Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Finally some more objective voices are poking through on the extremely overrated Birdman. Great review and I
agree.

Cinematic

birdman-batman

Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu must think he’s the Howard Beale of cinema, shouting out the fallacy of Hollywood today. His previous films like Babel and 21 Grams were loudmouthed and shallow pictures over-swept with critical praise about how modern they were, addressing issues of the contemporary world. But much like Paul Haggis, Iñárritu possesses little understanding of reality outside his constraints and can’t help but shout out messages to his audience at the top of his lungs.

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Oscar Reactions

“Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers.”
―Peter Greenaway

So the Oscars came and went last night and for the most part I was really bummed out.  I did horribly on my picks so hopefully none of you went off my ballot…(I think I got 9 right). I know it is the Oscars and they usually screw it up.  It is just a stupid awards show but at the same time it feels good as a film lover when films you love get recognized.

Highs-

There were some highs of the extremely long telecast (honestly next time make it an hour and get this done more quickly!).

1. Lady Gaga singing Sound of Music and Julie Andrews coming in was the highlight of the night.  I didn’t realize it was the 50th anniversary of Sound and have now ordered the 50th anniversary bluray which comes out next month.  Sound of Music is my favorite musical and I was shocked to hear Gaga have such classical pipes.  Who knew?

2. All the musical numbers were ok and at least brought some energy to the show.  I particularly liked Everything is Awesome from Lego!

3. John Legend and Common were very good singing Glory from Selma but I thought it was strange they used their real names for the award.  They don’t do that for the Grammy’s or any other award or any other part of their music? Kind of odd.

4. I was happy with all the acting winners even though I haven’t seen Still Alice (I can only handle so many depressing movies at once guys!).  They all are deserving winners.  I was especially happy for Patricia Arquette as she will go down as my favorite Mother in the movies ever.

gal_oscar_winners-620x4145. I was also happy to see Grand Budapest Hotel win so much but it should have won best original screenplay.  Birdman’s script was nothing special.  I also didn’t think Imitation Game was the best adapted screenplay of the year but the winners speech was great. I think Wes Anderson deserved it for GBH’s script.

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6. We all knew Kaguya and Song of the Sea weren’t going to win and if Lego wasn’t going to be included than I am thrilled Big Hero 6 won.  I like How to Train Your Dragon 2.  I gave it an A. However, I think out of the 3 mainstream Big Hero 6 had more heart. I connected more with it emotionally and it is more creative with its cityscape and characters.  The fact is I’ve seen movies that look and feel like Dragon and Boxtrolls.  They are both great but I’m super happy Big Hero 6 won.

BigHero6Team

Lows- oh boy there were a lot.

NPH-host

1. Neal Patrick Harris can be so great.  I’m a huge fan of him on How I Met Your Mother and he’s great hosting the Tony Awards. But I think he may have gotten the HIMYM finale writers to write the jokes for the Oscars because they all fell just as flat.  Not one joke worked. In fact, most were really awkward like when he bothered seat fillers or appeared on stage in his underwear. Also the belabored unfunny bit with the predictions box was terrible.

Here’s what you do Oscars- have a 1 hour show where you give the awards for acting, best picture, animation, music, costumes, effects and screenplay.  Have a couple montages a combined number that showcases every song and your done. 3 and 1/2 hours was brutal.

sq_birdman2.  I sincerely don’t understand the Birdman love.  It is a well made movie and Keaton is good but for it to win director, script and picture is baffling to me.  I don’t get how nobody else seems to see how misogynistic and predictable it is?  Characters like the critic are so poorly written and completely unbelievable.  Honestly out of the 8 nominees it would have been my 7 out of 8.  People said Boyhood was overrated but I think Birdman is very overrated.

I guess it makes sense for Hollywood to love a movie about how hard it is to be in Hollywood, how tortured and difficult it is to be a star but why the rest of American moviegoers championed it is a mystery to me…Boo!

Caesar (played in a performance-capture suit by Andy Serkis) is the leader of the ape nation in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”  Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes got the shut out last night which was easy to do because it was only nominated once for visual effects.  I loved Interstellar.  It’s one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen.  But come on, as great as Interstellar looked we’ve seen visuals like that before.  Just last year we had even better space visuals in Gravity.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes created whole characters that were not there and made them come alive.  They were flawless visual effects. Andy Serkis should have been nominated and I thought Gary Oldman was terrific in that movie (I will never forget the scene where he finally loads the battery in the ipad and can see photos of his dead family. So powerful).  Sigh…

4. Citzenfour wins- It disgusts me anyone would award a film even mildly praising Edward Snowden (and then she did in her speech too).  He has hurt our national security and put people’s lives at risk. America is a weaker less secure place because he thinks he knows what is best and he twists his recklessness and ego into supposed honesty.

I rarely agree with President Obama but even he said about Snowden:

“If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.”

Boyhood-poster-quad4. The Boyhood snubs really bummed me out.  And it’s not just because it took 12 years to make.  It is a movie about LIFE and all the small things that make up a person.  It’s about the journey of adolescence and how you  become who you are.  I honestly think we will look back and wonder what the heck were they thinking?  Kind of like when Saving Private Ryan lost or the way we see American Beauty as a bunch of pretentious nonsense now.  I think Birdman will not hold up like Boyhood will.

I can see film students for years studying Boyhood and the small moments of authentic conversation.  Scenes like when Mason is in the photography lab with his teacher.  That is so authentic to life. I think if we all could be a fly on the wall we would realize how many small voices are championing us along the way. Again I quote…

“Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers.”
―Peter Greenaway

It makes me sad so many people missed what was special about Boyhood.  Why does every movie have to be the same? Not every book tells a story.  Some are random, some teach us, others are poetry and others are art. I think movies should be granted the same license to take on differing forms and purposes.

People look at every movie as having to entertain you when it doesn’t need too.  People make the same criticism of Fantasia.  That it is boring and has no story.  Ridiculous.  Fantasia is trying to inspire you with art and music.  It’s not trying to tell you a story but give you something beautiful to contemplate. Boyhood is trying to get you to think about your life and that has value.

I just think people need to go into different movies with different glasses.  I don’t watch Schindler’s List and Star Wars with the same mindset, looking for the same things.  I don’t watch Tree of Life and Monty Python with the same perspective.

If you only like movies for entertainment sake than you miss out on so much.  It makes me sad.

I found myself thinking yesterday of the amazing documentary Hoop Dreams.  This follows 2 inner city boys for 5 years as they dream of basketball stardom.  It is a movie about LIFE and how our dreams can both haunt and inspire us.  Movies like Hoop Dreams and Boyhood have high value but they require some effort on our part.

Most of the sublime movie going experiences of my life require effort.  Last night the academy had a chance to recognize a film that took on life but required some effort on the part of the moviegoer and went instead for the story of how hard it is to be a star…It makes no sense to me.

I guess it’s appropriate because in 1994 Hoop Dreams wasn’t even nominated for Best Documentary.  It’s so silly.

I think Roger Ebert’s thoughts on Hoop Dreams apply to Boyhood:

“A film like “Hoop Dreams” is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself…

Many filmgoers are reluctant to see documentaries, for reasons I’ve never understood; the good ones are frequently more absorbing and entertaining than fiction. “Hoop Dreams,” however, is not only a documentary. It is also poetry and prose, muckraking and expose, journalism and polemic. It is one of the great moviegoing experiences of my lifetime

I’d say the same thing about Boyhood and just like Hoop Dreams holds up 31 years later because it is about life and human experience so will Boyhood because even if the trappings change, growing up is never really that different.

I wish I could talk to Richard Linklater and tell him how much his movies have ment to me. If you are out there Richard thank you!  My life is better from watching your movies. How many people can say that about watching Birdman?…

I guess at the very least the Oscars got me to see a lot of movies I probably would not have otherwise seen, so there’s that. Thanks for the great year of films 2014 (Btw I am going to post an updated best and worst list now that I have seen more of the 2014 movies) .

What did you guys think of the Oscars?

Ranking the Nominees

I have now seen all of the Best Picture nominees and while I gave my predictions a few days ago I thought I would do a quick post ranking the nominees. I would also add I think Song of the Sea, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Locke, Big Hero 6, Tale of Princess Kaguya, Lego Movie and Interstellar are better than all of the films but Boyhood nominated but they are all good movies.

We can all be glad the Grand Budapest Hotel is there because without it we’d have a lot of solemn nominees.  I mean has the academy forgotten how to laugh?  Gone are the days when movies like It’s a Mad Mad Mad World could get nominated for Best Picture.  Kind of sad really.

Anyway, here’s how I would personally rank the nominees.

1. Boyhood- It’s a  movie that really moved me and made me think about my life in a new way.  It’s not a movie to entertain you but to remind you about the small moments with people that make up your life. I loved it.  To me it is significantly better than any of the other nominees.

selma

2. Selma– A movie that helped me get to know all sides of a great American.  It wasn’t all the grand moments but soft, even shameful moments where you saw that anybody can make a difference.  It was a part of the Civil Rights movement I wasn’t as familiar with and I was really moved by it. Amazing performance by David Oyelowo.

whiplash poster 2014

3. Whiplash- Mesmerizing film that builds tension so well with an insane performance by JK Simmons.  It asks the question ‘what is the price to be paid for greatness?’ I wish it had shown more of the motivations behind the characters but still very gripping movie.

american sniper

4.  American Sniper- Gripping account of the most successful sniper in US Navy Seals history, Chris Kyle.  The movie gets you down with the soldiers a lot for a sniper movie and it feels gritty and very intense.  The narrative at home and on his tour of duties flow well together and are brought together in the story of a very complex man.  It is a movie that tells his story and leaves the judging for God and others. I was really moved by. grand-budapest-hotel5. Grand Budapest Hotel- The one comedy nominated! I think I give this a little bit of a pass because it is Wes Anderson’s best and most mainstream film.  I’d have to watch it again to decide if I really like it better than the other nominees but I did like it.  It’s not over-quirky like a lot of Anderson’s films.  It is witty and the world creation is strong with more likable characters than many of his other films.  Very good engaging cast as always.

imitation game7

 6. Imitation Game- A solid biopic about Alan Turing, the man behind the computer which decoded the enigma machine.  I liked the stuff about the decoding better than the more predictable personal portions but it was all strong and very well acted. The big mean boss who is constantly after Turing felt like such a cliche and the cop narration felt a little phony but I liked it.

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7. Birdman- I know I’m not as high on this as everyone else but I’ve got to tell you what I really think not what is popular.  I really hated the way this movie treated its female characters.  I’m shocked that nobody else in criticism seems to be saying this? It will probably win tomorrow when Boyhood a movie featuring complex woman will not (although hopefully she will win).  I have thought about it and I know it is an allegory for popularity and fame but why does the movie assume women are so much more fragile and judgmental than men?  Is there not a Chris Farley, River Phoenix for every Lindsay Lohan and Judy Garland? The critic and the near rape especially bother me.   But that said, it isn’t at the bottom because I do think they tried to do something different, the cinematography is very good and I thought Michael Keaton was great.  I just don’t think it was anywhere near the best picture of the year. Oh well.

theory of everything2

8.  Theory of Everything–  This is a good movie.  I enjoyed watching it much more than Birdman. And Eddie Redmayne was unforgettable as Stephen Hawking.  You forget it is an actor after a while.  That’s pretty amazing especially since he doesn’t have a voice for a good chunk of the movie. However, it is pretty predictable biopic and large sections drag a bit.  I didn’t think Felicity Jones was very good and the dewy sepia toned cinematography and constant twirling (even in the coffee) got on my nerves.  Still a very good movie just bottom of the 8 for me.

My Oscar Predictions

Boyhood-poster-quadI thought I might help you out and share with you my Oscar ballot.   We will see how I do come Oscar night but if Boyhood doesn’t walk away with a lot I will be very disappointed (well as disappointed as you can be with a stupid awards show…).

Here goes!

best picture

American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash 

I still think Boyhood will win.  Birdman is too independent in feel for older academy voters and Boyhood has universal themes and was so groundbreaking I think it will win. I think it will be like when the academy went with King Speech over Social Network (a decision I actually agree with as I think SN is majorly overrated).   I could see The Theory of Everything coming in as dark horse as the academy loves those ‘real life’ portrayals.  I have seen all but 2 but hopefully will get to the rest in the next few days.

Will Win: Boyhood
My Vote:Boyhood

My review of Boyhood

Best Director

Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu (Birdman)
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

I know Inarritu has won some leading up to awards but Linklater is due a statue and what he did in Boyhood is astonishing.  It’s certainly one of the most profound movie going experiences I’ve ever had. For him to direct a film over 12 years how can you not give him the directing award and to make something so beautiful to boot.  Come on!

Will Win: Richard Linklater
My Vote: Richard Linklater

Best Lead Actor

Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

I have actually only seen 2 of these movies! I am going to try to get to American Sniper and Imitation Game this week but we will see.  It looks like Eddie Redmayne is going to win and I think it is deserved.  Cumberbatch love could come into play and the academy always does have soft spot for veterans like Keaton.  I actually think he deserves to win even though I have issues with Birdman.  His performance was very good. Redmayne is great as well.  You forget he isn’t Stephen Hawking in the performance.

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
My Vote: Michael Keaton (If I could give it to anyone it would be to Tom Hardy in Locke which was unforgettable)

Best lead actress

Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

I have actually only seen 2 of these movies and to be honest wasn’t that crazy with either Rosamund Pike or Felicity Jones performances.  Julianne Moore will win.  It’s her 5th nomination I believe and she is evidently great in Still Alice.

Will Win: Julianne Moore
My Vote: Weak year for female performances.  I guess my favorite was Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow. I can’t pick either of the 2 I’ve seen because I didn’t think they were good.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Whiplash was a very engrossing movie . I had some problems with the character motivations but it was great. JK Simmon is unforgettable and should and will win. I wish Andy Serkis had been nominated for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  His ACTING blew me away.

Will Win: J.K. Simmons
My Vote: J.K. Simmons

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

This award should and will go to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood.  She did something that no other female actress has done in showing how a woman ages.  We don’t talk about that.  We hide it away but there she was at 28 and there she was at 40.  She is the reason I loved the movie so much because she never really gets a chance to commit to her life and family.  She just lives and makes some bad choices along the way.  When Mason is leaving for college and she realizes her life in a sense is over it is completely devastating.  I will never forget it.  I would also have nominated Jessica Chastain for Interstellar.

Will Win: Patricia Arquette
My Vote: Patricia Arquette

Best Original Screenplay

Birdman (Alejandro G Iñarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

I think will be where they award Grand Budapest Hotel.  It really is Wes Anderson’s most approachable movie I’ve ever seen.  It’s funny and mellows down the ‘quirky factor’ which many of us find annoying in his movies.

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel

best adapted screenplay

American Sniper (Jason Hall)
The Imitation Game (Graham Moore)
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
The Theory of Everything (Anthony McCarten)
Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

This is a race between Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, which is silly because the script in Theory was really quite weak.  The only other one I’ve seen is Whiplash which would probably be my pick.  If I could pick any script I would go with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because it was the script that moved me the most.  It made me think and I loved it.

Will Win: The Imitation Game
My Vote: Whiplash (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes if I could pick)

best cinematography 

Birdman (Emmanuel Lubezki)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman)
Ida (Ryszard Lenczewski, Lukasz Zal)
Mr. Turner (Dick Pope)
Unbroken (Roger Deakins)

I would be stunned if Emmanuel Lubezki didn’t win for Birdman and he deserves to win; although I want to give it to Dick Pope just because of how cool he was when his name was slaughtered during his big moment.  (Seriously you think they’d go over that with that lady?)

Will Win: Birdman
My Vote: Birdman

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Adam Stockhausen)
The Imitation Game (Maria Djurkovic)
Interstellar (Nathan Crowley)
Into the Woods 
(Dennis Gassner)
Mr. Turner (Suzie Davis)

The Grand Budapest Hotel will win and it deserves to win.  I wish Paddington had been nominated as I loved the sets of that movie but oh well!

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
My Vote: The Grand Budapest Hotel 

best costume design

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Milena Canonero)
Inherent Vice (Mark Bridges)
Into the Woods (Colleen Atwood)
Maleficent (Anna B. Sheppard)
Mr. Turner (Jacqueline Durran)

I am going to go out on a limb on this one and say that Colleen Atwood will win for Into the Woods.  It was the best costumes I saw all year.  She’s has name recognition (nominated 11 times and won 3) and I think if in doubt people will vote for her and the great costumes in a fairytale movie.  But I admit it is my out on a limb so you may want to put Grand Budapest Hotel on there because Milena Canoero has also won 3 times (quite the club of costume designers!).  The costumes were great in GBH.  I just think a little better in Into the Woods.

Will Win: Into the Woods
Should Win: Into the Woods

BEST FILM EDITING

American Sniper (Joel Cox)
Boyhood (Sandra Adair)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Barney Pilling)
The Imitation Game (William Goldenberg)
Whiplash (Tom Cross)

Boyhood will win with American Sniper being the next most likely.  Whiplash is probably the best editing I saw all year with those drum sequences put together so seamlessly.

Will Win: Boyhood
My Vote: Whiplash

Best Makeup and Hair

Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy 

Another going out on a limb and going to pick Guardians of the Galaxy because that makeup made those characters not CG.  Foxcatcher could also come in because of the prosthetics (haven’t seen it).  Grand Budapest Hotel is probably the odds on favorite but you have to take a few chances in your ballot because there are always a few surprises.

Will Win: Guardians of the Galaxy
My Vote: Guardians of the Galaxy

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
Mr. Turner(Gary Yershon)
The Theory of Everything 
(Johann Johannsson)

It does seem time for Alexandre Desplat to win but Johann Johannsson has won early awards and they are all pleasant scores.  I actually didn’t care for the loud overbearing score in Interstellar so I hope that doesn’t win.  I wish Joe Hisaishi had been nominated for The Tale of Princess Kaguya.  It was one of the best scores I’ve ever heard.

Will Win: Theory of Everything
My Vote: Out of those I’d pick Grand Budapest Hotel but I would have given it to Joe Hisaishi Tale of Princess Kaguya

best original song

“Everything is Awesome” (The LEGO Movie)
“Glory” (Selma)
“Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me)
“Lost Stars” (Begin Again)

It will either be Everything is Awesome or Glory and I think Glory is a solid hip hop anthem.  Both movies should be honored.  Lost Stars is probably the best written song of the group but Everything is Awesome is my favorite.

Will Win: “Glory”
My Vote: “Everything is Awesome”

best sound mixing

American Sniper
Birdman
Interstellar
Unbroken
Whiplash 

I think this will and should go to Whiplash.  My understanding of sound mixing is rather limited but what I do know it is putting together different sounds to make a scene work and nowhere was better than that than Whiplash.

Will Win: Whiplash 
My Vote: Whiplash 

best sound editing

American Sniper
Birdman
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Interstellar
Unbroken

American Sniper will win this award.  It’s a lock.  Only seen one on this list.  (All the movies come out at the same time so it takes me most of the next year to see them all!).

Will Win: American Sniper
My Vote: Only seen Birdman and I wouldn’t give it to that.  I would give it to Whiplash

best visual effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
X-Men: Days of Future Past 

My review of Apes

All of these movies have amazing  visual effects.  I would be happy if any of them win.  I wish that every last one of them was nominated for best picture.  It was such a strong year for comic book movies and I’m normally not a huge fan.  These movies were immersive experiences with well written characters and story arcs you don’t normally see in big budget movies.  It was awesome. I think Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will win for best visual effects and I think it should win.

Will Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
My Vote: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

I like all of these movies and I’ve seen all of them.  I actually gave A’s to all of them.  I think How to Train Your Dragon 2 will win and it is a great movie.  It is a rare sequel that is better than the original.  It had an epic feel to it and I loved the heart of the mother character and the flying sequences were amazing.  However, I think both Dragon and The Boxtrolls are weaker than Lego Movie even though I loved them.  My favorite would be Song of the Sea but I loved Big Hero 6 and Kaguya. I would be happy with any of them winning.  The one thing that makes me pull for Dragon is DreamWorks really needs a win right now.  They’ve had huge layoffs, closed their major studio and there upcoming releases do not look promising.  The strangest thing is that all 3 of their films last year made a healthy profit so I don’t know what is going on?

For me 2014 had only 2 theatrically released animated stinkers.  It was such a great year.  The diversity of the characters, scope of animation and heart-felt topics covered I will never forget. 2015 looks pretty sad in comparison.

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2 
My Vote: Song of the Sea

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

I haven’t seen any of them but Ida is nominated for best cinematography so I would go with that. Why is it that animated films never get nominated for best foreign film? Tale of Princess Kaguya or the Latvian Rocks in My Pockets would have been worthy entries.

Will Win: Ida
My Vote: Haven’t seen any but I’d give it to Rocks in My Pockets

Best Documentary

Citizenfour
Finding Vivian Mayer
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga 

Pour sad Life Itself is not nominated.  Baffling. I haven’t seen any of these but I will be disgusted if Citzenfour wins and we reward anything to do with the scumbag Edward Snowden but I wouldn’t put it past leftist Hollywood.

Will Win: Citizenfour
My Vote: Life Itself

Short Categories

The animated shorts are actually really strong.  The other one’s I haven’t seen but I am going with the major predictions

Animated Short: Feast
Documentary Short: Joanna
Live Action Short: The Phone Call 

There’s my ballot.  Hope that helps you out when getting ready for your office polls and the like.  Occasionally they do give the right movie the award (Slumdog Millionaire for example) so let’s all hope for Boyhood!  But if it goes to Birdman than cheers for Hollywood’s misogyny in full force!

And here are my best and worst of the year videos.  I have seen some I would have included but it’s still movies I love.

Birdman: A Review

sq_birdmanRecently I had the chance to watch the Oscar nominated film Birdman: or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance and I’m afraid, like with Gone Girl ,my opinion is not as positive as the public at large….It has many strengths but some problems I have a hard time ignoring.

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Let’s start with the positives. Birdman is about a man named Riggan Thomson played my Michael Keaton who used to be a superhero action star for a franchise called ‘Birdman’.  Evidently at one point he could have done Birdman 3 but stepped away from the franchise out of artistic integrity and his career never recovered.  Now years later he is trying to make a comeback in a broadway play based on a Raymond Carver short story.

Edward Norton also stars as a young, high strung method actor who thinks he’s better than Riggan and condescends to be in the show because of his friendship with a first time actress Lesley played by Naomi Watts.  Emma Stone plays Riggan’s daughter who is recently out of rehab, Andrea Risenborough is his girlfriend and Zach Galifianakis is his lawyer and best friend.

birdman-film-review

Birdman has very good performances especially from Keaton.  He is great, vulnerable, believable, authentic and tragic.  The whole rest of the cast is great and nuanced in their roles (although actors playing actors may not be that much of a stretch…).

Birdman’s cinematography is also a huge accomplishment.  It is edited to look like the whole film is done in one take so there are very few cuts from one person shot, to 2 person shot like in a normal movie.  The camera just moves fluidly from a scene to another scene as if someone was walking from one area of the hallway to another hearing different gossip along the way.

Here’s my issue with the film.  It really bothered me the way women are treated.  Now before you roll your eyes at another feminist movie review hear me out.  I don’t care if a movie has weak, shallow women.  That’s fine and certainly the strong empowered woman can be equally clichéd.  However, I do have a problem when every female in a picture is weak, shallow, mean, petty and shrill.

Let’s go over quickly the women we get in Birdman.

birdman andrea1. Andrea Risenborough as Riggan’s girlfriend Laura who pretends to be pregnant in order to manipulate him into committing to their relationship.  She is shrill and judgmental and a real jerk

naomi watts

2. Next we get Lesley played by Naomi Watts who has always dreamed of being on Broadway.  The movie seems to judge her for this dream as if Riggan’s is the realist and Lesley is the naive simpleton.  We see so little of her acting that it is hard to say one way or another.  What really upset me is in an early scene Edward Norton tries to force himself on Lesley in an attempted rape on stage so that he can be “in the moment” and then the movie forgets about this far too quickly.  It was extremely distasteful.  I’m not saying the movie endorses Norton’s choice but it doesn’t take it seriously enough.

birdman kiss

3.  There is a lesbian kiss between Lesley and Laura which I felt was only there to titillate men not for any plot device or importance.  To be clear I am not offended by the kiss but haven’t we moved on from when gay/lesbian kisses and relationships were included to sensationalize or for comic relief? Apparently not.  There is no relationship between them and it means nothing.  I saw no reason to include it and it was never discussed again.

Birdman-Movie-Emma-Stone-Sam

4.  Emma Stone playing Sam, Riggan’s daughter, is probably the best female character in the movie but she is still very judgmental and preachy to her father.   Can’t she see that he is trying to do something important and good?  You would think she would appreciate that but instead she lectures him about how he is worthless and nobody cares.

Birdman-Amy-Ryan

5.  Amy Ryan has a few scenes with Riggans as his ex-wife who hates Riggan but is still attracted to him.  She’s very shrill with a couple softer moments. (not in the movie much).

birdman theater critic5. The worst of it all is a woman named Tabitha Dickinson who is a famous theater critic from the New York Times.  She knows she can make or break a Broadway show by her review and she tells Riggan she is going to destroy him and his play before even seeing it.  She feels this way because she resents celebrities infringing on the Broadway scene.  This was outrageous.  Maybe I’m naive but I don’t think there is a critic worth their ticket stub who would decide on a review before seeing the play.  And if they did they certainly wouldn’t admit it to the show creator and star.  That sounds like a good way to lose your job. There is a little redemption for her character but still she was unbelievable from the start.  And why did she have to be a woman?  Couldn’t the movie have made one judgmental jerk a man?

Again, it’s just another example of the shrill, judgmental, mean-spirited women the movie seems to think are the rule.

The men on the other hand are more positively portrayed.  Zach Galifianakis is the good friend who still believes in Riggans despite all the junk he does.  Edward Norton is a pig but has softer moments with Emma Stone.  Riggans is a sympathetic character surrounded by all these maniacs.  He is depressed and mentally ill, hallucinating and running around in his underwear in Times Square but is still likable.

I don’t know.  I just couldn’t get passed these depictions of women throughout the film- especially Lesley’s near rape and Tabitha’s condescending review threats.  It made the movie  unpleasant and frustrating.

It also has lots of profanity, some nudity, and mature content.  Adults only.  It took me two go-arounds to watch the whole thing because I wasn’t invested in it.

I know many love it and it may win Best Picture (a travesty if it does IMO) but I didn’t care for it.  Sorry!

Overall Grade- C- (only because of the strong performances and cinematography). Content Grade- F