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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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A washed-up superhero actor attempts to revive his fading career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway production.
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Won 4 Oscars. Another 192 wins & 279 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Keaton ... Riggan
Emma Stone ... Sam
Kenny Chin ... Korean Grocer
Jamahl Garrison-Lowe Jamahl Garrison-Lowe ... Stagehand (Daniel)
Zach Galifianakis ... Jake
Naomi Watts ... Lesley
Jeremy Shamos ... Ralph
Andrea Riseborough ... Laura
Katherine O'Sullivan ... Costume Assistant
Damian Young ... Gabriel
Keenan Shimizu Keenan Shimizu ... Han
Akira Ito ... Translator
Natalie Gold ... Clara
Merritt Wever ... Annie
Edward Norton ... Mike
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Storyline

Actor Riggan Thomson is most famous for his movie role from over twenty years ago of the comic book superhero Birdman in the blockbuster movie of the same name and its two equally popular sequels. His association with the role took over his life, where Birdman is more renowned than "Riggan Thomson" the actor. Now past middle age, Riggan is trying to establish himself as a true artist by writing, directing, starring in and co-producing with his best friend Jake what is his Broadway debut, an adaptation of Raymond Carver's story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He is staking his name, what little artistic reputation that comes with that name and his life savings on the project, and as such will do anything needed to make the play a success. As he and Jake go through the process of the previews toward opening night, Riggan runs into several issues: needing to find a replacement for the integral supporting male role the night before the first preview; hiring the talented ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 November 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$18,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$424,397, 19 October 2014

Gross USA:

$42,340,598

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$103,215,094
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | Datasat

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First Best Picture Oscar winner with parentheses in its title. See more »

Goofs

The drum set shown in the film has fewer pieces than the one that is heard. The film set has no floor tom; only snare, bass and high tom. It also has fewer cymbals; with only a hi-hat and ride cymbal, the recorded kit has at least three more (splash, crash and china cymbals). The scene where the drums are played in the green room matches perfectly, as none of the excluded pieces are played in the audio, until Riggan passes by. As the drums are seen being played behind him, they are clearly mismatched with the audio, and pieces like the floor tom are played without being shown. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Young Birdman: How did we end up here? This place is horrible. Smells like balls. We don't belong here.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Sundance TV recently released an edited version which removes the swearing and zooms in the scene it shows Edward Norton's butt so it is not shown. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Dwayne Johnson/George Ezra (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27 (Movements 1 and 2) Largo, Allegro Moderato
Composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Performed by Neville Marriner and Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (as Stutgart Radio Symphony)
Courtesy of Naxos of America, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A tour de force in acting with a highly quotable script
24 January 2015 | by bob-the-movie-manSee all my reviews

At one point in Birdman "or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)", Michael Keaton as 'celebrity turned serious actor' Riggan Thomson rants at a vicious New York Times critic Tabitha (the excellent Lindsay Duncan – – "About Time"; "Dr Who: Waters of Mars") about how all critics lamely fall on "labels" and "comparisons" to describe their subjects, never getting to the guts of how the art made them actually FEEL. And it made me FEEL like he was talking directly to me! So how did Birdman make me feel? What would be the snappy tag lines I would put on the poster?

"Astonished"; "Deeply impressed"; "Full of wonder"; "Slightly irritating" (that one probably wouldn't make the poster).

Birdman is definitely not a mainstream film, and it is likely to baffle and frustrate audiences almost as much as last year's almost impenetrable "Under the Skin". Riggan Thomson is part long-in-the-tooth actor and part superhero, at least in his fevered mind if not in reality. Surfing the C-list celebrity ocean following past glories in 'Birdman', 'Birdman 2′ and 'Birdman 3 (The Quest for Peace)', Thomson needs to prove to himself, his inner daemons and the world in general that he is a "real actor" by staging a play on Broadway. (In this regard, following Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman", this is almost art imitating life for Keaton). For this heroic effort he chooses a short play by Raymond Carver called "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" adapting it to allow himself to shine in the spotlight.

Thomson provides Broadway debuts for friend Lesley (Naomi Watts; "King Kong"; "The Impossible") and crazy girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough; "Oblivion"; "Brighton Rock"), but is less than impressed with his male co-star. 'Birdman' exits the guy with an "accident", but unfortunately that introduces a cuckoo into the acting nest in the form of famous actor Mike (Edward Norton), who risks completely upstaging Thomson with his theatrical brilliance.

This introduction leads to one of the best laugh-out-loud lines of dialogue so far in 2015: "How do you know Mike Shiner?" asks Keaton; "We share a vagina" replies Watts.

Again with this introduction, we see art imitating life, since Norton's performance (particularly in the first reel of the film) genuinely does risk outshining Keaton, despite all of his Oscar hype. I thought after "Whiplash" my choice for Best Supporting Actor was fairly safe with J.K Thompson . but after seeing Norton's performance I could see the race as much closer.

Overall though this remains Keaton's film, and his performance is remarkable in an extremely varied and challenging role.

Also remarkable is the gorgeously kooky Emma Stone as his sexually-louche and druggie daughter-cum-assistant Sam. This is particularly true in one astonishingly good rant to camera, where Stone delivers what could be termed an "Anne Hathaway Les Miserable" moment in its Oscar-worthyness. In each film, Stone is just getting better and better. I have said it before and will say it again, Stone is a future Streep in the making.

As the previews of the play progress towards a dramatic opening night, Thomson's grip on reality continues to unravel, as pressures get forced on him from all sides: artistic via Shiner; financial via his managerial colleague Jake (a dramatically better Zach Galifianakis than in the "Hangover" series); and via parental guilt over the relationship with his daughter. His outbursts both as Thomson and (down two octaves) Birdman become more and more extreme and paranoid – "I'm a f****** trivial pursuit question" he rants at one point while destroying his dressing room in rock group style.

The startlingly daring drum soundtrack by Antonio Sanchez actually counterpoints the action extremely well. Breaking down the fourth wall, the drummer keeps randomly appearing in a most surprising manner.

So what of the "Slightly irritating" poster quote? Director Alejandro González Iñárritu undoubtedly delivers a tour de force of a film; an instant classic that will be poured over by film students for years to come. However, he delivers the whole film in the style of one continuous take (give or take the odd time lapse sequence). And whilst this was entertaining to start with, I personally started to find it tiresome and irritating by the end of the film. Like Hitchcock's "Rope", also filmed in this way, you are constantly distracted by looking for where the edits actually fall, sometimes seeing what looks to be an inconsistent couple of frames where perhaps no cut existed in the first place! Worthy of note though was Emmanuel Lubezki ("Gravity") who's cinematography also bore many similarities to Hitchcock classic effects, including long drifting panning shots that appear to seamlessly melt through metal railings etc. Very impressive.

In summary, this is a must see for lovers of the art of filmmaking, and Birdman should feature very strongly at the Oscars in a month's time.

(If you enjoyed this review please see past reviews at bob-the-movie-man.com and enter your email on the site to receive future posts. Thanks.)


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