Tag Archives: Michael Keaton

American Assassin

They make you wait 20 whole minutes before getting to Tom Cruise, and when they finally do, I realized I’d been duped. In fact, it was Michael Keaton being introduced, not Tom Cruise, and I’ve been mistaking American Assassin for American Made possibly for as long as either have existed.

American Assassin is about a kid who goes on vacation with his girlfriend and sees her and countless others get slaughtered on a beach. He does what any reasonable bloke would do: he grows regrettable facial hair, and decides to become a secret spy assassin. american-assassin-20172782Now, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that no dead girlfriend is worth growing that kind of tragic beard for. I can also tell you that this guy’s a doofus. I mean, a) his name is Mitch. Case closed. He’s played by that dude who’s in the Maze Runner movies, which is possibly why he believes he can just become a spy, and then does. He looks up terrorist on the internet, and then just shows up at their door. It’s just that easy. I mean, it doesn’t go well and he has to be emergency extracted by the CIA or whatever, but who’s counting? Revenge, baby! And then for some totally inexplicable reason, the CIA takes a liking to this renegade with pubic hair on his chin, and they decide to train him up so his spy game’s a little more on point. Cut to: Michael Keaton, who plays Stan, a tough as nails ex-NAVY seal who takes young Mitch under his grizzled old wing. They decide to become a lame crime fighting duo, and the bad guy is none other than Stan’s former protege, who coincidentally owns an atom bomb and holds a grudge, and together they put the ass back in assassin.

This genre is crowded as hell and the fact that I merged two movies with similar themes AND titles in my head is a bad, bad sign. Painfully generic. There, I said it. In fact, generic just texted me an angry face emoji because generic would honestly be a step in the right direction for this crap. Even Michael Keaton can’t save it, nor does he really appear to be trying. The script is just that bad. The maze runner, Dylan O’Brien is clearly  not his generation’s Tom Cruise, so  I guess I’m wondering….who is?

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No Small Parts: 20 minutes or less

Fans were shocked when Jared Leto’s Joker had only about 7 minutes of screen time out of Suicide Squad‘s bloated 123, but Hollywood has a long history of assigning big names to small roles – and it’s not always a bad thing.

the-italian-distributor-of-12-years-a-slave-has-pulled-its-posters-highlighting-white-actors-like-brad-pittOkay, sometimes it’s a bad thing. Brad Pitt was in 12 Years a Slave for only a couple of minutes, just long enough to establish himself as the only nice white guy, but some countries (not naming any names, Italy) really ran with the white guy and blew his big white face up on the posters, relegating the star (and the slave), Chiwetel Ejiofor, to a small corner.

Anne Hathaway shaved her head and followed a life-threatening diet in order to play the part of Fantine in Les Miserables. She had only 15 minutes of screen time, but it was enough to win her an Oscar and shape her career.

Know who did more with even less? Darth Vader. He appeared in the original Star Wars for just about 12 minutes, but he was an instant bad guy icon. His presence is so magnetizing he truly doesn’t need much. What’s a little more head-scratching to me is Boba Fett. I still don’t even know who he is, or if that’s the correct pronoun for this person. And yet I hear about him ALL THE TIME. He’s in the top 5 favourite characters despite being a glorified boba-fett_61fdadfdextra; he manages about 18 minutes across the entire trilogy mind you, and only got that much when fans seemed to really respond. Mark Hamill got second billing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens because Hollywood is a sexist machine. He’s in that movie for about 6 seconds – sneeze and you miss him.

Beetlejuice is one of Michael Keaton’s most famous roles, and he plays the title character, but he only gets roughly 17 minutes worth of screen time, all told. How crazy is that? But it’s true: he doesn’t appear til quite late in the movie, but boy does he maximize every crazy moment he’s there.

tumblr_o354mgJCwB1rxmai6o8_400.gifJudi Dench will see your 17 minutes, Michael Keaton, and she’ll raise you: she won a best supporting actress Oscar for only 8 minutes of a role. She played Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love and clearly made quite an impression from her modest 6% of the film. Accepting the award, she joked “I feel for eight minutes on the screen, I should only get a little bit of him.” I’m sure that was some consolation to the likes of Lynn Redgrave and Kathy Bates, who lost to her.

Anthony Hopkins only managed to double that screen time when he took on his (arguably) most famous role: Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. In just 16 minutes he managed to creep out an entire generation, and caused chianti sales to plummet. Sean Connery was originally approached for the role and turned it out down, which means he lost out on an iconic role, an Oscar, a big day, and sequel opportunities.

 

There was a lot about the movie Doubt that got under my skin, but Viola Davis’s 5-8 tumblr_oh5lwdLYg81qa3emao8_400.gifminutes were consistently under there. She plays the mother of a young boy who may or may not have been molested by a priest. She goes toe to toe with Meryl Streep and doesn’t just hold her own – she steals the scene, earning a supporting actress nomination to boot.

5-8 minutes? Bah! Ned Beatty earned his best supporting actor nomination in under 6. He had one riveting scene in Network, which he shot in a single day, but it sure had us glued to our seats.

 

Beatrice Straight shaves about 13 seconds off Beatty’s time with her Oscar win for her work in the same movie. As William Holden’s poor, wretched wife in Network, Straight made quite an impact, stealing away the record for least screen time for an Oscar win from Gloria Grahame, who took a leisurely 9 and a half minutes to earn hers for The Band and the Beautiful.

It seems as thought it might be difficult for anyone to earn an Oscar with a sub – 5 minute role, but who knows: has anyone actually racked up Michelle Williams’ screen time in Manchester By the Sea? It’s not a whole lot more, I’m guessing. But the truth is, someone came close: Hermione Baddeley was nominated for best supporting actress for just 2 minutes and 20 seconds worth of screen time in Room at the Top, in 1960. The bar’s been set: who will be the first to duck under it successfully?

 

 

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What’s your favourite tiny role? Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street? Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder? Daniel Craig in The Force Awakens?

The Founder

the-founder-movie-2016-trailer-michael-keatonI suppose it was to be expected that Ray Kroc, the “founder” of McDonald’s, was an asshole. But, wow, was he ever an asshole. He died well before this movie was made but it seems he would have agreed with that assessment and been fine with it since it got him where he wanted to be – it made him rich, eventually.

But not without some struggles. You see, he didn’t “create” McDonald’s until he was 52 years old, and the reason for the quotation marks is because he didn’t actually create it. But as we know, history is written by the victors, and that’s Ray Kroc.

Michael Keaton is extremely good as Kroc. Good to the point that he makes Kroc seem like almost a decent guy even though he’d take your last McNugget whether or not he was hungry. The great Nick Offerman and the familiar John Carroll Lynch are excellent as well as Kroc’s former partners, the McDonald brothers. Other familiar faces will pop up for a scene or two, but this movie is mainly about Kroc and the McDonalds.

The Founder’s story is an interesting and engaging one from start to finish. It skips around noticably at parts and I felt a bit disconnected from the movie as a result, but the core tale remained crisp, clear, and entertaining throughout, to the point that the lawyer side of me wanted to yell at the screen as one particularly bad decision was made.

So bring your notepad and find out how an empire can be built from practically nothing on someone else’s idea, as long as you don’t mind being an asshole about it. The Founder gets a score of seven “fries with that” out of ten.

Beetlejuice

A young couple, spiky-haBeetlejuice-beetlejuice-the-movie-32800707-500-700ired Alec Baldwin and plump-lipped Geena Davis, get into a car accident and come home depressed and sodden, their vacation off to a bad start. And they don’t know the half of it!

A handbook for the recently deceased mysteriously appears in their home and they get to wondering if maybe they didn’t survive the crash after all.

First rule of death? You can’t leave your house. First rule of real estate? When the previous owners die, a new family will move in (cue: pale and deliciously high-strung Catherine O’Hara, creepy as ever Jeffrey Jones, and strange and unusual Winona Ryder). The ghosts of the old owners plus the thoughtfull new owners makes for a very crowded house. We all know that if you want to rid a house of ghosts, you call an exorcist – but what if the ghosts want to rid a house of the living?

beetlejuiceBefore he was Birdman, even before he was Batman, Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice, the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist. Free demon possession with every exorcism! Keaton goes all out in this film, and he’s the absolute stand-out, despite the fact that he’s in all of 17 minutes on-screen. He’s ghoulish and manic and clearly having a lot of fun leaping into improvisations.

Makeup artists Ve Neill, Steve LaPorte, and Robert Short won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup for their work on this film. Watching it now, it feels a little dated, but that’s nothing in comparison to the weird, stop-motion stuff that Burton dreamed up for the afterlife.

beetlejuice-2-michael-keaton-winona-ryderI was a kid the first and last time I saw this, and I had to work hard to convince my mom to rent it for my little posse of pony-tailed friends. Beetlejuice was perfect sleepover fare: creepy, with the illusion of the illicit, but overall harmless fun with an inspired Calypso soundtrack perfect for sleeping bag shenanigans all night long. Rewatching it now, I have a new appreciation for how dark and funny it is, and for the formidable Catherine O’Hara, whom I always love, but who rarely looks as stylish as she does in this movie.

The movie ended up being successful enough to spawn a cartoon series and whispers of a sequel that remained in the works for years but seemed to die off until they were recently dusted off for us in 2015. It’s been terribly hush-hush, Burton unwilling to confirm except that he’d only consider it if Keaton is on board – and he is, and so is Winona. Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride & Prejuidice & Zombies) has been working on the script since 2012. Chloe Grace Moretz (rumoured to play Winona’s daughter) and Samuel L. Jackson have reportedly already begun filming.

As for Delia Deetz, style icon, I present you:

She wears mostly Japanese designs by Mitsuhiro Matsuda, Issey Miyake, and Comme des Garçons. James Acheson took home the Oscar that year for Dangerous Liaisons, and I can’t argue that, but I do think it’s a crime Aggie Guerard Rodgers didn’t even get a nomination for her work here.

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Catherine-O-Hara-as-Delia-Deetz-in-Beetlejuice-catherine-ohara-23865621-1360-768

 

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Jeffrey_Jones_plays_Edward_R._Rooney_in_Ferris_Bueller's_Day_OffAnd while I’m engaging in some movie history revisionism, can we please start a campaign to digitally erase Jeffrey Jones from our favourite movies?  You want to know why he was so convincing as Feris Bueller’s  creepy principle? Because he’s a real-life pedophile. In 2003 he pled no contest to the felony charge of taking sexually explicit pictures of a minor, and possessing child pornography. He’s a registered sex offender. Can we maybe take him out family movies like this one?

 

TIFF 2015: Spotlight

spotlight

My Asshole compadres and I were enthusiastically discussing and comparing notes on all the wonderful films we’ve seen at TIFF over guacamole and cocktails when I raised the question of how difficult it can be to stay objective through TIFF-coloured glasses.

TIFF is exciting. I’d forgotten how exciting. The red carpets, the thrill of seeing eagerly anticipated movies before anyone else, and the frequent false alarm celebrity sightings (I could have sworn I saw Hillary Clinton last weekend outside TIFF Bell Lightbox but began to doubt myself when I heard her speak with a Ukranian accent) all make for as thrilling a trip to the cinema as you can get. Separating the quality of the film itself from the experience has been- I’m not going to lie- a challenge.

The anticipation I feel going into a TIFF screening and the focus I keep at all times at what’s happening onstage and onscreen made it particularly surprising that the couple sitting next to me at Monday’s international premiere of Spotlight, the true story of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, were making out through the beginning of the movie. That’s a TIFF first for me.

So you’ll excuse me- I hope- if I was a little distracted for a little while at the beginning. Luckily, the urgency of Spotlight soon caught even my neighbors’ attention and we could all sit back and enjoy the show. Well, maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word. Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton play real-life Boston Globe journalists who exposed the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse at the hands of approximately 90 local priests. It’s not always an easy movie to watch. The interview scenes where survivors disclose the details of the abuse are harrowing and stomach-turning and the extent of the corruption on the part of the Church and so many others who turned a blind eye is infuriating.

Last week, I named All the President’s Men, The Insider, and Zodiac as my three favourite films about journalism. All three are based on real journalists and maintain suspense throughout while mostly avoiding melodrama. Spotlight works for many of the same reasons as those films did but doesn’t quite measure up to my favourites. It’s not always as tightly written as those  films and even drags a little in the middle but Keaton- who can’t seem to believe his luck getting great parts two years in a row– gives a passionate performance that always keeps things moving. He may get his second shot at Oscar with this film.

My TIFF Choices

I don’t know if the lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival is better this year than in previous years I’ve been but choosing my films and fitting them into my schedule is harder than ever. Maybe it’s because I prepaid for 12 tickets over a four-day period (my most ambitious itinerary yet), making the choices seem unlimited. Well, almost unlimited. Every time I choose a movie, I have to give up another one and I had forgotten how painful it can be to scratch something from my list.

Here’s what I’ve decided on. What do you think? Is anyone else going to TIFF? What’s made your list?

Friday, September 11

Demolition– Jean-Marc Vallée directs Jake Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts in what sounds like anDemolition intense drama about a grieving investment banker who copes with the loss of his wife through what the TIFF website describes as “random acts of destruction”. Not sure what that means exactly (although the write-up goes on to say something about an office washroom stall) but both Gyllenhaal (Prisoners, Nightcrawler, and Southpaw) and Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) have been killing it lately and I can’t wait to see what they can come up with together. My only regret is that I’ll be catching the last of three screenings at TIFF, making me worry that Jake may not bother to show up.

The LobsterThe Lobster– An enthusiastic reception from the Cannes jury convinced me to give this seemingly very strange movie a shot. Newly single Colin Farrell checks into a hotel where guests are given the task of finding a new partner within 45 days and the punishment of being turned into an animal and released into the wild if they fail. From Yorgos Lanthimos, a supposedly acclaimed Greek director that I’ve never heard of, I have no idea what I’m in store for here. I have a feeling that this bizarre-sounding film will either be my favourite that I see in Toronto this year or the most aggravating. Either way, I’m expecting to react strongly to it.

Sicario– Director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Prisoners) tackles the war on drugs in the latest Sicariocollaboration between Quebec filmmakers and American movie stars. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro make up an inter-agency task force that take on a dangerous mexican drug cartel and, from the sounds of it, will have to make some tough decisions about how far they’re willing to go. I picked Sicario out of the bunch because of Villeneuve, a very intersting filmmaker with a great eye and a bit of a dark side. His films are usually tough to shake off and I’m hoping this one will be too. You can see the trailer here.

Saturday September 12

Eye in the Sky– I’m hoping Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul don’t eye in the skyparty too hard after Eye in the Sky’s premiere on Friday night because I’m hoping to see them all at 11:15 this morning. I love all three of them and the film’s plot- about an ends vs means dilemma concerning an innocent child in the line of fire of a drone targetting a terrorist. The synopsis on the TIFF website makes it sound like a mix of comedy of errors and topical thriller and this cast this concept sound promising, especially with the right script.

Ninth Floor– A Canadian documentary about the 1969 occupation of Sir George Williams University’s (now part of Concordia University in Montreal) by students protesting against the school’s systemic racism. I always try and catch at least one documentary when I visit the festival and I chose this one both because 1) I did my Undergrad at Concordia (they told us this story at ninth floororientation) and 2) the TIFF website sells this as not only an account of this one story but the larger story of how Canadian citizens and institutions hide their racism while boasting of their tolerance to the rest of the world. Check out the trailer here.

Hardcore– I try and see at least one Midnight Madness screening every year and I chose, partly through the process of elimination, this “non-stop, white-knuckle, crackerjack thrill ride” about a Russian super-soldier trying to save his wife from- get this- a “psychotic paramilitary psychic”. I love the rowdy mood of these midnight genre screening, a nice break from the more pretentious tone of some of the other screenings, but am not a horror fan. Because all the other Midnight films seem to be about Hell and demons and posession, I settled for this out-of-control action movie. Apparently it’s filmed almost entirely from the POV of the hero, which sounds intriguing. Hardcore even.

Sunday September 13

About Ray– Born female, Ray (Elle Fanning) has always felt he was born the wrong gender and about rayfinally feels ready to commit to the surgery. Only trouble is he needs the signed permission of both parents. Fanning, Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, and Tate Donovan star in this comedy-drama with an amazing trailer. Can’t wait for this one.

Closet Monster– Three years ago, I caught a TIFF screening of a fantastic Canadian film called Blackbird, which featured an impressive lead performance by a young actor named Connor jessup. Jessup returns to the festival this year with this surreal-sounding Canadian drama about an aspiring make-up artist in a small Newfoundland community where he feels suffocated and is haunted by increasingly vivid nightmares of coming out to his father. missing girl

The Missing Girl– A lonely middle-aged comic book store owner becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to his missing young employee when her disappearance triggers his adolescent memories of another missing girl. Not sure exactly what to expect here but the trailer has my attention.

Monday September 14

Remember– The great Christopher Plummer stars in what sounds to me like a Mementoish road trip thriller from Atom Egoyan (The sweet Hereafter). Plummer plays a nursing home resident rememberwhose memory is beginning to fail him. Before it’s too late, he must follow a step-by-step plan laid out for him by the mysterious Max (Martin Landau) to escape his nursing home and track down and kill the man who murdered his family 70 years ago. Check out the trailer. i can’t wait. Even if Plummer isn’t there to answer our questions, I’ll be happy just to see this.

freeheldFreeheld– I’m often skeptical about Based on a True Story movies if there’s even a chance that I’ll see even half of this cast on stage, I’m there. Ellen Page, Julianne Moore, Steve Carell, and Michael Shannon star in the story of a terminally ill police officer fighting for the right to pass on her pension benefits to her same-sex partnerIt runs the risk of being a little preachy but with this cast I’ll keep an open mind. Besides, it’s a story worth telling. Here’s the trailer.

Spotlight– With a trailer that looks just amazing, this based-on-fact drama about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse at the hands of their priests stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton. It’s from the director of the amazing The Visitor and the not-so-amazing The Cobbler so it’s hard to tell how good it’s going to be but I’m daring to get my hopes up.

spotlight

 

Oscars 2015: Best Actor and Actress

Finally, the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress. For most of us, this is the reason we stay up late through all the speeches from people we’ve never heard of, awkward presenters, and excrutiatingly unnecessary montages.

Best ActressTwo Days, One Night

Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl

Julianne Moore- Still Alice

Reese Witherspoon- Wild

Best Actor. Best Actress. Best Picture. We wait all night for these Oscars and, once we’re finally there, it’s anti-climatic. There’s almost never any question as to who will take home the Oscar at the end of the night. “I just want to stay up to see who wins Best Actress” has become “I just want to stay up to see Julianne Moore win Best Actress”.

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All four of us here have predicted a win for Moore and so has pretty much everyone else. The inevitable may not be very exciting on live television where supposedly anything can happen but I won’t be a bit disappointed when she wins. I wrote at length about how good I thought she was in Still Alice (and in so many other things). It’s always gratifying to see the best performance be honoured, especially in cases like this where the performer has done good work for so long.

2014 may not have been a spectacular year for great roles for women but, now that I look at it, Moore’s competition isn’t half bad. I held out on commenting on this category because I was waiting for the chance to see Two Days, One Night which unfortunately didn’t come. Jay managed to see it and enjoyed the performance. I have no doub that Cotillard is amazing because she pretty much always is. She’s already won though in 2008 so the Academy won’t snub Moore to honour Cotillard a second time.

Gone Girl

I’ve seen Gone Girl twice and am still not enthusiastic about Rosamund Pike but I know a lot of people were. I know someone who boldly said that she was “guaranteed an Oscar” after seeing it for the first time. She won’t win but she deserves the nomination for getting such earnest support from so many, even if not from me. I can’t say that I’m much more excited about Felicity Jones, who did a very good job with a surprisingly good part. The Theory of Everything was almost as much about Jane Hawking as it was about Stephen but Eddie Redmayne seemed to overshadow her, probably because of the physical demands of his role.

Reese Witherspoon wasn’t quite as good in Wild as Moore was in Still Alice. Plus, she- like Cotillard- has won before. So she won’t win. But if the rules of your Oscar pool force you to pick anyone other than Moore, smart money would be on Reese. I was a big fan of this performance, even if not of Reese herself. She was believable in both working through her grief by using heroine and struggling through hiking the PCT. She never even seems concerned with looking cool while she does it.

Best Actor

Steve Carell- Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper- American Snipergame

Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton- Birdman

Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything

This is exciting. For once, I have no idea what’s going to happen. Luc and I have predicted a win for Michael Keaton and Jay and Sean are betting on Eddie Redmayne. I am not sure that any of us are confident though. It’s been a good year. It would be even better if Bradley Cooper’s nomination was replaced with either David Oyelowo for Selma or Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner. Bu still. A good year.

Even Cooper shouldn’t be ruled out completely. He managed to disappear behind that beard and that accent. When his character retreats within himself after his first tour in Iraq, Cooper seems to retreat even further into character. There are moments though, especially during the pre-Iraq scenes which I wish had been cut altogether, where he’s a little less than awesome. Maybe even a little miscast. Besides, American Sniper is by far the worst of the five films and that has to count for something.

How cool is it that Steve Carell has been nominated for an Oscar? His commitment to the character is even more complete than Cooper’s.  I’ll admit that he gets lots of help from the makeup department (also nominated) but the way du Pont moves, talk, and stares is all Carell and he nails it.

Cumberbatch. The movie’s not perfect but Cumberbatch nearly is. He doesn’t have to change his voice much or do an accent or anything like that but still manages to transform into the brilliant but socially inept Alan Turing just as much as Cooper or Carell disappeared into theirs. I’m a big fan of this performance.

Birdman script

Almost anything can happen here but it looks like it’s going to be between Keaton and theory of everythingRedmayne, two performances that are so different from one another that it’s almost impossible to judge one as better than the other. Keaton doesn’t change the way he moves or speaks as much as the other nomnees but his performance may be the most honest. Both Redmayne and Keaton have won several awards this season so it’s a tough race to call. I’m putting my money on Keaton there’s just no telling this year.

 

 

My 2015 Oscar Predictions

Oscar season is always a time of year I look forward to. A bunch of my asshole friends and I get together and eat some food, have some drinks, make some bets, shit on some actors and generally have a great time.

In the spirit of competition and fun I thought I would post my Oscar picks in order to get the other assholes talking.  Let the games begin!

 

Best Picture: Boyhood

Best Director: Richard Linklater

Best Actor: Michael Keaton

Best Actress: Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette

Best Original Screenplay: Birdman

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation game

Best Animated Feature: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Best Foreign Film: Ida

Best Documentary: CitizenFour

Best Cinematography: Birdman

Best Film Editing: Boyhood

Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Song: Glory

Best Visual Effects: Interstellar

Best Hair & Makeup: The Grand Budapest hotel

Best Sound Mixing: American Sniper

Best Sound Editing: American Sniper

Best Live Action Short: Aya

Best Animated Short: Feast

Best Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Birdman

Birdman opens with C-list celebrity Riggan (Michael Keaton), a superhero has-been trying to reclaim glory as a serious Broadway actor, meditating and levitating before rehearsal of his play. Wait – levitating? Yes. It seems that Riggan has picked up some super powers along the way.birdman

But this movie is so subtly engrossing, its rhythm unrelenting, that I actually forgot this little nugget of information until the next bit of surrealism came our way, presented just as slyly as the first. Some remnant of his Birdman alterego remains, and narrates Riggan’s present tense in a voice reminiscent of Christian Bale’s Batman, driving home the satirical meta-performance at work here. Director Iñárritu gets right up in his grill, nursing long but very intimate shots that show unflinchingly every wrinkle, every worry line ever earned by these actors.

Set almost entirely behind the scenes at St James theatre and shot in long, loooooooong takes that keep the film moving briskly, there’s a beauty and a mystique that really locked me in. Finally  Iñárritu has found his element. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki floats the camera down corridors and ascends smoothly through the scaffolding and the balconies like an unobserved peeping tom. We take our cues from this camera work. We race to find new action, we catch our breath when travelling down darkened hallways. In this way, the movie feels serene yet is in constant motion. The music helps us keep pace and is sometimes so coolly frenzied that musicians forget they aren’t supposed to be seen!

Riggan, meanwhile, is crippled by all the nay-sayers in his life: the junkie daughter (Emma Stone), the anxious lawyer (Zach Galifianakis), the guilt-tripping ex-wife (Amy Ryan) – but none more so than that voice in his head that slowly cannibalizes him by the end of the film. When one of his actors is put out of commission, he’s forced to bring on board stage actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) who immediately threatens to outshine him. With his own superhero baggage (Hulk, anyone?), Norton threatens to casually steal the spotlight from Keaton as well with a brilliant send-up to Method acting, and a nod toward his own reputation for being difficult on set, but Keaton reminds us why he left the Batman franchise in the first place – dude is a first rate actor when he plays crazy.

The movie is ambitiously self-aware and asks smart-aleck questions like, why bother making a $20 million dollar movie when you can go viral for free? This may not be ground-breaking material but as long as Keaton is in on the joke, the monster egos and insecurities, the fraud and the acerbic wit, it’s all part of a complex self-examination that’s fascinating to witness.

Matt and I saw this movie nearly a week ago and it’s taken me this long to even begin unpacking my feelings about it, and this after an all-you-can-eat-sushi session in which we debriefed and compared notes. As Matt will tell you, the movie is also  Iñárritu’s excuse to poke back at the critics who have called him out on his self-important, self-conscious work in the past (Babel, Biuitiful) even though this movie actually seems to acknowledge that these criticisms may have been valid.

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a pleasure to watch, a puzzle to figure out, and a commentary just begging for feedback. Please, give us yours. Assume spoilers in the comments.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I walked out of Birdman last night feeling exhilerated, confused, and unqualified to review it.

The film, nominated for seveon Golden Globes including Best Picture- Musical or Comedy and Best Director), follows (literally, through most of it) Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a fictional ex-movie star most famous for playing a superhero called Birdman as he tries to re-invent himself as a Broadway star in a play that he wrote, directs, and stars in. The production is shaping up to be a disaster throughout rehearsals as it’s star must not only deal with his own demons but also with his eleventh-hour replacement co-star who threatens to steal the spotlight (Edward Norton), a high-maintenance actress afraid of spoiling her one chance to be in a Broadway show, his high-strung lawyer (Zach Galifanakis), and his resentful daughter who is straight out of rehab.

Whenever possible, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inamitu gives the appearance of one long continuous take as he follows his actors from backstage to Times Square to a nearby bar. Some of this was accomplished through fancy editing tricks but the film’s stars apparently would have to shoot up to 15 pages of dialogue at a time. The and the complex choreography of the walk make what would otherwise be a pretty talky movie feel action-packed. Even those with little interest in cinematography and editing are likely to be impressed. And the cast, with Keaton and Norton being clear stand-outs, seem grateful for the challenge.

I feel shy about reviewing Birdman because it’s more surreal touches involving Thomson’s frequent arguments with the voice of Birdman in his head left me scratching mine. Many scenes are ambiguous and are probably meant to be but sometimes left me feeling like I wasn’t understanding what was going on. But mostly, I feel shy to review it because few seem to be able to escape its brutal honesty as it takes aim at Hollywood, Broadway, critics, bloggers, Twitter, awards season, and self-importance in general. I felt like I was being dared to love this movie- or to hate it- only so it could mock me for it. The script and acting feel refreshingly honest even as it seems to question its own ability to do so. Keaton and Norton contribute to the multi-layeredness, both playing parts that are so close to their real-life public personas.

My review of this is all over the place. Sorry about that. I’m still not sure what to make of this movie. I can tell you that you I doubt you’d regret watching it. And that (I never thought I’d say this) someone should nominate Michael Keaton for an Oscar. Even if the makers of Birdman would laugh at them for it.