Thursday, December 18, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance" (aka, "Birdman")

I've seen Birdman twice now. It stars Michael Keaton as an actor best known for starring in a trilogy of superhero movies attempting a risky comeback by producing, directing and starring in a stage play adaptation of the short story  What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver. The source material is a story for intellectual stuffed shirts - the summary of that tale on Wikipedia isn't particularly clear, and you don't get a grasp of what it's about from watching Birdman, either. It is definitely a movie that can be viewed in an Anthropology class, since I'm convinced it's a superhero movie that doesn't want to be a superhero movie, but follows the beats of a superhero movie...and is more satisfying to view as a superhero movie. I  think it's a shame that Fox Studios didn't think of having a tie-in "novelization" of Birdman published...and it turns out to be reprint of Raymond Carver's short stories (including  What We Talk About When We Talk About Love) behind the cover.

So how do I recommend you view Birdman? Well, it's clearly the story of an actor who's developing reality warping superpowers while under duress. He can fly, he can move objects, and he can change reality so that you can debate whether or not you saw him fly around midtown Manhattan during the morning rush hour...or was riding in a taxicab. Within this context, I think the film is like the Bruce Willis movie Unbreakable, where we didn't realize we were watching a superhero movie until the final act...and then realized a lot of opportunities were wasted that have made that film age terribly. At least Birdman has room for fun. As Ebert often wrote, "I'll leave that for you to discover." (So that I can keep this essay from going off the rails).

Which brings us to the concept of Birdman himself - he's like a mashup of three Hanna-Barbara cartoon superheroes: The Blue Falcon from Dynomutt, Harvey Birdman of Birdman and The Galaxy Trio and Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, and he appears to have Space Ghost's laser "power bands", which he uses to attack a monstrous robot vulture that resembles one of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal...of course I want to see this spun-off into its own movie. Or maybe a Hawkman movie.

Anyway, go see Birdman. It's one of those films that I'm convinced works best when it's viewed on the big screen, so do give it a try. It's not as ingenious as some critics are making it out to be, but Michael Keaton is excellent in this film; it's doing what Lost In Translation did for Bill Murray - that's another film that works better when viewed on a big screen as well.

And without further ado, enjoy the gallery! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment