Birdman Is The Best Picture This Year. Possibly Every year.


Last week my brother asked me what the best film in the Oscars race was and I didn’t hesitate with my response, it was of course Birdman. I’ve watch The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel but none of them could top Birdman. Sure I’ve still got Whiplash, Selma and American Sniper that I still haven’t watched but I don’t need to, my answer will remain the same. When sitting in the packed cinema, about 45 minutes in I turned to my friend and said “I can’t wait to watch this again”. I didn’t even have to wait till the end of the film to make that remark because I had seen all I needed to see. My brother shot me down, saying that if I hadn’t actually seen all the films then there is no way I could actually pass judgement which normally I would agree with, but not Birdman. It is the best film that is in contention for the Oscars and no one will have me saying otherwise.

A lot has been made about the use of the long take which was marvelously done, and it wasn’t a distraction as I was expecting it to be, it was completely seamless. It differs from all its peers (other than Boyhood and Grand Budapest Hotel), as none of the other films are as triumphantly experimental, instead they are films that we’ll forget by the time the next Oscars season is upon us. It stands out from the emotionally gut wrenching biopics that we get every year that I will admit are remarkably good films, but I can never really call them great as I do with Birdman. The use of the long take in films isn’t something new, Hitchcock used it with Rope and plenty of others have but it has never really become something that implemented as frequent as it should be, if it wasn’t for the long take in Birdman I doubt my eyes would have been glued to the screen during the whole showing. I must have blinked at some point but I don’t recall doing so, it was absolutely masterfully.

It’s not just the long take which makes it stand out, but the subject matter as well. Like I said earlier we are subjected to countless biopics, we are forced to either celebrate the past or feel awful about things that people generations ago did. These are stories that deserve to be told, but we get completely overloaded with it this time of year and Birdman gives us a break from that. Alejandro González Iñárritu brings us a tale of former superhero movie star Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) as he makes attempts to resurrect his flagging career by funding, writing, directing and starring in his own play on broadway. The film explored the addiction and cult of celebrity as Riggan is making attempts to garner acclaim which he has lacked in the past by treading the shores of the critically unforgiving Broadway audience, yet all he is seen as is a washed up movie actor. Scratch that, not even an actor, he is seen as a celebrity which is witnessed by the reaction of the harsh critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) as well as fans that recognise him on the street and request pictures. I think I’d have trouble being an actor and have people requesting pictures of me as evidence that we’d met rather than wanting to discuss my body of work and why they found it so appealing so perhaps Riggan may feel the same.

Having everyone seemingly against you would make even the most sanest of us flip out a little bit but Iñárritu displays it masterfully by exploring the turmoil between Riggan’s id and ego through the manifestation of Birdman who sits firmly on Riggan’s shoulder. Sure, any filmmaker could have shown the breakdown of Riggan effectively without the use of Birdman but an exceptional one uses him the way Iñárritu does. We get to hear every callous word that Birdman says to Riggan and him making attempts to block it out, which truly makes it a compelling watch. Keaton is the best I’ve ever seen him in the dual role and I know I said a while back that Eddie Redmayne deserved the Oscar but I was wrong. Redmayne’s physical transformation was remarkable and is typically the type of role that the best actor award is usually given to but Keaton blows him completely out of the water. Theres nothing more interesting than watching someone with a dual personality unfold on screen and Keaton didn’t have the gimmicky role that Redmayne did but still held my attention far better than Redmayne did. I can’t not mention the other actors in the piece, but theres not much I can say about them other than they were absolutely wonderful and deserve every ensemble award there is. I would like to invent an Unreality ensemble award to give to them.

I think I should stop with the gushing and wrap this up by saying again that Birdman is the best film in the race this year even though I haven’t seen all the films. In all honesty I have trouble thinking of a film that I enjoyed more and it would win best picture no matter what year it is released. I’ll admit that Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood and incredibly good films but the others are more forgettable and Birdman should just receive every award whether it’s nominated or not. Apart from supporting actress, I love Emma Stone so much I’m unable to put it into words but there is no way that anyone is prying that away from Patricia Arquette. While all the other films this year will be forgotten by next Birdman will still have people talking for years to come, I wouldn’t be surprised if film students were doing dissertations on it twenty years from now, it truly is that good.

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