Birdman or (the unexpected virtues of ignorance)
“An authentic paragon…that effectively ruined my day.”
directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
(Potential spoilers ahead)
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance (great title), is a 2014 drama/romance, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomas, a failing theater-man whom after his work in the preeminent superhero-flick “Birdman,” decides to restore his fame through the medium of Broadway. Winning the Academy’s “Best Picture” award a mere 5 months after its release, this film has been praised by audiences and critics alike for both its brazen commentary on Hollywood and its attribute of being a meticulously crafted one-shot film.
And I hated it.
I started to watch this film at around 12:00 am, on a Saturday. I was already plenty fatigued from all the work I had managed to accomplish that day. My eyelids sank and the darkness of my room reverberated towards me, leaving me more drained than ever. But I was determined to view this film, simply based on hearing positive remarks on it. It was also my first one-shot film, a genre that is being somewhat reborn after the critical acclaim Sam Mendes’ one-shot World War I film, “1917” received.
Within the first 30 minutes of this film, I realized its one prominent characteristic – its valiant commentary and criticism of various controversial topics concerning Hollywood and more specifically, the comic-book movie industry.
Riggan is a character who is passionate about the work he does and produces. As a theater-man, he actually gives a shitabout what is being shown to the audience, how it is shown and the time and work that is being placed into exhibiting the product (the play). He is projecting a fragment of his mind and a fragment of his imagination onto Broadway. And the audience of this film is continuously reminded that the general comic-book movie producers have mindsets that are acute in dissimilarity from Riggan’s. Despite his attempts to gain some sort of fame and profit from Broadway, Riggan is competing with blockbuster studios (mainly Marvel) that earn billions of dollars, in spite of producing and releasing only 2–3 movies a year. What’s worse is that some blockbuster studios do not have the same type of blazing passion as Riggan. They do not have the drive to fabricate a work of art, something that stands out from preexisting superhero films. Instead, they set a default plot: “World needs saving. Hero saves world.” Such hackneyed concepts end up generating more profit than Riggan can ever fathom.
But the film shows that Riggan could potentially fathom such luxury. The voice that torments his head, a tantalizing entity that rests dormant at times, and rises to its full glory on certain occasions, the “Birdman,” is a mere reminder to Riggan of the past he held. He was too, a victim of an individual involved in the production of superhero movies that were never intended to be built on a foundation derived of passion. The voice constantly obligates Riggan to long for the time when he was rich. The time when he was renowned. It’s a yearning echo from the past, pulling him back and attempting to convince him to return to those days of glory. That voice is in incessant conflict with Riggan’s mindset of producing something that he made with passion, not another CGI heavy action flick. His fits of rage where he utilizes his imaginative telekinetic abilities purely symbolizes the Birdman side of him attempting to break free and steer Riggan in the path where he would gain fame and wealth.
Despite these brilliant and valiant chastising towards towering blockbuster studios, my personal experience with this movie has led me to despise it ever so greatly.
Like I have mentioned before, 12:00 am was the time I started watching this film. So without a doubt, I was heavily fatigued from the previous day’s workload. I also wasn’t in the best of moods, for some inexplicable reason… While watching the film, I noticed that the one-cut to me wasn’t spectacular or something groundbreaking. The uncut attribute of the film helped add incessant tension to the film, something that the film was designed to do and something that was not in favor of my condition that day. The constant percussive theme reminded me of Whiplash’s (a masterpiece) but I also came to realize that the unceasing hitting of the snare drum was only adding to my altercation. And the constant degrading of humanity, the way that the film views life from the standpoint of such a pessimist, only added to my frustration. There wasn’t a single moment of remarkable triumph in the first hour. And maybe there was a more positive side to the movie in the second hour. But I wouldn’t know for I didn’t stay around for that long. My patience had run out and after an hour and three minutes, I shut my laptop in disgust and proceeded to go to sleep.
Yes, I understand why Birdman is praised by so many. Like I’ve mentioned before, its commentary is shrewd, witty and bold. It’s not afraid to criticize monumental studios such as Marvel. And to most, the one-take would have been effective and something that seemed completely novel. I can even comprehend why it won Best Picture 5 years ago, and I’m sort of glad that it did.
But I simply disliked — no. I simply hated this film.