I finally saw Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I wish I’d stayed virtuously ignorant.
As an avid movie-goer, I try to see all the Academy Award Best Picture Nominees before the annual self-congratulatory award show orgy. But this year I was late. So now playing catch-up, I finally got around to Birdman, which won Best Picture.
Birdman is the supposed black comedy featuring Riggan Thomson, an actor once famous for portraying an iconic Birdman superhero. It stars Michael Keaton as Riggan and who, for what it’s worth, was not a very good Batman.
With an annoying staccato drumbeat for soundtrack, the film depicts Riggan battling his ego, his family, his career, and himself while he struggles to mount a Broadway play. I battled, too, but to stay awake. Now I know why friends told me they wished they’d walked out of the theater midway into the 2-hour movie.
I will spare you the various analyses offered by film critics both of the paid and wanna-get-paid variety. Birdman is either a satiric tour-de-force or a surrealistic portrait or a hilarious high human comedy. Almost every critic in the world was left frothing as they lathered the film with rinsed and repeated praise. Call me an untutored Philistine but I thought it was undeserved.
Fortunately, not every well-known critic was stampeded by the herd. I savored what The New York Observer‘s Rex Reed said of it, “a miserable load of deranged, deluded crap masquerading as a black comedy called Birdman . . . . Some of the critics who embrace this kind of stupidity claim that Birdman pretends to say something witty about the perils of celebrity, fame, stardom, success and failure, not necessarily in that order, but I can find nothing good to say about any shard of the pretentiousness on view here.”
Amen, brother. I’m only glad that instead of getting flipped the Bird at $10 per ticket at the theater, it cost me only $1.63 from the local Redbox.
My take on movies.
Occasionally, I like discussing movies here. And not always because of a tie-in to lawyers or a connection to the legal system.
I’ve loved movies ever since I can remember, no matter that my earliest recollection is a sad one. At 6 years old, I recall watching a war movie with my dad and crying when the dog got killed.
Someday someone will explain why whenever there’s a dog in a movie, the pup always gets it. To this day, it persists as a cheap, manipulative directorial prop.
“Critics,” I last wrote, “see so many films each year their souls are deadened. They’re left almost bereft of what passes for normal sensation. Consequently, their viewpoints and opinions become increasingly jaded. Unless a movie darkens, depresses and disheartens, it’s not worthy of acclaim. Unless the nihilistic characterizations make you want to slug back a fifth of vodka or jump off a building or slit your wrists, the movie is not an artistic success.”
Jump off a building? According to one interpretation, that’s what Riggan does in the end. Or does he? Who cares?
Call me unvarnished but when I go to the movies, I want to be entertained or educated. And once in a rare while — to be uplifted. No surprise, then, that critically acclaimed downers seldom translate into popular success.
Give me the other Bird, man.
Next time I want a Birdman, give me the attorney with a beak — the other ex-superhero named Harvey T. Birdman of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. Although he works mostly as a criminal defense attorney alongside other cartoon characters, he’s not emotionally tortured — even if he is a lawyer. So if I want surrealistic comedy, next time I’ll take the other Birdman.
Photo Credits: Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, by Nathan Rupert at Flickr via Creative Commons-Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License; Captain Future: Man of Tomorrow, by Colleen A. Bryant at Flickr via Creative Commons; Português: El Rey, nosso senhor e amo by Angelo Agostini at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.