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Saturday
Feb282015

Birdman Post-Mortem

BEST PICTURE | BEST DIRECTOR | BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | BEST CINEMATOGRAPHYWe're nearly a week out from Birdman's big win and as we close out 2014 coverage (I'm hurrying backstage with our awards and the podcast Sunday night is our Oscar finale) I'm feeling more and more satisfied with the way everything panned out. Oh sure the Julianne Moore Coronation kept my mood up but there were other things to cherish.

Share the wealth years are usually more satisfying not to mention more representative of a film year and all the Best Pictures took a statue (or more) home. And with Boyhood winning so many prizes on the way to Oscar, well that labor of love got plentiful rewards too. I know those awards weren't the Oscar but what's the point of having all of these awards if they all go to the same things. We should celebrate the teensy tiny bit of diversity of wins when they happen.

My delight in Birdman's win is, of course, in direct opposition to what seems to be the majority of critics, which is odd since the film had strong reviews originally. The internet was downright furious when it took Best Picture but when isn't the internet furious, you know?

Depression, navel-gazing and recommended reads after the jump...

First preview tomorrow...

Here we go!

 

People are so angry all the time. Even about things they should be happy about like stars speaking out on behalf of socially just causes like wage equality. I think Nick was wise to stay away from a lot of it on the following day. He wrote in his brief Oscar recap:

When my third-favorite contender is as wonderful as this movie is, and then it wins, we're talking about a really great Oscars. I get in lots of snits about movies that many people think I'm criticizing too harshly or taking too personally, including friends and regular readers. I totally get it. I can only say that it makes perfect sense to me that Birdman would be polarizing but am nonetheless flummoxed by the vitriol it inspires among detractors.  If I'm being honest, most "takedowns" I've read seem awfully willing to omit strong implications of the camera's heightened and subjective orientation, or to take for granted that Birdman is besotted with Riggan, or that we're meant to discount the other characters' critiques, or that the film needs to be clearer about the cogency or wretchedness of his play.  None of that washes with me.  Furthermore, I cannot imagine a convincing analysis of Hollywood or of the Oscars where Birdman, of all things, represents the villain.  Movie sites and social media were already flooded with such position-taking even before it pipped the much-beloved Boyhood for these top prizes, which is why I've stayed out of my Twitter timeline and mostly off the web for the past day.  In Valerie Cherish voice, "I don't need to read that!"

I'm with Nick. On all of that.

And what's more I think the win will actually age well primarily because Birdman is so atypical an Oscar top dog. Don't believe anything you read to the contrary online because they haven't done their homework. Yes, yes, there have been two recent films about Hollywood that have won but that's largely cosmetic. I'm sorry but Argo, The Artist and Birdman are all three very different kinds of films.  While movies about showbiz do pepper Oscar's nomination history they're hardly the standard for winning. And even if that trio represent a new typical of navel-gazing and desperate optimism of showbiz redemption, at least it's not the old typical if you catch my drift. Even if it doesn't become a "classic" in the future it will definitely be a curio and that's MUCH better than just being a generic Best Picture winner.

Atypical means that, to some degree, the Academy was paying attention to what they were watching and thinking about it (as they always should). Birdman is weird in both structure, performance, and topic. It's hilarious but sad, manic but contained, technically virtuosic but old school (the theatah!), masculine but concerned with women (it's worth noting that it was the only best picture with more than one or two key female characters and it had five!), and hard to pin down and categorize in a lot of ways.

A thing is a thing. not what is said of that thing"

And this is very healthy for the Oscars. The movie certainly says more about the "right now" than any of the other Best Pictures nominated apart from American Sniper and Selma, neither of which were set in 'the now' (not that that always matters when speaking to it) and both of which would have made far more typical winners given Oscar's overall preference for war movies and social issue movies set in the past.

One of the drawbacks of Oscar season is that it tends to do this, create these false dichotomies where there are only GREAT MASTERWORKS and TERRIBLE LOATHSOME movies and nothing inbetween where before there might have been a whole bunch of good-to-great and flawed-but-interesting movies. But the love / hate fever just comes with the territory. So we take comfort in the passage of time which eventually divvies the movies up into classics, curios, snoozers, and dross. Alejandro González Iñárritu understands that too, including the 'time will tell' dynamic into his acceptance speech.

Earlier this week I read a wonderful piece by Sebastian Nebel that looked at a surprisingly dense topic within Birdman which is almost never talked about probably because the film's dialogue on art vs commerce and fame versus "relevance" and "going viral" is so much flashier and easier to process. He was looking at the the way film grapples with depression and the suicidal impulse:

I am neither artist nor critic, as much as I like to pretend to be either at times. So while I recognize that “Birdman” has something to say on these subjects, it’s not saying it to me, at least not directly.

We latch onto the things we relate to, we recognize. What I saw in “Birdman” was a deeply troubled man who finds himself so tortured by depression – in his case personified by a long gone superhero alter ego that serves as constant reminder of the fame, the power, the endless possibilities that the march of time has taken from him – that he desperately clings to a last-ditch effort to revive some of the past’s glory, only to find that this, too, does not liberate him from his mental anguish.

It's a really interesting tough POV so you should go read it.

We hope you enjoyed our Oscar week coverage and that you'll be back Sunday evening for the Podcast Season Finale! 

Pssst. I also think you will LOVE the big piece that goes up tomorrow. But other than those two things I shall be collapsing for next couple of days I think. Have earned it. Have also earned your "like" on Facebook and you signing up for the forthcoming weekly newsletter don't you think?

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Reader Comments (51)

Maggie Smith's Lady in the Van trailer is out :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OA8tMziteZM

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I know what you mean. I went to its IMDB page, you have no idea how many people hate this movie and apply the tired old "pretentious" label on it, but that happens every time a movie wins Best Picture. I'm watching it again right now and I still think it's a pretty unique film to call a Best Picture (even though I was prepared for Boyhood, which also felt just right as a winner).

Here in Mexico everyone is still celebrating the film's win and even wearing Sean Penn's comment before announcing the win as a badge of honor (I'm not kidding, the crowd I saw the Oscars with here in Mexico loved that line).

I do feel bad for Boyhood, but you're right, the film was rewarded pretty much everywhere else and Richard Linklater (a director I've become obsessed with in the last few months) is now a nominee for Best Director, so that's definitely worth celebrating (so is Wes Anderson, and I'm sure they'll both win eventually).

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

This is such a beautiful summation of all the frustrations and strong feelings I've had the last week and change. Thank you!

And also, to me, the theme in Birdman of depression was far more dominant than the stardom/relevance theme, which struck me as more of a thematic serving dish than the meat and potatoes.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Co-sign every single word. This past few days have been such a gruesomely unenlightening experience in confronting the intense anger of the film internet, to the point where I've given serious thought to taking a week off to recharge my batteries and convince myself that there exist, somewhere, people who actually like movies. In lieu of doing that, reading and re-reading this beautifully sensible and clear post will do much the same job, so thank you.

February 28, 2015 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

As a big fan of Birdman's triumph, I thank you for this. The only outcomes at the end of the evening that would have delighted me more would have involved The Grand Budapest Hotel or Selma. In any event, I restricted my post-mortem surfing to this site and InContention, so I missed most of the (out)rage.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

but what if you hated it before the oscars?

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

"The movie certainly says more about the "right now" than any of the other Best Pictures nominated apart from American Sniper and Selma"

I certainly don't see how Birdman says any more about the 'right now' than Boyhood does. I'd argue completely the opposite.

I very much like Birdman and this win hasn't brought down my opinion of it in any way. But it was just devastating to see Boyhood come so close and lose.

It's not like Brokeback losing to Trash or anything. It's more like if Brokeback lost to Capote - like Birdman, Capote is an excellent film in its own right but Brokeback/Boyhood are just on a whole other level, both landmarks in cinema, profoundly wise and sufficiently accessible to Ampass middlebrow tastes to make their respective BP losses kinda galling.

However, if Birdman had been the prohibitive BP favourite all along, and Boyhood was an outsider, the latter's loss probably wouldn't have stung at all. eg. It didn't bother me at all when (the perfectly delightful and suddenly underrated) The Artist won, even though it actually beat the much superior Tree of Life.

Anyway, back to Julianne.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Great post, and I love Sebatian Nebel's piece. I *loved* Birdman. And I loved The Artist, and Argo. The same thing happened all three times for me: critics praised them online like there was no tomorrow, it made me super excited to see the films, saw them and loved them, they got nominated for Oscars, critics started hating them. I don't understand why the majority of film critics turn on a movie they loved three months ago just because it starts winning stuff. There were at least 4 films this year (imo - Birdman, Boyhood, Grand Budapest, Selma) that would have been worthy winners. Personally, I'd have been happy with any except American Sniper. When are we ever that lucky with the Oscars?!

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKiki

I loved both Boyhood and Birdman, wanted them to split the top prizes, and was amazed that the discussion came down to the two of them in the end. The academy for all its flaws has become rather good at picking artistic achievements since the preferential ballot was instituted. The online trolling against Birdman is upsetting in the way that so many things online are these days--sound and fury signifying next to nothing.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan Francinema

TFE is the oasis in the middle of an Internet desert.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterwill h

whateva, whateva, I am glad that Birdman wins! (in Cartman's voice)

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterfadhil

If Linklater had won at least one award, Birdman wouldn't be so hated right now on the Internet.
It will cool down. It's a worthy winner. As someone who has been working in the theater, I find it refreshing and spot on. Totally defines our era. As a kid raised in the 80s, I'm not used to the fact that the Academy voters can be so daring. Hope they stay that way for many years.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I'll be honest. Birdman was my fourth favourite of the best picture nominees (after Budapest, Boyhood and Selma) but I had to remind myself not to be down on it as a winner for the reasons Nathaniel listed.

Part of it, of course, was that neither Linklater nor Anderson took home anything for their beautifully personal visions (as Peggy Sue stated). Part of it was that I HATED Innaritu's work before - Babel, Biutiful, 21 Grams, Amores Perros - I loathe all these films. Whereas Anderson and Linklater had that filmmography for that AMPAS boost, Innaritu did not.

Truthfully, it sorta makes me hate Oscar season, how I struggle to divorce my reaction to a film from the race itself.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

When I went to bed after the Oscars, I was disappointed that we didn't get Linklater or Wes on stage for anything. This is not Birdman's fault, but, you know.
So I had a little mental convo with myself to remind myself that I LIKE Birdman. In spite of some faults that are only natural in a messy, little movie, I liked it. And I started to go through my problems with it.
But my brain, wise organ that it is, wasn't having it, and instead started going through all the things I really liked! The soundtrack, the crazy, living theatre set, the underpants trip outside of it, the hilariously bad Carver play (even the choice of Carver is pretty sly), a great, funny role for Andrea Riseborough, some very, funny one-liners, Norton (his oscar clip, in particular), Zach and Naomi and the scenes with Lindsay Duncan and the film's facility, by virtue of comedy, for letting the viewer take several opinions on what it is that Riggan has earned there.
I still think directing and writing awards are generous here, but what a fun best picture choice!

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Goran got it right.

For some of us, the Linklater and Anderson shut-outs were quite painful. It doesn't have anything to do with manufactured Internet outrage. These were two directors we had loved for a long time, they had arguably hit their career highs, and it seemed like they were finally going to win Oscars, only to have that opportunity taken away because AMPAS decided Inarritu needed three. And unlike some others, I frankly don't know that they'll ever win. If Kubrick and Altman never did, why would Linklater (when he couldn't win for a film that the critics declared a masterpiece) and Anderson (for a film that won four other Oscars)?

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I'm sure at least half the people outraged on Oscar night for BIRDMAN's BP win was really outraged more for Linklater and/or Anderson walking home empty-handed (as a few people above already mentioned). A rational film fan will get over it eventually since they know a) awards aren't rational and b) it's not BIRDMAN's fault at all. But we're all human and dammit if I didn't curse Iñárritu a thousand times when Linklater lost.

Also there were probably some David vs Goliath thing happening as well with IFC vs Fox Searchlight as the two films distributors (though it's really more like David vs. David in steroids). I mean IFC probably didn't have much budget left to devote to the final phase of awards season (and was greatly helped by critics love during the first phase). This is mostly conjecture of course as I don't have either companies' financial reports in front of me.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Damn. I was doing so well and recovering from awards season, but Suzanne's last sentence is a new dagger in my heart...

If Kubrick and Altman never did, why would Linklater (when he couldn't win for a film that the critics declared a masterpiece) and Anderson (for a film that won four other Oscars)?

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

It's so easy in the heat of the Oscar Season to get too close to the fire and blind themselves within the dynamics of a for/against stance. Which is why whether one loves/hates Boyhood, Birdman or The Grand Budapest Hotel, it's always wise to take a step back to remind oneself that a high concept film was going to triumph. Regardless of the outcome, it's inventive art that wins.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKai Lor

Nathaniel: As always I admire your common sense and sense of proportion. I spent the last few days avoiding the ridiculous outrage on the internet on several subjects.

" There were at least 4 films this year (imo - Birdman, Boyhood, Grand Budapest, Selma) that would have been worthy winners."
@Kiki: That sums up my view as well, my personal favourite GBH took several awards that made me very happy. I was delighted that the awards were spread around. There is no need to dismiss "Birdman" as unworthy, I think it will always be an interesting film to see.
Not everyone gets a statue - that's the way it works every year.

BTW - I would even like to see NPH back as a host, (without magic tricks & with better writers.) Let's not forget how wonderful those speeches were. I just listened to an interview on the BBC with Sigourney Weaver and she is thrilled that Patricia Arquette spoke up for equal pay - she said it's so bad in Hollywood that women should probably organize. Hey Internet - It's not just about "Boyhood" people, the world is round.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

To those frustrated that Inarritu took three... i get it and it would have been nice to see Linklater and Anderson (both of whom i have always preferred as filmmakers -- this is the only Inarritu i've ever loved!) have statues but honestly if he hadn't produced and written it, he would only have one. It's just weird that he did everything. but i guess a lot of directors do now. so the trophy haul becomes a little more like the Grammys for one person.

ladyedith -- appreciated. of course I did not have that sense of proportion when Brokeback lost but Crash wasn't a fascinating daring alternative so sometimes I do freak out. I just wouldn't freak out if the rival were really talented

goran -- i get that too! that makes a lot of sense to me actually. I don't love BOYHOOD that much (love it about the same as birdman) but it makes the reaction easier to understand.

February 28, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm super glad Birdman won. To me it's highly superior in every way to Boyhood. Without Arquette and Hawke, there wouldn't be much to it, IMO. It says "look at his cool view master toy I found, it's still in the box!", but it never opens the box and plays with it. It still is a good movie and a nice experiment, but the Before movies capture human relationships much better.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I'm in the camp of not being happy with three Oscars to Inarritu. One would have been more than enough. Anderson has now lost six times, and I think Linklater five. I don't have confidence we'll necessarily see them on the Oscar podium ever. I do like Birdman but I think the in your face cinematic style may not age well.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel Oak

Brilliant post Nathaniel. Thank you for keeping The Film Experience one of the few bastions of sanity on the internet.

Suzanne - I wanted Wes to win as much as anyone, but someone losing an Oscar should never be "painful." They're just the Oscars.

Tim - I've also considered taking a regularly scheduled week off the internet the week after the Oscars. I'm kinda looking forward to doing so next year. Don't you know that on the internet, the contest for biggest movie lover is decided by who hates the most movies and the most passionately?

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRobert A

As someone who hated Birdman with every fiber of my being I will definitely agree that the swivel over to my side (aka the right side) on the film by a crush of loud critical voices (what other sort is there) became more and more pronounced as the Oscar season wore on. Yes, I'm sure some people were caught up in the sports-ish nature of it all, as usual, since The Oscars are by nature of handing a "Best" trophy to a single winner per category, exactly that.

But since it's also obvious to the sane among us that "the other guy's team" Boyhood also sucked tremendous balls, I can only come to the entirely sane and logical conclusion that some sort of Madness Gas was released via DVD screener this year, and hope that it wears off soon enough and we can all look back at the last few months as a terrible fog, a headache, a fever dream, that we had that one time, and ahhhh let's all move on.

I will do so by re-watching Selma, the Really Best Everything of Ever Says Everyone.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Imagine the outrage if Anderson had actually won Best Director (bringing Budapest's grand total to a whopping five) and all else remained the same. Still only one for Boyhood.

(I also was never a fan of Iñárritu before this, but he hit a solid grand slam this time.)

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Lol at JA's funny and probing post!

Of course this is all subjective. I admired and loved Boyhood. But for me, Birdman was slightly superior in every aspect. So it deserved all its Oscars. And it was a huge act of bravery--a giant risk that paid off. That merits praise. Boyhood, no matter the result, had a built-in guarantee of good will and sentiment. I believe time will be kind to Birdman. For now it really is a fun and wild pick for Best Picture.

All this internet mob thinking has to end. Maybe Kim Kardashian really will break the internet next time and we can take a break too.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I'm a fan of AGI, so the Birdman wins were exquisite, perhaps even more so because the overall slate was very good this year. I appreciated AGI's nod, in the acceptance speech, to time as the great judge.

(My old Inside Oscar is falling apart, but I gingerly open it every once a while in search of a comparable year--in this case, a year in which none of the movies seemed to satisfy anyone with any consistency, yet were very accomplished nonetheless--more 1975 than 1983, if you know what I mean. I love how the 1975 chapter of Inside Oscar cites the hand-wringing of "a very bad year": forty years later, the Best Picture list looks pretty great, with the perceived fifth wheel, "Barry Lyndon," looking all the better as more people discover it. Thanks, Milena!)

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterzig

I avoided internet emotions the last week because I had such mixed emotions myself. I think I was frustrated that I just didn't understand the Academy the way I thought - I walked out of Birdman loving it and knowing it had no shot at the top prize. "Too weird for them." But... now that it's processed, there's so much to celebrate. A genuinely laugh out loud comedy that took huge, gutsy risks just won Best Picture. I mean, hell, is that the first time that could be said in my lifetime (33 years)? And Inarritu was one of my least favorite directors until this, so I'm watching him win for what is hands down his best film in my eyes. Linklater's Boyhood was gorgeous, but I wanted that win as a thank you for the Before series, to be honest. I wish they both had won, but Nathaniel's right - time is going to be kind to this win.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I didn't dislike Birdman, but there were five other films I would have preferred (Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, Selma, Boyhood, and--yes, even Imitation Game, in that order). People have already mentioned that the sting is worsened by the fact that the filmmakers of GBH, Whiplash, Boyhood, and Selma did not take home anything. Had Birdman won best picture, director went to Linklater, original screenplay to Anderson (did it really require four people to write Birdman?), adapted screenplay to Whiplash, I would have been fine. But these results were not Birdman's fault. While it wasn't my favorite of the nominees, I do like the fact that the Academy went with something that is atypical for them. I don't think Birdman is as brazen as people give it credit for, but it is an interesting flawed experiment. I'm also upset that it ruined my Oscar pool. I really should have gone with Birdman based on the fact that all of Inarittu's films have been nominated for an Oscar of some sort. He was well-liked and overdue in the Academy's eyes.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Eh, I'm mostly over it. Sometimes the Oscars pick 12 Years a Slave, and sometimes they pick well-mounted, empty-headed trash like Birdman, and sometimes they just pick decent, fluffy things like Slumdog or Argo or King's Speech. It happens.

But they could at least let Wes Anderson win best screenplay? Could they had at least agreed on that? They really watched that scene with the critic and Riggan at the bar and said, "Yes, this is the best written thing of the year". Kiss my black ass with that one.

But hey Moore won for that TV movie, right?

/rant

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny

I posted something but somehow it got lost. Oh, well. Anyway, I have VERY mixed feelings about "Birdman" winning every top award. I mean, it's an excellent film. Inarittu's best since "Amores Perros" (maybe even better than that movie). But I strongly prefer "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and especially "Boyhood" for Best Picture. I probably wouldn't feel so bad had Linklater and Anderson walked home with trophies but as it is, it's not a "Crash"-level outrage but rather a bit of disappointment for the two filmmakers.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

Birdman vs. Boyhood is No Country for Old Men vs. There Will Be Blood, not The King's Speech vs. The Social Network (I mean it is in terms of which awards they won, but not talking about that). No Country for Old Men is remembered as a completely atypical Best Picture winner, has extremely devout fans, and all in all it is an extremely well-respected winner. There Will Be Blood is probably the movie most critics and bloggers and blog commenters would think is the better movie. But they still wouldn't hate No Country for Old Men for its win, and in fact praise that year in general. And that is how I think this year will be remembered.

Disclaimer: I prefer Birdman. What I am referring to above is what I think the discourse of this Oscar race's legacy will be.

Observation: The King's Speech has aged incredibly well for me. I still by far prefer The Social Network, and a lot of other nominees that year, but I don't think The King's Speech is at all an embarrassing entry into Oscar's history books.

I hate Crash.

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Brilliantly written, Nathaniel. This is why The Film Experience is my favorite film site on the net. The genuine love of film and looking at the BIG picture, personal favorites and pet causes aside (but not left out completely).

For what it's worth, I loved Birdman and was thrilled by its win, just because it really is an extremely atypical Best Picture. I was so shocked that they went there that I couldn't be too disappointed that Boyhood (also a major, if slightly blander, accomplishment than Birdman) or Budapest (which would also have made a great atypical victor) or Selma (LOVE but it didn't stand a chance) didn't win. What Steve said above me about this year being analogous to the No Country/There Will Be Blood year strikes me as dead on.

Long live reasoned/reasonable criticism and discussion!

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

It's also possible that the people who are posting on the internet about not liking Birdman don't like Birdman and that it has nothing to do with the Oscars.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTim

It strikes me as much more of a leap of reason/fanboyishness to assume that the only reasonable explanation for not liking Birdman is bitterness over the Oscars. Which seems to be the premise of the above. This just seems like an argument that people who don't like Birdman are wrong or lying.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTim

^^Yes, but the premise of this article is "The internet was downright furious when it took Best Picture..."

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I mean, I disagree with that premise. I think the dissent is more pronounced now in part because the film's initial flash has faded and we're also now hearing fewer establishment voices hyping up the movie in the leadup to its release. It's also probably more pronounced because Nathaniel et. al. like Birdman a lot and so the dissent annoys them and thus appears to be massive. I can only extrapolate from personal experience, but at my Oscar party, everyone in the room except me and one friend *loved* Birdman. They were all very satisfied when it won best picture. Weirdly, I have experienced an exact opposite trend of what Nathaniel is describing above. When I voiced my disagreement with the choice or the fact I didn't like Birdman, everyone who liked Birdman tried to tell me how wrong I was. There's an alarming amount of herd-mentality and a feverish-attack mode correlated with liking it. I really can't understand it. Maybe we're just surrounded by different people/voices.

I also think Nathaniel is wrong about people liking it/it winning because it's about acting. He names Argo and the Artist, but he forgets many others. This Gakwer review actually nailed my feelings about the general tiredness and self-absorption of Birdman's metaness: http://gawker.com/popularity-is-the-slutty-little-cousin-of-prestige-b-1647485346 -- the film hides pretty lame ideas behind a bunch of snappy, quippy writing and a great technical feat. It's been amazing to me to see people quote and requote some of its least interesting lines ("popularity is the slutty cousin of prestige," etc.) as cultural tidbits with which they identify; to me, that just shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the movie... which isn't very good.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Tim - Obviously there are a lot of people that didn't like Birdman before it started winning the Guilds and then Oscar. For the most part, though, the Internet has been bashing it due to its Oscar win. Just because your individual experience is the opposite of that doesn't mean it's not happening. Go to any film blog and read the comments and you will find that Birdman hating because it won the Oscar is a thing. And don't hate the movie for what quotes people choose to focus on from it.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Birdman wasn't my favorite of the nominees, GBH was by a mile. But, I'm not going to hate on Birdman for winning. It's a good film and contains my favorite scene from any film for the year (Riggan/Tabby in the bar.). I actually would have accepted any of the nominees had they won. I would have been surprised if it had been any but GBH., Birdman or Boyhood, but I wouldn't be distressed. I mean, this isn't Crash level of absuridity.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I think blaming the Internet for not wholeheartedly embracing Arquette's speech is a little misguided. She got PLENTY of praise for it--let's remember that when white female celebrities speak up about gender equality any time, they are lavished with superlatives and write-ups. (Remember Vanity Fair literally calling Emma Watson's UN speech "groundbreaking"?) It's important to look at WHO was making the criticisms. Arquette's speech wouldn't have attracted any controversy if minorities and women of color hadn't had a problem with it, which is important to note, because it reminds us that Arquette's speech doesn't do any favors for them. It's tiring and feels like nagging, but I think it is still pretty darn important to take into consideration.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna

Agreed, Joanna. I understand sometimes social justice critique can feel pedantic, but I think you can praise her efforts to call for wage equality while critiquing the later comments, which I think implied something weird -- it was like a stab at coalition politics that wound up coming off accusatory.

Steve -- I actually said in my post that I've had a different experience than Nathaniel and wasn't disallowing that we have just been exposed to different circles. But that was my point -- what is Nathaniel responding to? A few message board posts and slate thinkpieces? And what's conditioning his response to them? That he likes the movie? It all seems like a rationalization for explaining to all the people who didn't like Birdman that they're lying to themselves, and this is pretty much in line with what I've experienced from the movie's rabid fan base (which is giving Nolanites a run for their money). As far as hating the movie because other people misunderstand the quotes -- did I say that? Where did I say that? I didn't care for the movie because I didn't think it was a good movie. The last line of my comment is written in regard to the Gawker article, which I think rightly points out the tired, masturbatory ideas about artistry and fame in the movie. All the people who celebrate those aspects of the movie I think misunderstand the movie, which I think is a little aggravating, in the same way that bro culture has made Fight Club the flagship movie of male narcissism. Anyway...

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Tim - I apologize if I misunderstood your point about not understanding movies. I agree with you on that one. Nothing frustrates me more, with Fight Club and The Wolf of Wall Street being huge examples. As for calling Birdman fans Nolanites, I would argue Boyhood much more than Birdman has fans like that. And don't even get me started on the Whiplash fans. (By the way, Whiplash is another film that people are completely misunderstanding and already being praised by a particular group of people for its "saying good job is bad" mentality. I guess they all missed the point that it led to suicide and mental illness.)

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

It's just such a tease when the critical champion falters at the end. This is the same way I felt when "Brokeback Mountain" lost. That was "Boyhood"'s BP win as sure as anything. "Birdman" doesn't compare to it. Certainly not to the level of disgust of "Crash"'s win, but in some circles, damn near close. The Academy blew it yet again.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRien

Slowly I turned...

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I didn't like Birdman at all. Wasn't expecting to be chastised for that on what used to be the friendliest blog I visit!

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

...step by step...

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Brilliant piece.

This "but navel-gazing films always win!!!1!" argument just highlights that the Oscar blogosphere at large is extremely myopic. That sphere says that whatever happened last year is going to happen this year. If it's happened multiple times in the past three years, it must have always been so. We have to have absolutes- there can be no anomalies, there can be no short-term trends.

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

"We have to have absolutes- there can be no anomalies, there can be no short-term trends."

While they certainly don't reward navel-gazey meta films with noms or wins every year, it's a longer track record than is pointed out above with Argo, Artist, and Birdman (and three in 4 years? Yeesh -- that doesn't seem kind of annoyingly predictable?). If we include nominations in extant categories you could also throw in Chaplin, Sunset Boulevard, Mulholland Drive, Adaptation, 8.5, All That Jazz, and countless others -- if we extend to theater, you're talking about many, many, many examples. What's weird is that this is even a trend this website has pointed out before in making oscar predictions, so I don't understand why people are trying to deny it now. And, of course, meta-films aren't the only consistent award ponies; biopics and historical prestige dramas are, of course, far and away the biggest bait.

This is essentially why I think this whole argument is doing exactly what it's decrying -- taking a purely reactive position against some bad reviews of Birdman by essentially arguing that people who claim not to like Birdman are exaggerating its faults because of award show bitterness. If anything is myopic -- maybe just plain weird -- it's this post's premise. Seems like cognitive dissonance, something like "I loved Birdman and was happy about its win but other people called its merits into question so I'm switching to attack mode!"

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Also, Steve -- Yeah, I imagine Whiplash is pretty rife for misinterpretation. I think I get the most annoyed when people praise a movie based on a fundamental misunderstanding of it. I must run in really different reading circles than people who read this blog; have not gotten the sense at all that Whiplash and Boyhood fanatics outpace Birdman for partisan fervor. I mean, unless we're talking about the IMDB boards, but why would you?

March 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Thanks for your point of view, very refreshing and interesting !

March 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

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