Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, won best picture at the Oscars a few days ago surprisingly. No, surprisingly doesn’t do it justice. Miraculously. I doubted it winning as soon as I saw it. It seemed to be leaning towards “too weird for it to win” and “not mainstream enough.” But, of course, that isn’t true now.
When I first saw Birdman, I was dumbfounded. Starting off with the thunderous drums that drove the fast-paced, nonstop, emotional thrill-ride of a film, and ending with an ambiguous, high-flying, suicidal cliffhanger. It was a glorious experience. A cinematic triumph due to the technical difficulty that comes along with creating a feature length film that appears to be a single shot. It was filled with such high profile actors and actresses of Hollywood as Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan and Lindsay Duncan, who all gave immaculately raw performances (Keaton, Stone and Norton were all nominated, in their respected categories, for Oscars). It had an impeccably original, all percussion score by master drummer Antonio Sanchez. Not only did it have all these things. It had a compelling, rhythmic, driven, importantly artsy and unbearably real story.
This film dealt with some of the truest emotions I have ever seen on the screen, delving into the life of former big-budget, blockbusting, superhero movie star, Riggan Thomsom (Keaton) as he tries to validate his career through an “honest performance” in a play adaption of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love. As he wrestles with his inner demons, fresh-out-of-rehab daughter (Stone), a too method method actor (Norton) and a cold-hearted, spiteful critic (Duncan), he nearly (or, quite possibly, completely) loses his mind. Yet, this is far more than a movie about a washed-up actor. This film tackles the crippling question that every person wants to know: Am I important?
The whole plot revolves around Riggan (who by the way in-coincidentally parallels Keaton himself, being that he was the star of the Tim Burton Batman films in the late 80’s-early 90’s) searching for some form of remedy to his stereotypical washed-up Hollywood career, only he doesn’t want fame for being some blockbuster action hero anymore. No, he wants fame for putting on an honest performance where his roots lie: on stage. Yet, it seems that he is not the only one searching for this. At one moment or another, every character seems to feel lost or looks for some sort of truth in life (not to the extremes of Riggan, but still...) and, most of the time, comes up empty-handed.
That is why this film won best picture. Because it is a human experience. It is a real experience. Despite the odd nature of the film, which I won’t go into in great detail (it’s quite quirky, yet not at all silly), it has such a truth to it. So, yeah, not only is it a fun, exciting, star-studded, pulsing film that doesn’t know the meaning of slow or boring, it is a film that holds the world on its shoulders and shakes it, asking the audience subconsciously to examine their lives, whether it be filled with tweeting or texting or binge-watching sitcoms on Netflix. It asks you the same question Riggan tackles while hearing the voice of Birdman in his head: Are you real?