37. Birdman

Rat-at-tat boom and Riggan Thomson contemplates death, or tries to show his daughter he’s a good man, or debates the laziness of criticism with a New York Times critic, or agonizes over money, or agonizes over his new Broadway play, or drinks, or fist-fights his top supporting actor backstage, or levitates, or flies, or smashes all the objects in his office with his mind, and as Riggan hurriedly stomps around the hallowed St. James Theater – periodically donning wig and mustache, getting into character, and stepping onstage to rehearse, with an audience, as the broken man at the center of the play he wrote and is directing based on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – he is being harassed and haunted and pep-talked by the voice of the character, Birdman, he portrayed in the 1990s, in a film franchise that laid the groundwork for Robert Downey Jr. to make $400 million playing Iron Man over and over and over and over, which is a bit insulting to the greatest actors on Broadway, who don’t wear rubber and fight green screens but instead mine deep internal places and effectively portray powerful emotions on stage nightly, in plays written to tell story through dialogue, and among the best of these actors is Mike, who challenges the rest of the cast with such extreme energy that they scream at him and fight with him and when he’s offstage he’s so thoughtful and dour because he’s peculiar, and drunk, and as Edward Norton is playing Mike you wonder if he’s stealing Birdman, he’s so good, but then opening night gets closer and Michael Keaton’s performance as Riggan is so compelling and vulnerable that you don’t want to blink and a jazz drummer pops off a poetic beat and director Alejandro González Iñárritu edits this beautiful movie without a cut so it looks like a single, continuous shot and when it’s over you step off the ride around Broadway and shake your head and smile because it ends so well and you have just experienced edgy fun at philosophical heights films rarely reach.

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