As I make my way through the best film nominees on DVD, I came to Birdman, the actual winner. I went into this with mixed emotions, as I love Stone and Watts, fine Galifinakis incredibly likable, miss Norton's power and have always felt rather negatively about Keaton. Ironically, the tone of the film plays into Keaton's every man demeanor. As I would find out, the actors chosen for each role, in many ways mirrored their fictional counterparts. This works and it doesn't.
As I repeat always, I don't read or watch reviews before seeing a movie, but afterwards, I try to pour over as many as I can. I also like to read about what might have inspired the director, which in this case was a Raymond Carver short story. The movie plays out, much like the story, which is somewhat confusing, because an adaptation of the play is what the movie centers on. The first thing I noticed when reading reviews and especially interviews, is that the director, the highly talented Alejandro Inarritu, has an ego that is second to none. He hates superheroes, he seems to pity plays and has some disdain for just how hard it is to stay relevant in today's world. If he wasn't in Hollywood, we'd all let out a loud "Awwww." He is though and Keaton is Beetlejuice and he tried so hard in Burton's nightmare attempt at Batman. Inarritu claims Birdman's disappearance in 1992 had nothing to do with Keaton's last big role as the "Caped Crusader" in 1992, but we all know better.
The movie pokes fun at so many Hollywood cliches and reeks of Altman's Short Cuts and The Player and this is where I don't get the confusion. The film is nothing, but in-joke after in-joke about the life. In backgrounds we see posters for Superman, a billboard with Tom Hanks on Broadway and quotes from Shakespeare by a bum, right after a critic displays her power. There are heated exchanges where both parties are right and in being correct, both prove wrong. This is life, nothing complex about it. The movie uses a film gimmick, which I must admit, I didn't even notice after the first 25 minutes. Those 25 were headache inducing. Then of course, there is the drumbeat soundtrack which is so out of place and so noticeable you almost have to smile when you see the drummer casually performing in the middle of a janitor's closet or stage prop room. Yes, the movie is that tacky. I refrain from using the term cliche, because I've been told I'm overusing it.
What amazes me in reading all the reviews, interviews and press clippings is that nobody has mention Death of a Salesman, which this film resembles in that it is a tragedy. Sure, it's dark comedy, but it's also a tragedy in the Greek sense. Another omission by these experts is the most obvious symbolism and that is the Phoenix, rising from the ashes. If you've seen it, it might make one scene in particular make a whole lot of sense.
The new standard is ambiguous endings, which allow the viewer to draw their own conclusion, but what the director fails to acknowledge in his disdain for action movies and social media popularity, is that the average person isn't capable. In an era of people telling everyone who doesn't like something they simply don't understand it, Inarritu has played into that same thing he hates, promoting it all the way to an Oscar win. The irony is that the virtue of ignorance is the very thing which made this film a success, because those who see through it's "complexities," realize it's all been done before and better, but not with the obvious clues pointing us to what we as a culture embrace...familiarity.