Biutiful is also a reason why I, personally, wasn’t paying close enough attention to the reviews of birdman. I really didn’t notice just HOW good they were until after the film while I was prepping this email. I guess it’s understandable since babel was his last archiveable film and it was in 2006- when I was graduating from college. You could also argue that Iñárritu’s films were getting progressively weaker with each new foray. I think that attributed to the overall feeling that he wasn’t an elite filmmaker anymore. If you go strictly by metacritic scores amores perros has an 83, 21 grams (70- disappointingly underrated), Babel (69- ditto-underrated), and biutiful (58). The reviews are very very good for Birdman. Birdman has an 88 on mc. The high percentage of 100’s makes it even better than that. The film has 52% 100’s—that is amazing! It’s higher than her (41%), American hustle (36%), inside llywen davis (44%) and close to gravity at 55%. The “88” is actually brought down by a predictable awful evaluation by Rex Reed “suffer through a miserable load of deranged, deluded crap masquerading as a black comedy” and the dissolve “Alejandro González Iñárritu is a pretentious fraud, but it’s taken some time to understand the precise nature of his fraudulence.” These evaluations are embarrassingly bad and should be mocked.
I adored birdman. The screenplay is great, the acting is great, the music is great, but the cinematography and direction is the thing most singularly in need of praise here. It’s uninhibited and dazzling. It’s almost like there is a wild, bold, long-take opening shot that continues for 117 minutes that you keep hoping doesn’t end (and it doesn’t). I kept thinking “I hope they don’t blow this” for like the entire film. The film needs to revisited and analyzed but certainly an early comparison is the early breakthrough film rope by Hitchcock with his series of 10-minute takes that he blended in and needed (because of the film limitations) to cut/edit. Another comparison is Aleksandr Sokurov’s 2002 groundbreaking film russian ark (#8 of 21st century on TSPDT) which actually was done with one take. I think I’m slightly more impressed with Iñárritu’s achievement because of the content behind it and how well the form is married to it and the style (with Russian ark I’m just sitting there impressed by the feat (which is worthy of high praise) far too often). The WSJ calls it “Emmanuel Lubezki’s friction-free cinematography” and the boston globe says it’s “inarritu in the mood to play” which he certainly is (with the screenplay, the direction, etc). Although credit goes to Inarritu- I think we have to stop and acknowledge that Lubezki, as the dp, might be on a roll like one we’ve never seen before from a dp in the history of film. In the last 9 years he’s done children of men, tree of life, gravity and birdman. If you want to leave out children of men because it was so long ago I’m racking my brain to find a better stretch than what he’s done since tree of life. Baffling stuff.
Iñárritu has never had a problem getting great performances in his films. The entire cast is fantastic here. My praise is mainly for three actors though: Keaton, Norton, and Stone—and in that order. Stone does the best work of her career to date here and Norton since 2002 in 25th hour. Keaton is an absolute revelation and worthy of all the praise he’s getting (and will get). If he ends up winning the best actor Oscar you won’t hear anything but an endorsement from me. He’s hilarious and does a great job carrying the depth and conflict in his character- which is a damn great character.
Like the direction, camera-movement, and acting the screenplay is completely go-for-broke excellence. Amazing. Who knew that after an almost insufferable amount of depression in his films that Iñárritu could be so funny? Also, not sure what’s going on but the word “balls” is used 4-5 times. Haha. Not sure about that but laughed every time. There is just awesome inside Hollywood and theatre stuff on killing (and complimenting at the same time) RDJ, X-men, Fassbender (a “prequel to a prequel”- haha), Renner, etc. – there’s some truth here of course about selling out but not all of it- even keaton’s own batman films with burton were pretty darn artistic in my mind (I have the original batman in the top 10 of 1989). Overall the biggest compliment I can give is I just think this is a great screenplay and the film is probably a top 10 film of the year even without the dazzling work of the director—so I mean if this were directed by a normal guy or gal and we had this level of screenplay and acting I think its possibly that good to be more than just a recommend.
I’m really racking my brain to find possible flaws. The only think I can think of is there seemed to be 2-3 possible flubs by actors reciting lines (I’m 95% sure stone and zach g had one and Keaton possible a 3rd). I think because of the high wire act they were doing with the camera and the long takes they just told the actors to keep going? Maybe I’m imagining it and it was part of the performance because people do that in real life. Either way doesn’t carry much of a flaw with me. Minor.
I could go on and on (other topics could include “non-diegetic music vs diegetic”, “comparisons to black swan”). The form is brilliant and the style is completely in-step with the content. I think you could also argue that the film is as artistically ambitious as any film from 2014 (from wes, linklater, Nolan) in its own way. It’s certainly no “backstage black comedy” and that alone to anyone who speaks the language of film. I have no problem calling it Iñárritu’s best film to date and a masterpiece.