• Posted on
  • 12.1.15

Alejandro González Iñárritu is a good director and his so called Death Trilogy is, even after Birdman, his best work to date.

I’m not a critic, not a film reviewer and it’s not in my intentions to pass as one, but I consider myself a cinephile, I try to watch a movie a day at least and I enjoy art house films, as well as mainstream ones, b-movies or whatever else suits my mood on that given moment I put the film on. What I’m trying to say is that in no way I could be considered an elitist and I don’t snob one genre or the other, but since I’m not a professional critic, I avoid expressing publicly negative opinions about other people’s work, because I understand people have put a lot of effort to it, doing what they love to do and will probably care much for the effect their work has on others, even though most of them will pretend that they don’t give a shit.

The two most highly praised by critics movies of 2014 have definitely been Boyhood and Birdman and as a viewer, though I haven’t regretted spending my time watching them, I’ve been disappointed by both. This is what we wrote about Boyhood on our End Of Year Films list…

Putting Boyhood up on the 30th place is a statement, saying: “This is a good enough film to be among the year’s best, but enough with it already!” If it wasn’t for the aging in real time gimmick, the world wouldn’t have gone nuts about it nor the actor’s performances, of which Ethan Hawke’s, a frequently overlooked, great actor, was the best. Richard Linklater tries too hard to intentionally point out each timeframe’s ways, the pop hits, the technological advances and how the actors age, particularly the kids, who as kids normally do, grow. People got ecstatic about it, dropping their pants about how this movie is just like real life and named it “movie of the year” in a million lists, but that is not real life, it’s just a movie with a nice gimmick, in need of an interesting storyline to keep someone engaged for the hundred hours that it lasts. If you haven’t seen Boyhood yet, you should, but don’t get fooled, it’s not the “movie of the year”, come on…

As much as I wasn’t expecting Boyhood to impress me much, I sat down to watch Birdman with the best of intentions, because I have great admiration for Iñárritu, initiated 15 years ago with Amores Perros and renewed with almost every of his films that followed and because I was certain Michael Keaton would be great in the starring role. Given that the majority of both critics and fans went crazy over it and given the avalanche of nominations and wins in miscellaneous awards, like the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the Venice Film Festival etc, although I’m not that big of a handheld camera or a really long takes fan, there was no way I would miss Birdman.

If I’m not mistaken, the first feature film to ever been made as to look like it’s a single continuous shot was Alfred Hitchcock Rope in 1948, a brilliant, fun, suspense movie, that uses the experimental stunt maybe not as smoothly, but by all means effectively, adding to the films claustrophobic impact and helping place the viewers under the impression that they’re watching a crime and its consequences develop in real time, boosting the suspense to even higher levels. That was 67 years ago.

I guess Iñárritu used that same technique in an attempt to achieve more intimacy, bring the viewers closer to the characters and make them seem more familiar, but even if we accepted that he succeds in accomplishing a bit of that, the whole thing very often feels disturbing and ill-suited; makes one wonder if Birdman would have been a better movie without it after all.

I was right to look forward to Michael Keaton’s performance, as the man brings to life the character of the existentially concerned, struggling actor in a big range of emotions and in an overall outstanding performance. The rest of the cast deliver wonderful performances as well, frequently overacting some great, witty and hyper-realistic dialogue, although the real highlight in this film is actually the set, as the plot takes place in a theater in the heart of Broadway, giving us insight backstage and to the core of a theater production.

I can understand why Birdman appeals to the critics; it gave them what they wanted. An impressive technical stunt, clever, well-written and well-acted dialogue, a deep moral question in regard to artistic expression versus commercial success and the virtues of not selling out, some jazz drumming all over the place and so on. I think I can understand why it might appeal to artists as well; all of the above plus the portrayal of the mean critic and the integrity of wanting to be meaningful and talk to others via your work, leave something behind you, be important…

So, the two mostly endorsed by critics films of the year both were based on stunts to achieve the high praise and I can’t help but be under they impression that without those stunts, none of the two would have become as huge as they have now, because as straightforward movies there would be nothing so special about them. What bothers me is that a large amount of the viewers in general gets carried away by the critics and their over the top reactions to the work of whoever might be their current sweethearts. We live in times were everything is accessible and everyone is entitled to their opinion, so why not try and be a little more honest with ourselves? Question what others tell us we should like and what not?


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