Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Being Michael Keaton, or The Unexpected Value of Critics

SPOILER ALERT - Welp, I got caught up in a frenzy of second-hand excitement, enabling me to finally see what this Birdman fuss is all about.  Oh, how people tend to exaggerate sometimes.  They said that Birdman is a film shot in one long take.  Not true.  They called Birdman something like the greatest gift to the moviegoing public or to fans of comic books.  Maybe just a little hyperbolic.  I mean, were they on the phone at the time, and their dividend check from Starbucks just came in?  How do these things achieve critical mass, so to speak?  All I know is, G's got his Oscar now, and Alfonso Cuaron, but what about... wait for it... Del Toro?  What is he, chopped liver?
Yes, Oscar has been loathe to award comic book movies, but that was then.  It's all about context, and so, if it's in the proper meta-context, then there's no problem, which is the case with Birdman.  Alas, there's always a price.  Oscar gives your film the heavy metal, by which I mean the producer and director, and a few tech geeks... but the actors?  Oscar says "Don't push your luck."  Same thing happened with Schindler's List.  Or, in Michael Keaton's case, think Greg Kinnear and As Good as it Gets.  But Greg got to complain about not winning on Saturday Night Live soon after that!  That's... that's good, right?  Oh, I'll bet the Beverly Hills community didn't forgive that innocent trespass either.  He's kept quiet about the snub since, that's for sure.  Just remember, Michael... the work is its own reward.  His performance made me think of that time Johnny Depp got in trouble for trashing a hotel room while working on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas... yup, that's right.  I'm just a bitter old fogey now.  But it's the only example I could think of.  How times have changed.  Now we're all the Johnny Depp.  Clearly he was ahead of his time.  Should I have said Spoiler Alert?  Sorry.
As for Edward Norton, well... I'm actually not completely familiar with all his work, but really, should I be?  It's all good, right?  I'm just going to skip over American History X and assume it's good; after all, he got nominated for it.  His role here reminded me of his role in Rounders, another scoundrel that cannot be trusted, but he probably had more fun with Birdman.  He must've cast a spell on me because... he's more of a Hollywood blockbuster actor than a New York theater actor, right?  He's just that good!!!  I'm assuming the character is modeled on Dustin Hoffman; that's how familiar I am with the New York theater scene.  Maybe Craig Bierko.
Okay, I'll indulge myself in one major spoiler here, so it's time to stop reading.  As you may have heard from the plot, Michael Keaton plays a character not too far removed from his own self: a former Hollywood star who's trying to prove to himself that he's more than that by adapting Raymond Carver for Broadway.  Usually the projects in these things are lamer than that; take "A Match Made in Space," the book written by Marty McFly's dad in Back to the Future.  Now, HERE'S THE SPOILER: he's also got a few telekinetic powers to boot.  Surely, this gave him the self-confidence and that extra twinkle in the eye needed to land himself a big movie franchise, like "Birdman."  To balance this out, the id in his head is starting to talk to him.  Loud.  And it's using the deep voice that Batman uses when he's wearing the mask and costume... oops!  Sorry.  This is neither the time nor the place to bring up Batman.
Okay, I'll dabble in one more spoiler.  The Raymond Carver play ends with the main character (Michael Keaton) shooting himself in the head.  At the last second, Keaton gets a real gun and hurries on stage before the stagehand is able to give him the "squibb."  For those few of you who aren't familiar with showbiz terms, a squibb is a device for casting shadows... oh, wait, that's a cucaloris.  No, a squibb is a little packet of fake blood that explodes on command to simulate the shedding of actual blood.  Ah, showbiz.  The point being, Birdman pumps itself up, and delivers a nice short-term sleight of hand... but with such a bitter aftertaste.  It does a nice job showing that New York critics and New York theater actors kinda hate the Hollywood bigshots, and Michael Keaton turns in another fine performance... and maybe it should have left it at that.  Spoiler alert: Keaton gets a favorable review from the embittered New York critic, but on the other hand, he ends up in the hospital, with a new, scarred nose, no less!  I'm guessing that even he doesn't want to go that far for eight nights a week, even on Broadway.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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