personal investment in this story. Finally, I really enjoyed the drum score by Antonio Sanchez.
And yet, will it be my favorite movie, even of this year? Probably not.
But I get it. And it makes me think. That’s a lot better than most new movies Hollywood has to offer these days.