Why ‘Birdman’ deserves the Oscar
Jimmy Kemper | Monday, January 26, 2015
It’s Oscar season again, so like any other hipster who claims to be “well-cultured” and “up-to-date,” I’ve spent the time since I saw the Academy Award nominations list cramming in all those movies that I probably should have seen instead of watching “Top Gun” for the 10,000th time.
So far “Birdman” is the film that has piqued my interest the most. It also seems to have impressed the real critics, as it won Best Picture on Saturday at both the Producers Guild Awards (PGAs) and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG), much to the surprise of everyone who swore that “Boyhood” would be a shoo-in. Furthermore, the past seven PGA Best Picture winners went on to grab the Oscar.
“Birdman” not only introduces a revolutionary, one-of-a-kind filmography technique in the same vein as “Boyhood,” but “Birdman” also has a great cast, a fantastic script and nine Academy Award nominations, as opposed to “Boyhood’s” five.
One of the biggest arguments in “Boyhood’s” favor is the insane efforts the cast and crew made for this movie. Filming a movie over the course of 12 years is an outstanding achievement that absolutely deserves recognition, but that alone does not warrant “Boyhood” the title of Best Picture. While “Boyhood” focused on being expansive, “Birdman” focused on the intimate details to create a film that looks like it was filmed in a single shot. It’s amazing an, honestly, a bit underrated by mainstream press.
Speaking of underrated, if I had any idea what Birdman was actually about before I had seen it, I probably would have ignored the film entirely. Based on the movie posters and Michael Keaton’s age, I honestly thought it was going to be about Keaton’s return to the realm of superheroes, a la “The Dark Knight Returns.” Boy, was I wrong. Keaton plays a washed out, ex-superhero actor who puts everything he has into a Broadway play that he is writing, directing and starring in. “Birdman” is a film about making films, the role of critics, life after the big role and simply the bigger picture. Michael Keaton also experiences a number of hallucinations involving flying, explosions and telekinesis, which alone are worth the price of admission.
A solid story cannot stand on its own though, which is why the excellent cast of “Birdman” is so vital to its Best Picture run. Who better to play the role of an old superhero star than Michael Keaton, aka Batman himself? Add to this the fact that Keaton’s co-stars Edward Norton and Emma Stone have also been indispensable elements of solid superhero movies and incredible chemistry ensues. As great as all of these actors were in their previous works, the daring roles that they took for “Birdman” were far out of their comfort zone, and they all were magnificent.
Despite the overwhelming belief I have in “Birdman,” no one really knows what’s going to happen at the Oscars. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” also pulled off nine nominations but for some reason is totally out of the conversation on most of the web, probably because it has not fared well at the shows leading up to the Academy Awards. Moreover, I still haven’t looked into “Whiplash,” “The Imitation Game” or “The Theory of Everything,” so any one of those could very well be the best movie on the list. Probably not though, because “Birdman” absolutely soared.