Acting. It’s one of the oldest forms of art, behind writing, painting, sculpture, music, and most non-audiovisual forms of art. However, I’m not sure if acting is an art form, so much as it is an underlying principle of many forms of art. If something has acting in it, it could be considered art. I suppose if you look at it that way, life itself is a form of art. But if acting is measurable, how can it be quantified? Is acting definitive, i.e. something either is acting or it isn’t? Is it quantified merely by the amount of actors in the piece? Or is it quantified by the amount of raw emotion in each performance, the ability of each actor to make the audience feel an intimate connection to their respective characters?

If that is the case, Birdman may have the most acting of any film I’ve ever seen. Full of emotion, intimate shots, symbolism, and perspective, the film sets up a unique and thought-provoking universe that feels both real and dreamlike all at the same time. I gained a newfound respect for just about every actor in this movie, except perhaps for Edward Norton, who had already proven himself a fantastic actor.

Norton’s performance in particular seemed like a self-aware caricature of himself. While Riggan Thompson shares a similar background with Michael Keaton, the similarities between them pretty much stop there. Norton portrays Mike as an extreme method actor, obsessed with making every scene feel “real,” even though his offstage persona, both public and private, is very much fake. As he states himself, the stage is the only place where he isn’t acting.

It’s interesting that, in a film with such unique directing and writing and story and score, I am so focused on the acting. So, I’ll just wrap up what I have to say about the acting. Emma Stone did a great job, Merritt Wever, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan, and Naomi Watts did excellent jobs, Zach Galifianakis blew me away, and none of them matched the career-redefining performance of Michael Keaton, who plays a man on the verge of insanity, who risks his career, family, life, and sanity for a play based on Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Now, on to all that other stuff.

As some of you have probably heard, the film is shot to look like one long, continuous shot, a technique that’s never really been done before. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu has made a name for himself in the past, but his previous films (Babel, Biutiful, 21 Grams) were nothing revolutionary. With this film, Iñarritu has truly created one of the most unique experiences in recent memory, due in part to the film’s tone, a dark comedy with strong tones of magical realism, and the unique score, which consists entirely of drums up until the last few minutes.

The film is also loaded with interesting symbolism, including strategically-placed posters for Man of Steel and Phantom of the Opera. Early on in the film, Keaton tells Amy Ryan a story about being on a turbulent plane ride with George Clooney sitting two seats in front of him, and though everyone else was panicking, he could only think of his daughter (Stone) reading about the crash the next day, and seeing Clooney on the cover instead of Keaton. Is that a metaphor for the Batman franchise? Quite possibly. I highly doubt Iñarritu didn’t write this role with Keaton in mind. There’s actually quite a bit of newspaper-based symbolism in the film. Keaton is upset that Norton steals a story that Keaton had told him the previous night and gets the front page of the newspaper, while Keaton got a small blurb on page 12. Towards the end of the film, Keaton does get the front page… in a piece titled “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” which is the subtitle of the film.

For reasons I’d rather you found out for yourself, it is very fitting for this film to be called “Birdman.” Keaton spends the whole movie wrestling with his demons, which take the form of the Birdman character that Keaton played some 22 years earlier. If I had to make one complaint about the film, which I do, because that’s kind of my thing, it would be that while Norton is perhaps the second-most important character in the movie, most of the subplots revolving around him do not get resolved. Like, he kind of has a thing going on with Emma Stone, and he also kind of has a thing going on with Naomi Watts, who also kind of has a thing going on with Andrea Riseborough, and Emma Stone was supposed to be a lesbian, but she isn’t, but maybe she is… I don’t know. Anything that doesn’t revolve around Keaton sort of falls apart. The other main problem is the obvious parallels with 2010’s Black Swan, which takes place in the same city, in a similar setting, with a similar tone, a character whose demons manifest as a bird, and some degree of lesbian kissing. It seems like it’s probably unintentional, but it’s still a bizarre comparison to be able to make.

Overall, I give Birdman an A+. No movie is without sin, and Birdman succeeds because one can overlook its flaws and be truly immersed in its story, characters, and world, more so than any other movie I’ve seen this year (even The LEGO Movie, which is exhibits quite a few flaws upon a fourth viewing). See it as soon as you can, if you can, and if you can’t, then pirate it or something because this is one of the more fascinating movies I’ve ever seen. Like if you like, follow if you follow, if you’ve got something to say, leave a comment down below, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…

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