Speculative Fiction Saturday: Birdman

BirdmanI’m again going to be honest here and say that technically Birdman isn’t a speculative film. Even though the opening shot is of a man floating in air through telekinetic power, and…yeah, that’s good enough. I’ve reviewed other media that isn’t necessarily speculative fiction, such as Big Fish and Sherlock.

I’m going to start by saying that I loved Birdman, and as I was watching it, I get that awesome feeling when I suddenly realize that I am watching a really cool movie. It is this feeling that keeps me going back to films, looking for what little bit of wisdom that they can impart. Birdman is one of those films that just really gets me excited about writing.

Birdman is a film by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and it just begs to be pretentious. I’ve talked about pretentiousness in films before with that one month when I was reviewing films like The Tree of Life and The Fountain. This is a term when a film tries to talk about how important they are. In the case of this film, it tries to show how a seemingly mundane story is actually indicative of the importance of life itself.

On the surface, the story feels typical of Hollywood, as the main character is Riggan played Michael Keaton. Riggan once made it big as a superhero in a series of films called Birdman, but he refused to play the character for a fourth movie, and it is pretty obvious that his acting career has suffered. The fact that Keaton is playing this character when his career probably took a downturn after playing Batman is more than just interesting. Okay, maybe I am wrong on this, but I’ve only seen Michael Keaton in very few good roles after Batman. I’ll just say that he really should have won the Oscar for his portrayal in this film.

Riggan is hoping that a play that he is starring in will give him the comeback he was looking for. He adapted a short story from Raymond Carver called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”, and he is having trouble with its opening night. Oddly enough, I read parts of this book in college. Maybe I liked this film because I can relate to a lot of it.

This film has an odd way of contradicting itself. As I mentioned before, the film begins with the main character showing telekinetic ability, and later on reveals that he dropped a heavy light on one of the actor’s heads. Later on, Riggan throws a tantrum in his dressing room with his telekinetic powers. I am assuming that the telekinetic powers represent something, but I am not sure what. This would be a different movie if he literally had those powers, and I’m pretty certain that he could easily be his own

Also, Riggan has this inner voice that sounds like the Christian Bale Batman. Later on, it is seen as Birdman, and I’m also not certain what this is supposed to represent.

For some reason, I was enthralled with these characters even though there is so little given about them. While I was watching this film, I began to wonder if it was one of my favorite films of all time. I think it should be in my top ten, because I think there is something about this film that works and works very well.
This film has a very odd way of telling its story as the camera literally follows the main characters. This film could have spent a lot of time on lengthy flashbacks on establishing its backstory, but it assumes that you can listen to the characters current conversations and extract the backstory from there. It’s a technique that more filmmakers need to use.

If I were to summarize what I like about this film, I believe that it is about rising above one’s own downfalls. Is it possible that we have to be inspired by something unreal to face reality? Maybe the theme is that we have to face life without any sense of expectation, and just accept what it gives us.

The subtitle of this film is “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”. Perhaps what this film is trying to say is that ignorance, the not knowing, can produce a goodness in us that is like a stopped clock: sometimes it is right. I think that this film tapped into something right, as most do not.

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