#1: BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (1/1/15)
Starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Naomi Watts. Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Running time 119 minutes.
Will this be the second year on the trot where the best film of the year just so happens to be the first film of the year? If not, then whatever trumps it is going to be freking awesome! BIRDMAN is a strange, deeply dark comedy whose laughs come from situation and character rather than punchlines and pratfalls. Presented as a single long take, Birdman is actually a series of fantastically long, single-shot scenes that never fails to amaze and delight.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a tired, washed-up, Hollywood super-star who once played the titular character, Birdman in three blockbuster movies, but that was 20 years ago. Now Riggan's back, on Broadway and funding, writing, directing and starring in a play, based on his favourite Raymond Carver's short story 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.' But as first preview night approaches, circumstances and nerves are beginning to get the better of Riggan and he starts to have serious doubts, his co-star is seriously injured in an on-stage accident and Riggan is forced to hire Edward Norton's insanely arrogant but brilliant, Mike to replace him, but Mike threatens to steal both the play and his daughter from under Riggan's nose. But that's just the tip of his problems, he's also got an on-off, is-she,-isn't-she-pregnant actress girlfriend, an ex-wife, his - fresh out of rehab - daughter, a best friend who's also producing the play (the surprisingly good, Zach Galifianakis who proves he can actually act and act well!), a truly venomous theatre critic hellbent on killing the play and Riggan's mostly unseen alter-ego, Birdman who's whispering advice into his ear to muddy the waters even further. Told over three nights and set almost entirely inside the theatre, Birdman is an incredibly unusual tour-de-force of a movie and unlike anything you've ever seen, unless you've seen Robert Atlman's 1970 classic, Brewster McCloud, which oddly enough was also about a bird-obsessed man.
There are so many incredible scenes and moments in this film that it deserves to be seen and marveled at. Birdman is an utter delight from beginning to end, bizarre, surreal, black as coal funny with brilliant performances, none more so than Keaton who utterly owns this movie lock, stock and barrel! Seriously I bloody loved this film. How it managed to be both so surreal and strange as well as incredibly grounded and real is a testimony to Alejandro as director and the gifted writers who wrote this film.
It most certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, and I can understand why, but I guarantee that if you go and see it, you'll be talking about for weeks, it's that sort of rare and special film that deserves to be seen, even if you hate it. For seriously, when was the last time we got a mainstream film this daring, brave or downright bat-shit crazy?