The folks at Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailers have always had a …
The world needs more Michael Keaton. He is an actor capable of incredibly unhinged weirdness and painfully deep pathos, so it makes some unfortunate sense that Hollywood has not always known what to do with him. So it is rather unfortunate that SNL, as well, can’t really figure out what to do with their host either. Keaton either finds himself the center of sketches that can’t construct a universe that can sustain his oddball energy (the advertising sketch) or sidelined in sketches without strong POVs (the “Smart House” sketch). It’s unsurprising, then, that the one sketch where Keaton shines is the Easter greeting sketch where he just addresses the camera for five minutes, a conceit that puts the full breadth of his talents on display. It’s a shame it comes so late in the show.
For me, film has always been a strong source of inspiration. As long as I can remember, I have been truly captivated by the motion picture. One of my earliest memories would have to be seeing the first Batman in theaters a quarter of a century ago. In 1989, “Batmania” was sweeping the nation and I was perfectly content playing with my Toy Biz and Kenner action figures. The character of Batman had been around 50 years before I was even born and I’m sure other children before me have been amazed by The Caped Crusader’s various adventures. Tim Burton’s epic would have to be my first experience seeing The Dark Knight in action and it was monumental one at that.
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.
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.
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.