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The thing with feathers

The artist and the self

Birdman: Keaton returns, but don’t call it a comeback
Birdman: Keaton returns, but don’t call it a comeback

Michael Keaton used to be a box-office superstar, in part because he played Batman in two films. Now he’s starring in much artier fare: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s darkly comic backstage drama Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Keaton plays Riggan, a guy who used to be a box-office superstar, in part because he played Birdman in three films. (Art improves on life?) Now Riggan is starring in much artier fare: a stage dramatization of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

Movie

Birdman **

thumbnail

Michael Keaton plays Riggan, a guy who used to be a box-office superstar, in part because he played Birdman in three films. (Art improving on life?) Now Riggan (like Keaton) is starring in much artier fare. Sadly, everything is going wrong, and he is routinely haunted by his feathery, famous alter-ego: rumbling about past glories and present humiliations, urging him to become the superhero he once was and maybe could be again. The action covers the preview performances running up to the show’s premiere, and its devotion to showbiz types and clichés is positively wondrous. Director Alejandro Iñárritu (who also co-wrote) is having great fun as he winds his camera through the labyrinthine bowels of the theater, and he wants you to have fun, too. Besides, the clichéd action isn’t the point. The point is the artist and the self he is forever attempting to express, his struggle to slip free of history’s obliterating grip and soar toward heaven and immortality. It’s a hoot. (Mostly, anyway. There are some draggy bits that even the thump-a-drum score cannot enliven.)

Find showtimes

It’s a passion project, a late-career bid to be taken seriously again, or at least to be noticed. For Keaton or for Riggan? Well, that’s your call, though Keaton certainly comes off better as an actor. Riggan is a man on the edge: everything, absolutely everything, is going wrong in his life. Plus, he’s routinely haunted by his feathery, famous alter-ego: rumbling about past glories and present humiliations, urging him to become the superhero he once was and maybe could be again. It’s tough to portray a man like that without slipping into manic mannerism; Keaton is up to the job.

The action covers the preview performances running up to the show’s premiere, and its devotion to showbiz types and clichés is positively wondrous. For a while, I tried to write them all down, but it got distracting. Besides, they didn’t bother me much, mostly because Innaritu (who also co-wrote) seems so sweetly fond of them. He’s having fun as he winds his camera through the labyrinthine bowels of the theater like a starstruck fly, and he wants you to have fun, too. Just try not to grin when star actress Naomi Watts talks about still being the little girl who always wanted to be an actress, or when troubled daughter Emma Stone lays into Riggan about the folly of his artistic self-importance, or when genius actor Ed Norton says that the only time he can be himself is when he’s onstage. Or, or, or...

Besides, the clichéd action isn’t the point. The point is the artist and the self he is forever attempting to express, the war he is waging on his own brief insignificance, his mighty struggle to slip free of history’s obliterating grip and soar toward heaven and immortality. It’s a hoot. (Mostly, anyway. There are some draggy bits that even the thump-a-drum score cannot enliven.)

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Driving a plane on Interstate 5, buying liquor in Tijuana

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Birdman: Keaton returns, but don’t call it a comeback
Birdman: Keaton returns, but don’t call it a comeback

Michael Keaton used to be a box-office superstar, in part because he played Batman in two films. Now he’s starring in much artier fare: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s darkly comic backstage drama Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Keaton plays Riggan, a guy who used to be a box-office superstar, in part because he played Birdman in three films. (Art improves on life?) Now Riggan is starring in much artier fare: a stage dramatization of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

Movie

Birdman **

thumbnail

Michael Keaton plays Riggan, a guy who used to be a box-office superstar, in part because he played Birdman in three films. (Art improving on life?) Now Riggan (like Keaton) is starring in much artier fare. Sadly, everything is going wrong, and he is routinely haunted by his feathery, famous alter-ego: rumbling about past glories and present humiliations, urging him to become the superhero he once was and maybe could be again. The action covers the preview performances running up to the show’s premiere, and its devotion to showbiz types and clichés is positively wondrous. Director Alejandro Iñárritu (who also co-wrote) is having great fun as he winds his camera through the labyrinthine bowels of the theater, and he wants you to have fun, too. Besides, the clichéd action isn’t the point. The point is the artist and the self he is forever attempting to express, his struggle to slip free of history’s obliterating grip and soar toward heaven and immortality. It’s a hoot. (Mostly, anyway. There are some draggy bits that even the thump-a-drum score cannot enliven.)

Find showtimes

It’s a passion project, a late-career bid to be taken seriously again, or at least to be noticed. For Keaton or for Riggan? Well, that’s your call, though Keaton certainly comes off better as an actor. Riggan is a man on the edge: everything, absolutely everything, is going wrong in his life. Plus, he’s routinely haunted by his feathery, famous alter-ego: rumbling about past glories and present humiliations, urging him to become the superhero he once was and maybe could be again. It’s tough to portray a man like that without slipping into manic mannerism; Keaton is up to the job.

The action covers the preview performances running up to the show’s premiere, and its devotion to showbiz types and clichés is positively wondrous. For a while, I tried to write them all down, but it got distracting. Besides, they didn’t bother me much, mostly because Innaritu (who also co-wrote) seems so sweetly fond of them. He’s having fun as he winds his camera through the labyrinthine bowels of the theater like a starstruck fly, and he wants you to have fun, too. Just try not to grin when star actress Naomi Watts talks about still being the little girl who always wanted to be an actress, or when troubled daughter Emma Stone lays into Riggan about the folly of his artistic self-importance, or when genius actor Ed Norton says that the only time he can be himself is when he’s onstage. Or, or, or...

Besides, the clichéd action isn’t the point. The point is the artist and the self he is forever attempting to express, the war he is waging on his own brief insignificance, his mighty struggle to slip free of history’s obliterating grip and soar toward heaven and immortality. It’s a hoot. (Mostly, anyway. There are some draggy bits that even the thump-a-drum score cannot enliven.)

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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