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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!


What Keith's Watching: Fantastic Four (2015)

I knew going in that Fantastic Four was going to be a bad movie. It was universally panned and killed any hopes of a sequel. In it’s defense, it wasn’t as bad as the 1994 Fantastic Four. Anyone who has seen that one though, knows I’m not giving a compliment.

The story is the same as every other Fantastic Four. Four people do something for science, get powers, and then fight Doctor Doom. That kind of happens here, but with a whole lot less action.

That’s the biggest problem I have with this movie. Nothing happens. They get their powers by getting drunk and deciding to be the first people to go to this alternate dimension that they’ve somehow discovered. They don’t want NASA to get the glory. Something happens and they all get powers and leave Doctor Doom behind. I feel like we’re already halfway through the movie at this point.

The government starts experimenting with them. Reed runs away and the other three start doing missions for the CIA or some government agency.

For some reason, people decide to travel back to the other dimension and there they find Doctor Doom. A bunch of stuff happens, they realize they have to fight Doom together. Ten minutes later, they win and become the Fantastic Four.

What the hell? We spend only 30 minutes on Doctor Doom? It’s the main villain of the Fantastic Four and he has almost zero screen time.

There’s writing advice out there that suggests you start the story as close to the action as possible. The writers of this movie never read that advice because they start the action as far away from the inciting incident as possible. Literally, we see Reed Richards as a child.

I think the whole point was to show the bond between Reed and Ben Grimm has as kids, so that Reed feels even worse for what happens to Ben becomes a living sculpture. The problem is, Reed runs away and everyone is pissed, especially Ben. But through the magic of bad storytelling, Ben just forgives him and is very quickly okay with everything. So the device that’s supposed to strengthen Reed’s story, weakens Ben’s.

It’s been a while since I saw the Fantastic Four movies that had Chris Evans, Jessica Alba and that guy from that ABC show where he was immortal, but I’m pretty sure they were better than this. Not by much though. At this point, 20th Century Fox should just give up, partner with Marvel Studios and make a good Fantastic Four movie.


What Keith's Watching: Sicario (2015)

Sicario is apparently a word that means 'hitman.' It's also a word for a really good movie that leaves an impression. It's disturbing, unnerving, tense, and real. The movie highlights what's happening in Mexico in areas affected by the drug cartels, with unnerving realism, and how that bleeds over into the United States. It also presents a very interesting picture of America's War on Drugs and to a certain extent - the futility of that war.

Throughout the movie, I had a hard time really comprehending what was going on. I wasn't clear on who wanted what, or what the goals really were. Nothing seemed quite right. And it's supposed to feel that way. Our avatar in the movie is Kate Macy played by Emily Blunt who gives a great performance as she is thrown into a world she wasn't quite ready to deal with. There are a lot of lies, half-truths being told. We only find out what's really going on when she does. It's easier for her story and tie us to reality.

Benicio Del Toro gives a great performance as a character you're really not sure if you like or not. There's a lot to that character. Things happened to him. Not things like his dog died when he was four, I mean that some serious shit happened to him. And while he eventually find out what that shit was, Benicio carries it in his performance throughout the movie.

Sicario isn't a movie to watch for fun. It's not a good movie to use as an escape from reality. It's immersed in reality. I made this mistake of watching it in the morning on a day off and it followed me for the rest of the day. That proves great filmmaking right there. When a movie's themes and tone are so strong that they linger in your brain. The images find those little corners and hide there only to pop out a few days later to remind you how fucked up things are.

That's Sicario. A word that means 'hitman,' great film and put in a weird mood the rest of your day off.


What Keith's Not Playing: Need for Speed (2015)

I'll be honest, I probably played this game for five minutes. Maybe ten. I was a big fan of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I also liked the little bit I played of Need for Speed: Rivals. But this newest Need for Speed is crap. There's a plot to it now. And I can't say how much the plot is like the Fast and Furious franchise, but it sure seems headed in that direction.

From the little bit that I played, it appears that there are no in-game cutscenes. The scenes that carry out the story are videos acted out by mediocre actors. It's all shot first person and the actors are trying to rope me into some underground culture. Sounds a lot like Fast and Furious to me.

Basically, the game starts off with a random street race and we run from the cops. We meet up under a bridge and a kid that seems like an SNL character Pete Davidson would play gives me a card about some hard to find club. I then have to drive to the hard to find club. The club isn't hard to find. This is the only driving I did while playing the game. Then there's a pretty long scene where I walk through the club and a lot of kids are having some kind of Matrix-type rave. Presumably before they all go street racing and wrap their cars around telephone poles, trees and the like.

I meet up with KMart Paul Walker and he introduces me to some chick he knows. She says something about how excited he is that he met me and my awesome skills. He says something about drifting. You know, because drifting is the only way to establish driving skills. Then he takes me back into a garage where a supposedly hot girl is also a mechanic flicks us off. He declares his love for her.

Then I get introduced to a guy that reminds me a lot of Vincent D'Onofrio in Adventures in Babysitting. To establish this guy's cred, we see him working a punching bag. Heavy stuff. It's at this exact moment where I thought: "I can't fucking do this anymore." I stopped the game and turned it off.


I like racing games. I like driving games. I like them when they focus solely on driving. I don't need a story. I just want to drive. If I wanted a story mixed in with my driving, I'd play Grand Theft Auto. But I just want to drive. I want to race. Fuck it. I even want to occasionally do a little Tokyo Drifting. What I don't want are a bunch of wannabe movie stars trying to connect all the races I'm in. Sorry, Need for Speed, you lost me completely on this one.


A Time Of Change

The last few months have meant a lot of change for me. I've recently changed jobs after a 2+ year career (does 2 years qualify a career?) and made some huge jumps in my creative goals and projects.

The career thing is something I had to do because it was the best option for my future and my wife's future. So far, it seems it was the right move and I think time will further prove this.

Creatively, some interesting things have been going on. My writing had slowed by the beginning of this year, but thanks partially to the career change, that seems to be changing. I have several plates I'm trying to spin right now. Not sure how I'll spin them all, but I'm still figuring that part out.

When I started podcasting, I was inspired by a state of depression and the model of Kevin Smith. It was always my goal that somewhere along the line I would create a network of shows. After But You're Wrong, I started Living Room Theatre with my beautiful wife, who wasn't quite my wife yet. Now I am pleased to announce that I have added a third show, The Documentary Show. My friend John Oldfield and I both enjoy a great documentary. We had also talked about starting a podcast for a while now, but we didn't want something that would just be two guys talking like But You're Wrong already was. Then one day, the idea came and we decided to start The Documentary Show. That show is now available through iTunes and most other podcast apps.

Just launched is a fourth podcast featuring my sweet vocals, The Fortune Cookie Minute. This fourth one is a ridiculous idea that I had a long time ago. It has now come to fruition. I'm giddy that this stupid idea is actually happening. It's exactly what I set out to do and I hope a great many people find the craziness, stupidness of it as something enjoyable.

With the launch of that fourth show, I will consider my dream of launching a podcast network complete. I will have achieved that goal. So what's the next goal after that? Well, my goal after that is to focus on a couple writing projects. Short little things. After that? Maybe try to add some more podcasts to the network and perhaps a couple of them won't include my voice.

There's a lot that can happen in the coming months and years.