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What Keith's Watching: Birman (2014)

Birdman is the type of film that when viewed at the right time will turn a person to a career in film. The plot of the movie has elements of magical realism, but the process by which the film was made is magical. Birdman is about a former superhero actor, brightly portrayed and cast as Michael Keaton of Batman fame, who is trying to recapture something by putting on a Broadway play. The movie is shot much like a play, essentially seeming like one long two hour shot.

I have always been a fan of tracking shots, the type that Quentin Tarantino has used to great expertise in building suspense. But Alejandro G. Iñárritu takes it to a new level in Birdman. As the character Riggan starts to become unraveled in what is one long scene, we feel that spiral more because we have no breaks in his stream of conciousness. This brillantly let's the audience in on the tension building to a possible mental collapse.

The film will not appeal to everyone. There are those that will call this dull. They will say that nothing happens and they will be disappointed in the end. These are the same people that do not understand the purpose of film. Film is not meant to give us closure or answers. Film is not meant to give us neat little packages under the tree. The best films, the best that the medium of film can give us is a question.

That is after all the purpose of art, to capture a moment, to capture an idea, and make the audience think about it. Sure, entertainment is a big part of the medium these days. And that makes it an industry. But there's a larger point to art - to make us think and understand the world in new ways.

And that, is the point of Birdman. That is what the main character is going through when we drop in on him in his dressing room. He spent three films entertaining people and now he wants to do something meaningful. There are those that say he wants to be relevant again, but really, I think he just wants to do something that will make a difference. He wants to be meaningful in this art form of acting because that's why he got into it in the first place.

In the end, Birdman has won several awards and appears as front runner for Best Picture. Maybe it'll win, maybe it won't. Whether it does or not, I think the general audience will have the same reaction. They will either love it, or they will hate it. And if they hate it, then they miss the message and the art in this case did not speak to them, but that doesn't make it bad art.


Check out more movie talk on the latest episode of my podcast, Living Room Theatre, featuring permanent guest host, my wife!

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