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Tastes change. Not just those of the moviegoing public, who’ve gotten so wise to the sales pitches and story formulas that the town has had no choice but to adapt, propelling a self-aware superhero movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” above the likes of Cap and Spidey at the box office, and making sly, meta-minded directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller — responsible for ultra-blockbuster “The Lego Movie” and wink-wink sequel “22 Jump Street” — the hottest helming duo in town. But over time, critics’ tastes change, too.
In February, I relocated from Los Angeles to Paris, to take up my new post as Variety’s chief international film critic. As you can imagine, my diet underwent a radical upheaval — and I’m not talking about crepes and chocolate mousse, either. What I wasn’t prepared for was how swiftly my moviegoing palate might adapt to this new post.
I’d been raised on junk-food American fare, »
- Peter Debruge
Assembling a year-end top-10 list has always been a personal, even self-indulgent, ritual, a way of disguising a whimsical ranking of favorites as a carefully curated declaration of personal taste. At the risk of making things even more solipsistic than usual, let me begin by noting that the fraught relationship between artists and critics provided 2014 with one of its most compelling movie themes, with critics themselves — food critics, art critics, theater critics and, yes, film critics — figuring among the year’s most favored characters. And by favored, of course, I mean mocked, loathed and misunderstood at every turn.
In one of the most talked-about scenes in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s virtuoso backstage farce “Birdman,” a washed-up movie star named Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) comes face to face with a notoriously nasty New York Times theater critic, Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan), who calmly informs him that she’s going to eviscerate his new Broadway play, »
- Justin Chang
As is our annual tradition we like to peruse the credits of the SAG Ensemble nods to see who got left out despite their film's nomination. The Film Experience started this kind of analysis ten years ago when The Aviator had some really dumb exclusions and inclusions but lots of other sites now cover the injustice. We never get credit for starting this line of Norma Rae righteous anger but, that said, at least a lot of people have it now.
Did SAG think her face looked like she'd licked a homelessman's ass?
If you aren't familiar SAG uses a system whereby only actors with solitary title cards are official nominees for the Cast category. This means if you are famous in a bit part and have a good agent you are more likely to be an official nominee than the unknown who delivered a better performance in possibly a »
- NATHANIEL R
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s hysterical parody of art and artistes, provides a whole new direction for the director. Inarritu’s set his po-faced callousness adrift and tackled this tale of a washed-up former superhero movie star attempting a comeback on the New York stage with a wry cynicism that bites, kicks and has acid for blood. We’re on new ground for the director, familiar ground for a re-energised star – Michael Keaton, as ageing has-been Riggan Thomson – and find ourselves guided by Emmanuel Lubezki, perhaps the greatest living DoP (hyperbolic? Not at all). That’s Lubezki »
- Gary Collinson
The plentiful alcohol is served neat but there’s no shortage of ice on the stage in Pam MacKinnon’s blistering production of A Delicate Balance. Edward Albee’s 1966 play, his first of three Pulitzer winners, has aged magnificently. In this deluxe revival, an exemplary cast headed by Glenn Close, John Lithgow and Lindsay Duncan takes its cue from the title, revealing the drama’s psychological complexity with exacting measures of wit, cruelty and contagious fear. For longtime New York theatergoers, the production has to stand against formidable predecessors. The Broadway premiere starred Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn as upper-crust Wasp country-
- David Rooney
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
In an attempt to reinvent himself, a has-been actor, who once played a blockbuster superhero, stages a serious Broadway play with hopes to grab hold of his former glory.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the type of film that only comes around once every several years. It is hilarious and entertaining while at the same time also challenging and dramatic. It is a portrait of a single man that makes bold statements about the current state of our society at large through its use of universal themes.
The film opens with Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) having conversation with his growl of an inner voice while levitating in his shabby, theatre dressing room. The voice, that of his legendary former superhero character alter ego Birdman, »
- Gary Collinson
When it comes to winning Oscars, it helps to be good, but it's notoriously difficult for any film or actor to make headway without an advantageous release date – usually in the fall – A-list stars, and/or a high-profile awards campaign, which in itself costs big bucks. So I asked our forum posters what off-the-radar candidates they feel deserve more recognition than they're likely to get. -Break- Oscars news: 'Interstellar' reax, sneak peeks of 'The Hobbit,' 'Into the Woods' I personally made the case for "Le Week-End," a comedy-drama about the strained relationship between a longtime married couple featuring award-worthy lead performances by Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent, which earned strong reviews back in the spring, as well as "Venus in Fur," Roman Polanski's French-language adaptation of the play, with Emmanuelle Seigner impressively tackling the role that won Nina Arianda a Tony. Who do...' »
Anything Elsa: Radford’s Remake Rough Around the Edges
English director Michael Radford, still best known for earlier works 1984 (1984) and the critical darling Il Postino (1994), arrives with his most notable effort since that Demi Moore diamond heist flick, Flawless (2007) with a remake of Argentinean director Marcos Carnevale’s 2005 film, Elsa & Fred. Featuring two iconic American stars in this rehashed material gains Radford a lot of leverage in what’s otherwise a rather feeble claptrap of mounting cliché, though it will indubitably find a strong herd of champions from older audience members hungry for mainstream-minded cinematic vehicles aimed at their sensibilities and starring familiar faces.
In tax-break friendly New Orleans, octogenarian Fred (Christopher Plummer) has recently lost his wife, and is aggravated this his daughter Lydia (Marcia Gay Harden) has taken it upon herself, and with the help of her smarmy husband (Chris Noth), to relocate him to a smaller apartment. »
- Nicholas Bell
Kill The Moon poses the viewers with a challenging new dilemma. A thought-provoking problem, one that could have eternal repercussions lasting beyond the next millennium.
Is the moon really an egg?
See, here was us humble humans assuming that the moon was made of cheese. Cows would jump over it in books. Benoit and Hobson would take samples for the Moonbase crew sandwiches. And then along comes Kill The Moon with its planet-busting revelation – talk about not making an omelette without breaking a few eggs. There's enough egg here to feed a hungry Mr Strong from the Mr Men books.
Despite this iffy science, Kill The Moon is actually a massive return to form for the latest series of Doctor Who. What starts out as an Hinchcliffe horror homage turns into a moral debate about the ethics of changing the future. The real sting in the tail comes at the »
Actually, that might not be the real title of the movie, as journalists received the following message prior to the screening: "Please use the film's full title, "Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," the first time the film is mentioned in an article. " Meanwhile, on IMDb the title is listed with brackets: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)."
If this seems a mix of confusing and pedantic, then that's in keeping with the tone of much of the film. There's a lot to admire about this work, but it also feels like it's trying too damn hard at times to be quirky and different, right down to the convoluted title.
What's it about?
Plot-wise, we follow a Hollywood star that's looking for a bit of authenticity by staging a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver's »
- Jason Gorber
Chicago – There are parts of “Birdman” that are absolutely breathtaking, in dialogue, performance and visual acumen. Even its subtitle, “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” has a wonderful payoff. Michael Keaton provides an Oscar worthy performance as the title character.
The film is cut as if it were one long take, with cinematic coolness from director Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel”). If you’ve heard about the film, with Michael Keaton portraying a character that once starred in a huge superhero franchise, then you may think it’s autobiographical – substitute Batman for Birdman. But this is a fully realized and complex character that is mostly unlike the real life and affable Keaton. The performance is up close and personal, it goes places that are both dark and light, it mingles with the energy of the supporting cast with vivid and glorious insight. This is the Michael Keaton that proves he can »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
Beverly Hills — Fox Searchlight's "Birdman" flew into limited release this weekend with a fantastic $103,750-per-screen average and plenty of Oscar potential. This comes on the heels of a New York press blitz built around a closing night New York Film Festival berth for the film and with the expectation for limited availability from the ensemble and key crew members during the upcoming awards season (and in lieu of a proper Los Angeles premiere, to boot). At the film's official Academy screening Sunday afternoon, Alejandro González Iñárritu's thematically rich, formally inventive opus drew a sizable turnout (800 or so people in the 1,000-seat venue) and a warm reception that seemed to indicate this one will do well with voters. Nevertheless, I'm mostly against taking reportage from Academy screenings to heart. So take any or all of this with a grain of salt. Generally this kind of thing is only an element »
- Kristopher Tapley
An abridged version of this review was originally posted in Nathaniel's weekly column at Towleroad. It is reposted here, with their permission.
A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:
"A thing is a thing. Not what is said of that thing."
Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of Birdman, Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as befits its duality perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what is film criticism or its more popular cousin, »
- NATHANIEL R
Birdman, out Friday at the specialty box office in New York and Los Angeles, follows Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a has-been blockbuster superhero who is about to unveil a Broadway play in which he wrote, directed and stars, with hopes that the risk will bring him renewed acclaim and respectability. The Alejandro G. Inarritu dark comedy from Fox Searchlight and New Regency also stars Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Lindsay Duncan, and is made to appear to be lensed with one continuous shot. Read what top critics are saying about
- Ashley Lee
After a brief, sci-fi-style opening of a comet hurtling through the atmosphere, Birdman begins with a through-the-door view of Michael Keaton, seen from the back sitting cross-legged in a shabby Broadway dressing room, wearing nothing but white briefs and perched midair several feet above the furniture. He rotates to set his feet on the floor and with pointed finger sends a vase gliding across a table. The unbroken sequence tells us two things with economy and grace: That the camera will be our guide through Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s backstage tale, and that the story itself won’t be bound by realism. It will instead unfold with the unsettled and unsettling restlessness of a troubled soul in search of a resting place.
Our uneasy pilgrim is Riggan Thomson, an action-movie star whose sell-by date has long since passed. As fully embodied by Keaton, his once virile visage now seems dessicated »
- Jeremy Gerard
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
His use of natural lighting, the gorgeous compositions he creates often on the fly, those long takes. This is what we talk about when we talk about Emmanuel Lubezki, the Mexican cinematographer responsible for such arresting imagery in the films of Terrence Malick (The New World, The Tree of Life, To the Wonder), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Y tu mamá también, Gravity), the Brothers Coen (Burn After Reading), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Anna”, a short in the anthology To Each His Own Cinema). He is the only cinematographer in recent memory, possibly next to Roger Deakins, that pushes the form to its limits and has name recognition for such. The naturalistic beauty of The Tree of Life was nothing compared to the – wait for it – physics-defying work in Gravity. And here he is again, »
- Kyle Turner
Michael Keaton leads and ensemble cast in Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.
Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor who rose to fame as masked superhero Birdman but has since seen the spotlight fade on his career. In order to stage a comeback, Thompson mounts a Broadway play as the writer-director-star in a move that comes with its own set of struggles. As the play approaches opening night, Thomson battles all manner of egos – his own and his stage co-stars including the egotistical Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) – as well as family troubles involving his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), and a theatre critic who has it out for his play.
While we wouldn’t go as far to say that Keaton is as washed-up as his on-screen counterpart, there’s more than a few similarities between his self-deprecating performance as Thomson and his past as Tim Burton’s Batman.
- Rachel West
By Anjelica Oswald
Every year, the glittering lights and unique experience of Broadway lures Hollywood actors to the East Coast; some are veterans of the stage and others are making their Broadway debut. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), James Franco (This is the End) and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) all made their Broadway debuts earlier this year, with O’Dowd receiving a Tony nomination for Of Mice and Men and Cranston winning a Tony for All The Way. Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), who hadn’t been on Broadway since his 2004 run in Assassins, scored his first Tony nomination and win for Hedwig and the Angry Inch this summer.
The Broadway lineup for the end of the year hosts a number of Hollywood actors making their Broadway debuts, and they are joined by an illustrious group of Broadway vets returning to the stage.
- Anjelica Oswald
Glenn Whipp says to "think again" if you believe the Oscar race for Best Actress is "thin" this year. He partially blames "the allure of the new, with some pundits flailing their arms each time an unseen movie debuts." A few days ago, Julianne Moore ("Stil Alice") jumped to the tops of prediction lists strictly because she came out of nowhere and was the most recent person to be screened. Along with Moore, Reese Witherspoon ("Wild") and Felicity Jones ("The Theory of Everything") are strong possible choices. He also adds in the lesser-viewed Gugu Mbatha-Raw ("Belle"), Marion Cotillard ("The Immigrant"), Lindsay Duncan ("Le Week-End"), and Jenny Slate ("Obvious Child") to consider. L.A. Times -Break- Join the lively film and TV discussions going on right now in the Gold Derby message boards Gregory Ellwood provides eight important revelations after Venice, Telluride, and »
Stone, sporting a newly cropped hairdo, looked elegant in an emerald green Valentino couture gown, while co-star Keaton arrived in a black tuxedo.
The were joined by fellow Birdman stars including Edward Norton, with wife Shauna Robertson, and Andrea Riseborough, who looked dramatic in a black high-neck gothic-style dress with a silver cross, while wearing her hair up in a bouffant quiff.
Amy Ryan, who stars as Keaton's character's long-suffering ex-wife, was also in attendance, looking understated in a strapless navy crepe gown.
He attempts to recapture the spotlight by starring in a Broadway play, but the lines between reality and fiction begin to blur.
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