Alejandro González Iñárritu

4 Things Movies Taught Us In 2014

On the face of it, 2014 has been a rather strange year for film, a step down from an annum of classics and simultaneously a slalom dodge into the realms of adventure and discord. Here I take a look at five movies and the four lessons they taught us in 2014, for better or for worse.

birdman

‘Birdman’ soars high with stellar performances and brazen cinematography

The cast and crew, fly high in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by visionary Alejandro González Iñárritu. Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who never bounced back from his peak stardom days as part of a 1990s superhero franchise, and who is desperate to gain back some spark for his faded career. Riggan attempts to jolt himself back into the limelight through the triple threat of writing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

NYFF 2014: Grandeur Delusions – ‘Birdman’

His use of natural lighting, the gorgeous compositions he creates often on the fly, those long takes. This is what we talk about when we talk about Emmanuel Lubezki, the Mexican cinematographer responsible for such arresting imagery in the films of Terrence Malick (The New World, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Y tu mamá también, Gravity), the Brothers Coen (Burn After Reading), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Anna”, a short in the anthology To Each His Own Cinema). He is the only cinematographer in recent memory, possibly next to Roger Deakins, that pushes the form to its limits and has name recognition for such. The naturalistic beauty of The Tree of Life was nothing compared to the – wait for it – physics-defying work in Gravity. And here he is again, using a simulated long take for Iñárritu’s Birdman. “But isn’t it just a gimmick?”, you might ask. Well, yes. And that’s probably the point.

Telluride 2014: ‘Birdman’ is a mad, rambling masterpiece about egotism and salvation

Birdman is highly reminiscent of Noises Off, a play by Michael Frayn, about the insanity of actors as they weave in and out of doing scenes live in front of an audience on-stage. The unpredictable actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) throws Riggan Thomson’s life even more into chaos by his refusal to bend to his wishes. Emma Stone plays Sam, Riggan’s recovering addict daughter who has long been put on the back-burner by her dad. Stone and Norton’s challenging forces irritate but eventually bring Riggan face to face with some hard truths about himself.

Biutiful (Guillermo Estrella, Javier Bardem & Hanaa Bouchaib)

‘Biutiful’ stunningly ambitious, sensational cinema

Mexican maestro Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has proved just how apt he his at capturing the vast scope of a story, whether in the sensational and emotionally hardboiled (Amores Perros) or the ambitious but ultimately underwhelming (Babel), but with his Catalan set epic Biutiful he takes a boat across the Atlantic to delve into a novel-like character study stuffed with an infusion of European sensibility and uniquely personal vision that tops the lot.

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