I had the chance to see Inarritu’s Birdman on Saturday as the film closed 52nd New York Film Festival. It was the film’s last screening and probably the festival’s last official screening excluding the encore on the next day. It was screened at a small screening room which made it very comfy and intimate. I learned the next day that the cast and director were present during the first screening at Alice Tully Hall. And this film has a pretty awesome cast so imagine seeing them live on stage answering your questions.
Now back to the film. You have probably heard that the film was shot like it is one big continuos shot in real time. That’s true, but not exactly in one shot and in real time. That would be something like Hitchcock’s Rope, but this one has few cuts and each cut lasts like more than 10-15 minutes which is really awesome and the film is set during a preview period for a new Broadway play leading up to its opening night premiere.
I salute director Inarritu for making this film possible and incredible. The way it’s staged is neat and how he directed these actors in long take while still giving their best is praise-worthy. And another awesome thing about this film is how the two main actors, Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, are kind of playing a meta version of themselves. Keaton, known for playing Batman, is a washed up actor trying to stage a comeback and to be taken seriously after playing the Birdman character in three movies by writing, directing, and acting in this Broadway play adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Meanwhile Norton, known for being difficult on set and often clashes with his director, is playing pretty much the same thing, but more cocky. You might think they’re playing it safe then, but wait until you see them. These two actors really bring their A-game that if you looks past what the media says about them, they are truly great actors.
Now how about the ladies? The film is not short on great actresses with great performances. From Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough, to Lindsay Duncan. Stone and Ryan play Keaton’s estranged daughter and ex-wife. Meanwhile Watts and Riseborough are his fellow actors and the latter is also his new lover. Now Duncan might now have the biggest amount of screen time out of these gals, but she plays her character as powerful theater critic to the point making her stand-off with Keaton a gem to watch.
By now every Oscar follower and predictor probably knows and predicts that Keaton and Norton are two sure bets for their categories and I have to say it requires Fox Searchlight to truly fuck up for them to miss the nods. But as for the Supporting Actress, the talk so far has only been for Stone, Hollywood and Woody Allen’s new It-Girl (aside from J-Law and Shailene Woodley, I guess). Now the thing is I never really see them as a great or even capable actress although she seems really nice and fun in talk shows or live appearances. I give kudos to her for trying this challenging dramatic role, but that’s the thing about her: she looks trying it. Like among these vets, she tries so hard to look dramatic and OMGACTING! She has this one big scene, a long rant monologue to her father, that will be her only option for Oscar clip if she’s nominated. A big IF. The monologue though is supposed to be a powerful one like Jennifer Lawrence has in Silver Linings Playbook to De Niro, but feels more like a cringe-worthy scene like Jessica Chastain has in Zero Dark Thirty. Bad news for her, she’s trying it for me; good news for her both actresses mentioned were nominated for those performances. And whose opinion matters, mine or Oscar voters?
I don’t know. Some people I talked to said that it’s supposed to be a lot of yelling and angriness because SPOILER! she plays a recovering drug addict. But still though, did you see a false not in Anne Hathaway’s performance in Rachel Getting Married? Nope. So Stone still has no excuse here. Meanwhile, everyone is so cool on Naomi Watts in this film, when it turns out she’s the best supporting actress in this film. Again SPOILER! She has this one scene that starts from Norton forcing to have sex with her (Norton’s character prefers to be REAL on stage) that lasts from her forcing a smile on stage to be angry with Norton to having a breakdown and quiet moments with Riseborough. She really reminds me of what she’s capable of ever since I saw her in Mulholland Drive.
That’s why this Oscar buzz for Stone really baffles me. It’s like the industry is ready to throw her a bone and now that she’s done something worthwhile in a prestigious project and Oscar contender, they can rest a bit and be glad about making her happen.
So yeah, that’s my long rant on the movie and Stone. Maybe that sounds cringe-worthy, but whatever. The truth needs to be told. Nods for this movie are deserving, like Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, and even Sound Mixing/Editing. But a nod for Stone is not one of them. Okay. I probably need to stop now before I sound like a hater (I’m just a doubter, that’s all). But in all seriousness, you need check out this movie. This movie is a major showcase for acting and any actors out there who sees this will probably get an orgasm from the acting.
PS: My alternate title for this post was BiRDMAN (Or The Unexpected Buzz of Stone’s Performance)