JayDee's Movie Musings

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"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2014

Directed by
Morten Tyldum

Written by
Graham Moore

Starring
Benedict Cumberbatch
Keira Knightley
Matthew Goode
Mark Strong
Charles Dance
Allen Leach

The Imitation Game

+


Plot - Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) was a mathematics and cryptanalyst genius who was arrested in 1952 on charges of being homosexual. And for many years that was all the world at large knew of him. What was only revealed many years later was the incredible part he played in the Allied forces emerging victorious in the second World War. This film depicts Turing's attempts at decrypting the seemingly unbreakable Enigma machine that the Nazis were using to send messages and orders. Put in charge of a team of code-breakers that consists of mathematicians, linguists and chess champions he was in a race against time to decipher these messages and help turn the tide of the War in the favour of Britain and its allies.

In terms of how I'd sum this film up I'd probably throw it a bit of a backhanded compliment and describe it as 'a nice film'. While there's certainly elements in here to like, and the majority of the the film is well made, not many of them would I describe as being truly great. A number of people have complained, or at the very least noted, that The Imitation Game doesn't feel particularly cinematic; that it more resembles a BBC drama. And I do think that's a fair assessment, I'd say that it is does often look and feel more like a TV presentation, though a very classy one at that. There is one facet however that I feel jumps above everything else and is indeed able to feel very cinematic, and that is the central performance of Benedict Cumberbatch.

I thought that Cumberbatch did a really quite terrific job of bringing Alan Turing to the screen. Now admittedly I don't know how Turing himself sounded or acted so I don't know how technically accurate his portrayal of the man was. But in terms of inhabiting the 'character' that we are presented with here I think he does a grand job. His Turing is just such an awkward and guarded individual, as you would be if you had to hide who you were for your entire life. Throughout the entire film, for pretty much every second of its running time, I just saw such an incredible sadness and pain in his face and behind his eyes. I often found it quite heartbreaking just to look at him, especially the closer the film gets to its conclusion. Cumberbatch's performance certainly seems informed by and gives weight to the retrospective theories that some people have been presented that Turing may well have been somewhere on the Autisistic spectrum, possibly having Asperger's Syndrome.

To give him a modern day equivalent I'd probably look at The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper Yes that's right I'm reducing this multi-Oscar nominated film about a great man to the level of a sitcom. Deal with it! Just as with his superhero-loving counterpart, Alan Turing possesses an exceptional intellect, capable of solving any number of complex, mind-bending equations and problems. And yet the most natural and basic of things such as just interacting with people can leave him completely baffled. In fact the most meaningful connection he appears to form is actually with a machine, his Enigma decoder which he names Christopher. The only flesh and bone individual that he really forms some kind of connection with is Joan Clarke as played by Keira Knightley. A large part of this (at least to me) seems to be that he can empathise with her and her struggles to be accepted for what she is. Just as he would not be accepted by society if people learned of his homosexuality, she is judged and minimised for the simple fact that she's a woman. She just wants to put her great mind to productive use but is under the pressure of expectations that she should only be a wife and mother.

The Imitation Game really is a showcase for Cumberbatch. The characters who surround him have very little in the way of depth, each only there for his Alan Turing to bounce off of in some way as is frequently the case when it comes to biopics. Throughout the film it never really stuck me as a major problem however, largely as a result of the impressive ensemble that makes up the supporting cast; Matthew Goode, Charles Dance and Mark Strong all do solid work. I also have to single out Alex Lawther who played the young Alan Turing during flashbacks to his school days. For someone so young and with so little acting experience I thought his efforts were very impressive and poignant in what was an important part of Turing's story in terms of crafting the man he would become. Alongside Cumberbatch the other performer getting the most plaudits and securing a clutch of acting nominations is Keira Knightley, though in this case I'd say it's a bit more surprising. I think she's very good in the film, no doubt about that, but she's not really given a great deal to work with so such an outlay of praise seems a little strange.

Film Trivia Snippets - Benedict Cumberbatch has admitted that while filming one of the film's final scenes he could not stop crying and just broke down. In the process of inhabiting the character and getting into his mind he “had grown incredibly fond of the character and thinking what he had suffered and how that had affected him” brought about this reaction. /// On the 27th of November, just ahead of the film's US release, The New York Times reprinted the original 1942 crossword puzzle from The Daily Telegraph used in recruiting code breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. Entrants who solve the puzzle can mail in their results for a chance to win a trip for two to London and a tour of the famous Bletchley Park facilities. In addition the film's official website allows visitors to unlock exclusive content by solving crossword puzzles that Turing himself had conceived during his lifetime./// In it's review of the film,The New York Times has indicated a parental warning for "advanced mathematics." The complete notice reads, ""The Imitation Game" is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Illicit sex, cataclysmic violence and advanced math, most of it mentioned rather than shown." /// Mark Strong plays the character of Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6. The real Stewart Menzies was actually the inspiration for James Bond's boss, M (as in Menzies). While it's unknown if they ever actually met, Ian Fleming's espionage work during the war means that at the very least he would have been aware of Menzies. /// Alan Turing is shown running on various occasions and although never mentioned in the movie, he was a world class distance runner with a personal marathon time of 2:46:03, achieved in 1946.
T
he film is directed by Norwegian helmer, Morten Tyldum, in what is his English language debut. I rarely found myself overly aware or dazzled by his work but in general he handles the film in a very efficient manner. Probably the most impressive aspect of his direction is his ability to introduce a level of tension to proceedings. While the war may be at the very heart of the film's goings-on you're not going to get any action here; no explosions, no bullets, no bombs. And yet I felt he was still able to imbue the struggles of Turing and co. with a real sense of suspense, as well as a thrilling burst of excitement when they finally achieve their goal and break the unbreakable code.

It may have been Tyldum's English language debut but he at least had some experience back in his native country. For the film's writer, Graham Moore, this was actually the first feature he had ever written. Previous to this he had only written two shorts and one single episode of the “10 Things I Hate About You” TV show. Given that it's his first feature film it perhaps shouldn't come as much of a surprise that his script does have a tendency to hew rather closely to the genre conventions and cliches that are common with films of this nature. There are several scenes in here that we've seen countless times before. Outside of that however I think it's pretty solid work from Moore. He has the film unfold predominantly during the war and focusing on Turing's efforts to crack Enigma. Throughout the film however we get flashbacks to childhood experiences at school and jumps forward that revolve around his prosecution for indecency. This structure of jumping back and forth in time I thought actually worked very well. I also think he captures a decent balance between Turing's personal drama and the wider world issues at play. Though there was the odd occasion where I felt he failed to really dig into the possible drama of certain situations.

Now outside of Benedict Cumberbatch's performance you could argue that the greatest attribute of The Imitation Game is not actually to be found within the film at all. No, perhaps the best part of The Imitation Game is the increased awareness and recognition the film should bring to the story of Alan Turing. In addition to his undeniable genius this man was a true hero. Every so often you get these countdowns of the 'Greatest Ever Britons', with Winston Churchill more often than not topping each and every list. And a large reason for that was the part he played in Britain's resistance and eventual victory during World War II. Well with his decoding of the Enigma machine you could easily argue that Alan Turing was the most important individual of the entire war effort (even Churchill himself said that Turing made the single biggest contribution of anyone to the Allies victory). And yet during his life, and even for a substantial time following his untimely death, he did not receive the recognition he so richly deserved. Instead he was prosecuted for being gay under the charge of 'indecency' and was forced to undergo chemical castration as an alternative to prison until he committed suicide in 1954. It is a truly shameful chapter to a shameful period in Britain's history. And even if this film were made for no other reason than to celebrate this man, then I think that alone would be reason enough.

Conclusion - Outside of those that make up the voting committees on awards shows I'm not sure how many people will see this as a truly 'special' film as may be indicated by its substantial success at those aforementioned award shows. What The Imitation Game does have however is a performance that is certainly approaching being special in a film about a man who was without a doubt special. These two men, Cumberbatch and Turing, make this a worthy and worthwhile experience. And fair play to those involved for not making it as blatant an example of Oscar bait as you may expect. I didn't feel it was anywhere near as pompous or overbearing as you might expect, instead finding it to be a touch more humble and genuine than that.



One of the problems I had with this film that I didn't mention in the movie tab is that the film didn't really delve too much into his homosexuality, instead using it as a plot device to dry over characters and influence the decisions made throughout, he seemed rather asexual actually. I agree that the greatest thing the film does is bring attention to the real man, a disgrace that he received a 'pardon' a few years ago instead of something that actually 'recognises' his achievements.



We've gone on holiday by mistake
Got the score about right Jaydee. I went hoping for another Tinker Tailor but it was just another Hollywood butchery of history full of silly movie cliché's. Like Turing doesn't get on with the Commander at Bletchley Park, the silly moment where Turing is nearly dragged away, the eureka moment in the bar and a few more I could name.
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I'm one of those people who think this is really good BBC drama, however, I'm also someone who thinks that it's probably better than most cinema in terms of quality, so it's not a putdown of any kind. It just doesn't need to be on the big screen, IMO.

Eddie Redmayne may well get an acting Oscar for playing a role which Cumberbatch did on TV ten years ago and, probably, better, so I don't think this is anything new. Just something I only started to notice in the last 5 or 6 years.
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5-time MoFo Award winner.



I was already pretty disinterested in this movie. Now I'm even more disinterested, especially after you just compared it to a TV presentation.

Great review, though, as always.
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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Well it appears that the wall of hypnosis has worked. We got Cap to do the dance!





Well it appears that the wall of hypnosis has worked. We got Cap to do the dance!

It's not the size of the tree that matters, it's how you plant it.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
A couple more of the shorter write-ups I stumbled across recently


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Year of release
1996

Directed by
Tom Hanks

Written by
Tom Hanks

Starring
Tom Everett Scott
Johnathon Schaech
Tom Hanks
Steve Zahn
Liv Tyler
Charlize Theron

That Thing You Do!



Just delightful! Absolutely delightful. This is a film absolutely bursting with enthusiasm and an infectious energy; a film I just couldn't help but get caught up in. Making his directorial debut, Tom Hanks exhibits a great confidence and no short amount of talent behind the camera. In fact the whole production is a testament to Hanks' abilities. Not only did he direct That Thing You Do! but he also wrote the script, wrote much of the music and acted in it. There's also the feeling of great affection for this time and the music of the era. While I don't know for certain I imagine that Hanks has a great fondness for that style of music and The Beatles in particular. The music, much of which Hanks himself wrote, really evokes that time, creating the sensation that he has ripped it straight from the charts of the 1960s. And this is never more true than with the band's signature bubblegum pop hit “That Thing You Do.” It is an infuriatingly catchy tune that worms its way into your mind and refuses to leave, ensuring that I was humming/singing it for the next couple of days. While to evoke the era there is some great period detail when it comes to the costumes and sets which capture the innocence and warmth of that generation for a lovely slice of nostalgia.

None of the film's cast are really stretched all that much by the material; there's no great characterisation or character arcs for them to sink their teeth into. However just about every single one of them delivers a lively and very likeable performance. Steve Zahn is highly entertaining as the clownish Lenny, very much cast as the film's comic relief. Tom Everett Scott impresses in the lead with a good degree of charm and charisma. On a side note I found Scott to be exceptionally similar in appearance to a young Hanks. And then there's Liv Tyler, and well I kind of love Liv Tyler and have done ever since I first saw her in her pointy-eared glory as Arwen. I just find her to be a beautiful, adorable, pure, angelic-like presence. And as if he hadn't already done enough on the production, Tom Hanks also pops up on screen in the role of the group's manager, putting in a great showing whilst displaying a bit more sleeze than is typical for him.

For the most part the film remains a lightweight, breezy endeavour but it does contain the odd hint of a darker undercurrent. It's a rags-to-riches story that highlights some of the pitfalls that comes along with success. It shows how people will come along and try to exploit your talents for their own gain; Hanks' manager has no great designs on helping the young boys achieve a long career, he just wants to squeeze them and their one-hit wonder for as much money as he can before dumping them. It shows how easy it is for bands to implode when one of them is pushed into the spotlight over the others (in this instance Scott's sunglasses-wearing drummer Guy 'Shades' Patterson) and when the band all have their individual priorities whether it be quick success, women, artistic integrity etc. As I said while it may have this more satirical and critical side for the most part That Thing You Do! the film could be described in almost the exact same way as “That Thing You Do!” the song; lightweight, inconsequential, a little cheesy and clichéd. But at the same time its sweet, sunny, fun and immensely likeable.



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Year of release
1978

Directed by
Colin Higgins

Written by
Colin Higgins

Starring
Goldie Hawn
Chevy Chase
Burgess Meredith
Brian Dennehy
Dudley Moore
Rachel Roberts


Foul Play


Even though I was well aware he had absolutely nothing to do with this film whatsoever, when the end credits started rolling I was still half-expecting to see the name of Alfred Hitchcock listed as its director. I found Foul Play to be incredibly reminiscent of one of the Master's movies, so much so that it almost came off as a pastiche of his work. It takes his beloved 'wrong man' storyline (or 'wrong woman' in this case), perhaps throws in a little dash of James Bond in the shape of its colourful villains ('The Albino'. 'The Dwarf', 'Scarface'), and really runs with it all the way to a conclusion that certainly feels like one of Hitch's classic set-piece finales, in particular evoking the ending of The Man Who Knew Too Much.

I will admit that I didn't find it quite as funny as I was expecting. I think that due to its headline pairing of Goldie Hawn and particularly Chevy Chase I was expecting a much more knock-about, slapstick comedy. Instead I found that it played it a good deal straighter than I expected for much of the time, with its comedy often more subtle and the fact that it actually took the time to build a proper mystery surprising me. Which is not to say that it isn't funny, there are a few very amusing episodes throughout; Hawn's vicious assault on a dwarf for example, an incident-packed car chase through the streets of San Francisco or a running joke featuring Dudley Moore, the best part of which is his awesomely sleezy apartment. There's also a very funny throwaway joke that has absolutely nothing to do with the film but it very amusing; it sees two of the sweetest looking old ladies you could ever imagine playing perhaps the rudest game of Scrabble ever played.

Taking the lead and doing a fantastic job in the process is the lovely Goldie Hawn with a typically endearing and likeable performance. I really did rather love her back in the day. Alongside her charming and adorable personality, she had a beautiful face and the large, doe eyes of a damsel in distress that just make you want to save her. Opposite her is Chevy Chase as the police lieutenant investigating her case. This was his feature film debut (discounting Groove Tube which was apparently a collection of skits) and I'm not sure I ever saw him give him a more restrained performance throughout the rest of his career. For someone who usually acts the buffoon he is very much the straight man here. He does have some breezy chemistry with Hawn though. Oh and I need to give a mention to Burgess Meredith who just killed at as Hawn's landlord with a penchant for kung-fu.



Chappie doesn't like the real world
Just read your Guardians of the Galaxy review. It's pretty much spot on how I feel about the movie except I think I like it more than you do.

I went in expecting to love Rocket and Groot, which I did. I was not disappointed in the slightest. In fact, I think they exceeded my expectations a bit. They were more than comic relief and cute characters. They added a lot of heart & soul to the film.

My biggest surprise was Drax. He was a really strong character played perfectly by whoever Dave Bautista is. I didn't know what to think of Chris Pratt going in, but he ended up being another perfect casting choice. He definitely put me in mind of a goofier Han Solo and his charm keeps his character from stepping over the line into obnoxiousness. The four of them make for four fun & interesting characters to root for and go along on the journey with. Which leads me to my one and only gripe. Notice I said four, not five.

There is another character. This character is a she. Of course, even though she is the one that has the most connection to the plot, she is also the most forgettable and expendable character. I've even forgotten her name. This was a good opportunity to finally have a strong and interesting female superhero, but it's wasted. It's not all Saldana's fault but it was up to her to bring something to the role other than being the pretty little love interest and she didn't. Too bad. I know she didn't have the good lines but it's also the actor's job to make the role interesting no matter what they are given. Hopefully, Kare Mara will know how to do that.

Other than that gripe it was everything I wanted from a comic book movie. Right now it sits firmly at my favorite comic book movie and also my favorite of the year.

One other thing. It was nice to see Benicio in a good movie again even if his role was really small. Carina was stupid. I would have traded places with her any day.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Just read your Guardians of the Galaxy review. It's pretty much spot on how I feel about the movie except I think I like it more than you do.
Thank G-Dog. Well as I said in my birthday thread and I think in the review (though I don't remember exactly) I wasn't in the best shape that day both in terms of my mood and how my stomach was acting up that day. Despite that I was still able to greatly enjoy which I think was a huge accomplishment on the film's part given how I was feeling. And I am hopeful that when I rewatch it I will absolutely love it, and that I will perhaps be able to bump it from a
+ to a


Right now it sits firmly at my favorite comic book movie and also my favorite of the year.
Wow great to see how much you've taken to it. Did you just see it for the first time recently or what? For me it's my 2nd favourite film of the year.



Chappie doesn't like the real world
Is she taking over that role specifically?
No. Not that role. She is going to be playing Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four reboot. There just hasn't been an interesting female superhero yet. It's too bad. Not leads anyway. The only exception I can think of is Mystique.

I have some hope for Kate Mara. She brings a lot to her roles.

JayDee, what was your favorite movie of 2014?



Chappie doesn't like the real world
I like the cast at least. I don't know. Chronicle was a good movie, so I have some hope. I'll I know is it can't be worse than the pile o' poo that was the first one.



Nice to see you enjoyed Foul Play, and good to hear you're a fan of Goldie Hawn. I love that movie and she's an absolute doll. Chevy Chase is a tool but he was great back in the day. Dudley Moore was a riot in it too.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
As I mentioned in MM's reviews thread a while back I really struggled with this review. I was working on it off and on for a good 2 or 3 weeks. There were reasons for that; health, depression, time constraints etc. Plus I also left it to write a few other reviews at the same time. Beyond that though I just found it a tough review to get a handle on. Perhaps it's because I wasn't entirely sure what to make of the film for quite a long while. I was just sort of rambling along, looking for a point. In the end I just kind of called time on it and decided enough was enough



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Year of release
2014

Directed by
Alejandro González Iñárritu

Written by
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Nicolás Giacobone
Alexander Dinelaris, Jr.
Armando Bo

Starring
Michael Keaton
Edward Norton
Emma Stone
Naomi Watts
Zach Galifianakis
Andrea Risenborough

Birdman

-

Plot - Riggan Thomas (Keaton) was once one of the world's biggest movie stars, famous for playing the iconic superhero known as Birdman in a blockbusting trilogy on the big screen. But that was many, many years ago. Now washed-up and largely forgotten he puts everything on the line in one final attempt to escape the shadow of Birdman and reinvent himself. He finances, writes, directs and stars in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver's story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. In the lead-up to the show's premiere however there is very little that is running smoothly. One of the production's actors is injured on set and is then replaced by Mike Shiner (Norton), an acclaimed method actor who arguably proves to be more trouble than he's worth. In addition to this headache New York's pre-eminent theatre critic has already decided to destroy the show before she's even seen it, the production's funds are running short, he is having a tough time trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Stone) and his own mental state seems to be very much in question. Riggan's dreams of crafting a massive hit are very much on thin ice; in fact will the show even be able to make it past opening night.

I certainly liked, but did not love Birdman. On a technical level it really is quite a marvel. Between Iñárritu's direction and the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki it is a film of tremendous vibrancy. With the freewheeling camera always on the move in the footsteps of its characters it creates a sensation of great energy, with the digital trickery creating the illusion that the film is unfolding almost exclusively in a single shot. Of course it's not the first time Lubezki has aided in the choreography and creation of such sequences, he was also responsible for the lengthy tracking shots in Children of Men and Gravity. Nor is fabricating a film to resemble being made in a single take an original idea; hell Alfred Hitchcock managed to do it with Rope more than 65 years ago and he didn't have anything close to the technology at his fingertips that Lubezki and Iñárritu have.

Trying to pigeon hole their creation into a definable genre is a near impossible task. Amongst the many labels you could bestow upon it are that it's a satire of actors and celebrity, a backstage expose, a drama, a character study of a desperate man, and a comedy of both a dark and a rather farcical/slapstick nature. On that last point on a couple of occasions the camera pans over to reveal that the film's jazz score is actually being provided by a guy sitting at the drums. It's the kind of gag you'd normally find in the films of Mel Brooks or Abrahams and the Zucker brothers. It is also a film that will delight viewers who enjoy their movies to be open to individual interpretations, and frustrate viewers who crave clarity and obvious answers. Trying to determine just how much of the film is 'real', how much is a delusion, how much is a dream, how much is allegory etc is quite the task and certainly up for debate. Hell I think it's even very possible to make the argument for the entire film being the fever dream of Riggan as he lies prone on a beach thanks to being stung by numerous jellyfish; a brief, almost imperceptible flash of jellyfish on a beach is actually the very first image we see.

Its often been said of South Park that the reason it can get away with such close-to-the-bone, offensive humour is that it doesn't discriminate. It goes after everyone and anything with the same relentless zeal, meaning that no single person or group is actually being singled out. And there's a similar sort of approach present in Birdman in that there's pretty much not a single person involved in the entertainment industry who is given a free pass. Actors are of course the primary target. The majority of these points are made through the character of Riggan (which I'll look at in detail later) but the film's aim extends wider than just him. It takes shots and mocks both 'real' actors who take themselves deadly seriously, and those who have 'sullied' themselves by appearing in superhero films and massive blockbusters. It depicts actors as these vain, narcissistic creatures who crave the love and admiration of strangers. Each actor featured in the film appears to be drastically flawed and broken in some way. There's a terrifically pointed stab at the mindset and personality of actors when Naomi Watt's upset actress asks “why don't I have any self respect?” The answer from her friend and fellow actress is, “because you're an actress, honey.” And it's delivered in such a matter of fact manner as if it's that most obvious thing in the world.

It skewers the journalists who cover the entertainment business, depicting them as either pretentious, philosophy-spouting douchebags or as a gossip-obsessed bimbo whose main line of questioning for Riggan concerns twitter rumours that he had received injections of semen from baby pigs. Then there are the critics, represented by the monstrous and reprehensible Tabitha Dickinson, as played by Lindsay Duncan. She is depicted as this merciless and vindictive bitch who speaks about theatre only in labels who sets out to destroy Riggan. She sees the theatre as this precious thing and is affronted by the notion that this spandex-wearing film star can come in to her world and play. I do think there's a valid point in here about the purpose of criticism, particularly when it comes to New York theatre critics who appear to hold such incredible power. When people have put so much time, effort and money into producing something they care about is it right that another person can come along, type at their laptop for 30 minutes and completely destroy it? And don't think that we the audience get off scot free. We seem to be depicted as suckers, and when Norton's Shiner accosts the audience with the line, “stop looking at the world through cell phone screens” you get the feeling that this may well be Iñárritu talking to us directly. In fact you're left wondering how much of the film is actually just Iñárritu's manifesto of a sorts just dressed up as film.

Beyond its visual creativity and innovations the real selling point for Birdman seemed to be its performances, and almost across the board they are indeed fantastic, with the cast delivering a series of raw and naked showings; in fact in a couple of instance we are talking literally naked. Michael Keaton's history as Batman obviously adds an extra meta-heavy layer to proceedings but he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is no mere example of stunt casting. It is an honest, stripped down performance of an actor who has just put aside any sense of pride to deliver a frequently unflattering performance of sensitivity and humour. His Riggan feels somewhat reminiscent of a drug addict. He's this desperate junkie just trying to get another hit, except in this instance it's not drugs that are the issue but a need for acceptance, relevance and fame. He is desperate to be beloved again. He is a man who measures his self worth by his level of celebrity, as evidenced by his fears that had he died in a plane crash where George Clooney was also on board his death would not have made the front page. Oh yeah and he also appears to be in the midst of a completely mental breakdown.

Just as has been the case for the likes of Adam West, Christopher Reeve and Keaton himself, Riggan is an actor who has become trapped behind the mask and cape he donned for the Birdman series of films. He has been unable to escape the long shadow the character has cast. In fact he quite literally cannot escape him. There's a lovely symbolic shot where Riggan is eyeing himself up in the mirror of his dressing room, and in the background looming over his shoulder is the Birdman character on a poster on his wall. Not only that but through Riggan's delusions the character actually talks to him, representing his ego and self doubts. All he wants is to be seen for the actor and person that he truly is, not just the superhero costume that he donned on screen. There's a lovely little touch stuck on his mirror in his dressing room. It's a little piece of paper or a sticker with the affirmation, “a thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing”

Film Trivia Snippets - To adapt to Iñárritu's rigorous shooting style the cast found themselves having to perform up to 15 pages of dialogue at a time, whilst simultaneously hitting preciously choreographed marks. /// Given Birdman's unusual style of filming with all of the long takes it because a game of sorts to see who made the most mistakes. Edward Norton and Michael Keaton kept a running tally of the flubs made by the actors. Emma Stone made the most mistakes while Zach Galifianakis made the least. /// Just prior to the start of shooting, Iñárritu sent his cast a photo of Philippe Petit doing his famous tightrope walk between the Twin Towers. He told them, “Guys, this is the movie we are doing. If we fall, we fail.” /// Because Birdman was such a heavily rehearsed film that was shot both in long takes and in sequence it meant that the editing process was an astonishingly short two weeks. By comparison it's not unusual for editing on huge blockbusters to run upwards of a year. The film itself was shot in just under a month. /// During a number of the film's backstage corridor scenes you can see that the carpet is the same iconic, hexagonal design as used in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. /// During the scene where Riggan is being interviewed by a group of journalists in his dressing room, he mentions that he hasn't played Birdman on screen since 1992. That was the same year in which Batman Returns was released, the film which marked Keaton's last appearance as Batman. /// The film was shot almost exclusively inside St. James Theatre, long considered one of Broadway's most prestigious venues. As a result the numerous references to the theatre being crummy and a bit of a dump are an inside joke.
Alongside Keaton the other actor who has been getting the majority of the plaudits is Edward Norton and he certainly deserves them. He plays the douchetastic Mike Shiner, and it's a lot of fun to see Norton (a method actor) basically taking the piss out of method actors. In fact given Norton's own reputation for being somewhat difficult to work with he is almost parodying himself. He is somehow able to heighten the already energetic tone of proceedings, and when he largely disappears during the final act the film does miss him. There's also solid support from talented individuals such as Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan. Oh and Zach Galifianakis impresses too in a substantially straighter and more reserved performance than I think he's ever given before.

However the other performance I would really like to focus on is that of Emma Stone as Keaton's daughter. I thought she was just terrific as this extremely damaged, fragile and scarred individual who is just bubbling with anger and resentfulness towards her father. I found her to be very emotionally engaging, with her large evocative eyes proving to be a fantastic weapon in that respect. With the likes of Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love and her time as Gwen Stacey in the Amazing Spider-Man films she was already a proven commodity when it came to comedies with a very likeable personality and fine comic timing. Here she shows however that she has a lot more in her locker than just that, and that she could be a really fine dramatic actress. If Birdman acts as comeback for Michael Keaton, then for Stone it acts like an announcement that she really could be a force to be reckoned with. I know everyone is high on Patricia Arquette taking the Best Supporting Actress award for her commendable efforts in Boyhood, and it does seem a pretty sure bet, but personally I would love to see Stone take it.

It wasn't all plain sailing however. The film is jam-packed with visual tricks and gimmicks, so much so that it more often than not resembles a music video (they still make those right?). However on a number of occasions I wasn't entirely sure what if anything they actually added to the film. As a result they had a tendency to feel like Iñárritu was just showing off at times, resulting in the film coming off as superficially flashy and just a bit smug. While it is a great piece of artistry what does the illusion of filming in a single take actually bring to the film other than the aforementioned sense of energy? Yes it's very cool and terrifically well done, but what's the point? If it had a storytelling reasoning behind it that would be one thing but it just came across as flashy and really draws attention to the technique itself instead of really furthering the story. It would make sense if the film unfolded in real time but that's certainly not the case, it occurs over the course of several days. It works in this fashion during the first act which does largely unfold in real time, with the approach helping to heighten the sense of chaotic urgency and off-the-cuff immediacy involved in creating a production and staging a live performance. It would also make sense if the film was seen entirely through the eyes of Riggan but it doesn't. On a number of occasions the film breaks away from him to focus on the characters that surround him so it doesn't really work there either, not unless the entire film is all the delusion of one single man, namely Riggan.

As for the film's content, Birdman has a lot to say, and I do mean a LOT. To say it's multi-layered doesn't really begin to cover it. Around every single corner is another issue to deal with or another target to take a pointed jab at. At its core is an examination of the life of an actor and the pitfalls and dilemmas the profession can incur. The film posits the question of what is, or what should be, more important to an actor; achieving fame or creating 'art'. What is the difference between an actor and a star? Is it more noble to create work that artistically impresses a small group of people or a film that delights millions? It postulates on the close relationship often found between creating art and madness. Through Riggan we also see how an actor can struggle to escape the shadow cast by an iconic role they have become synonymous with. But that's not all, the film also deals with father-daughter issues, marital strife, the definition of celebrity and its difference from actors, the purpose of critics, the emergence and point of social media, theatre's reliance on big Hollywood stars to sell tickets, the quest for relevance and a few others I'm sure I'm forgetting about.

So as I said it's a hell of a lot. As a result the film tends to feel rather scattershot in its approach, arguably stretching itself too thin to really examine some of those issues in any great depth or detail. With so much to address the film also doesn't have much time for subtlety or subtext, very much spelling everything out for us in quite broad strokes with the characters commonly expounding every single one of their thoughts and feelings in very literal style. Some of the characters and moments are also rather under-developed; I'm thinking predominantly of a lesbian incident that feels kind of pointless. As another flaw I also felt the film dropped the ball a touch when it came to the conclusion. I think it had a really good, maybe even a great ending in its grasp but then it decided to stick around for a further five minutes and rather undermine it.

I'll be intrigued to see what I make of Birdman on repeat viewings. I can certainly see it being the type of film that could grow on me with repeat viewings. The film is a lot to take in, both visually and thematically, in one go. Conversely I could also see myself enjoying it less when I return to it. Without the novelty and wow factor of its visual splendour perhaps it may fail to enthral as much.

Conclusion - Birdman is certainly quite an intriguing, indeed a fascinating film to behold. It's choreography and direction certainly dazzle, as do the performances of its stellar cast. It's an inventive and unique piece of work that has the ability to enthral on occasion. However I'm not so sure it's the masterpiece that many people are proclaiming it. For me personally I'm not sure it was able to fully escape feeling just a bit gimmicky and shallow.