Birdman (2014)

Oh, where do I start with Birdman. It was so different, so bold, so ambitious, but it pulled off what it was looking to achieve so perfectly.

The thought I had consistently throughout this film was how meta it is. The film was a really thoughtful satire about acting, theater, Hollywood, critics, Michael Keaton’s career, and more. Extremely self-aware, extremely reflective. So good.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but one of my favorite things about this film was how it played with audience expectations. I’ll talk more about it after the trailer, but let me tease you by saying it reminded me of Magritte. This movie was so introspective that it made me think of surrealist art. My friends and I left the theater feeling like we had left one of our humanities seminars in college.

First of all, it stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, a washed up actor who previously found fame starring in comic book superhero films “Birdman”. You did hear me mention that this film satirizes Michael Keaton’s acting career, right? Maybe it would have been a more subtle satire if they had cast a different actor, but it was so perfect with Keaton playing the role himself. (For those not in the know, Michael Keaton is most famous for playing Batman in Tim Burton’s films Batman and Batman Returns.) The movie mirrors his career very closely; at one point, he cites how the last Birdman movie he did was in 1992, which is the year that Batman Returns was released.

Michael Keaton is great. What a stupendous performance. I really know him best from Beetlejuice, actually, but this has really opened my eyes to Michael Keaton as an actor. Amazing comeback performance. He delivers so simply but deliberately. Just excellent work on his part.

I loved this movie stylistically. The pseudo-one-take style made for really great transitions that I was a big fan of. One criticism is that the shakiness of the camerawork would get distracting. It really lent an indie film feeling to it, not really in a good way. It would seem amateurish at times, to have tight shots that were wavering over an actor’s face.

But speaking of these tight shots, I really appreciated the emphasis on the actors’ monologues in this. Combined with the seamless cinematography, the monologues added to the theater feeling of this movie, which I found refreshing. How often do you watch a movie that feels a bit like watching a play? Even when Hollywood adapts plays for films, you lose that. I loved this.

I also have to really commend Edward Norton. I haven’t seen a film of his in a long while and this performance is pretty different from the ones I’ve seen in the past. He plays Mike Shiner, a diva stage actor who is incapable of much else but acting. I forgot how much I love watching Edward Norton. He is the secondary protagonist, I would argue, for this film. While he is the source of most of the comic moments in the film, there’s this darkness in his character that we see slowly being resolved over the course of the movie. This is the kind of role that makes you an Edward Norton fan, trust me.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu did a great job and I appreciated many of his little deliberate touches. For example, in the opening shot, we see a brief glimpse – maybe a one-second cutaway – of jellyfish on the beach. If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t have know what it was or you would have missed it completely. By the end of the movie, we know what this moment was, it is significant. Little things like this are so pleasing to me in movies, tying little ends together at the beginning and end of a film.

More comments after the trailer:

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New Reading Challenge?

Stephanie over at Life In Limbo turned me on to PopSugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge. The idea is to expand your horizons with respects to the types of books you are reading. I know that I often fall into periods where I purposefully seek out similar book: my sci-fi phase, whenever I read a long series like The Boxcar Children, that time I checked out every book about dolphins that my library offered.

This challenge seems really different to me, and I know it would be really challenging for me to complete. Here are some that I found particularly interesting:

  • A book at the bottom of your to-read list
  • A book your mom loves
  • A book that takes place in your hometown
  • A book that came out the year you were born
  • A book with bad reviews
  • A book written by an author with your same initials

It’s a refreshing list that definitely will inject some variety to your reading list. I’m so used to seeing lists that follow a kind of Eat, Pray, Love model of suggesting books that make you laugh, make you cry, make you feel old, make you feel young, whatever. Not that those aren’t good books to read, but this list is a little quirky and I like that.

Stephanie has made a handy dandy Google Doc for you to fill in the titles of the books as you complete the challenge. If you’d like to follow along with PopSugar’s checklist, you can download their printable.

If you want to follow along with my 2015 Reading Challenge (we’ll see if when I complete it!), I am on GoodReads!

P.S. I’ve finished our January books – #GIRLBOSS and Bossypants. What would you recommend for February?

One Down

The reason I took my little hiatus was because I suddenly was thrown into GMAT cramming. To accommodate deadlines I had just learned about 30 minutes after talking to my boyfriend, I was suddenly given the insanely short 3 weeks to study for a test that I had almost zero familiarity with at all. (Sorry for lying, Mom!)

Well, I thought I had 3 weeks, but one week into studying, I was derailed by the fact that there were no test dates available for the week I wanted. In order to make a deadline — which, to remind you, I had only learned about one week prior to this — I needed to register for the test coming up in 7 days.

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I had 2 weeks to study and I had already spent one of those weeks not really feeling too confident. I only had 7 days to get my score up. I didn’t have time to even think about if I was going to apply for grad school because I had to give myself the luxury of making that decision by pwning the GMAT.

Because my test appointment was at 4 PM, the latest I have ever taken a standardized test (and I have taken many), I was a nervous wreck. It was maybe the worst test anxiety I’ve ever experienced, if only because it was over such a long period of time. Even when I had calmed down listening to “Bring ‘Em Out“, it was only noon and I managed to ruminate myself into nausea just 2 hours later. By the time the test started, however, I felt more at ease. I had taken nearly 20 standardized tests before this one (holy moly) and the stakes were low. I knew what kind of score I was capable of getting.

I came just shy of getting a score I would have been able to walk away satisfied with, but I fulfilled my New Year’s resolution! I didn’t think I would have check that off for months, but 3 weeks into 2015 and it’s done. 🙂

I feel really proud of myself for what I accomplished, not only overall but in 15 days, with a huge push during the last 7 days. You guys, if I can do it, SO CAN YOU.

Christ

QUICK HIATUS

Hi all, so sorry to do this YET AGAIN but I am doing a very last minute personal improvement project with a deadline that is rapidly approaching. As I didn’t sign up for this little project of mine until very recently, I am scrambling a lot so I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay on schedule. I will try to use my procrastination time (of which there is sure to be plenty) to post some goodies up for you all but I must ask for your forgiveness as I possibly disappear for a week or 2.

Thanks and I hope your resolutions are all going well!

Inherent Vice (2014)

I got to attend a screening of Inherent Vice thanks to Cloture Club this past Wednesday. (It had a limited release late last year and will have a wider release today.)

I didn’t know too much about the movie going into it. I’d only just started seeing some trailers and commercials, and they didn’t tell me much about the actual story. (Much like how I felt about the Interstellar promotions.) (ALSO I’m going to talk about Interstellar soon. If I don’t, bug me about it.) The initial impression I got from this was a very American Hustle-esque vibe of nostalgia for an older time with some investigative hijinks? Also, check out that cast list, it is not to be trifled with. We have an awards-season gunner here.

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Going into the movie, I suspected it wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I mean, here’s the description I was given before the screening:

Inherent Vice” is the seventh feature from Paul Thomas Anderson and the first ever film adaption of a Thomas Pynchon novel. When private eye Doc Sportello’s ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend whom she just happens to be in love with, and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap that billionaire and throw him in a looney bin…well, easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic `60s and paranoia is running the day and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” that’s being way too overused – except this one usually leads to trouble. With a cast of characters that includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD Detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists… Part surf noir, part psychedelic romp – all Thomas Pynchon. 

Are you confused? I sure was.

And to be honest, I was still confused coming out of the movie. One thing I will say off the bat is that Paul Thomas Anderson did a really wonderful job of transporting us back to that late 60s/early 70s time in American life. It’s not only the obvious costuming and set design, but the camera work and the editing. Lots of tight angles, a nostalgic grainyness… if you had not seen a movie in the last 40 years, this movie would seem very familiar stylistically to you. In one of the opening shots, we see Katherine Waterson, who plays Shasta Fey, looking so incredibly mod and the stylizing of the shot makes her look even more authentically mod.

This still is brighter and clearer than this scene was in the film.

Joaquin Phoenix delivers a great performance, as usual. He is also rocking some really incredible sideburns.

Them muttonchops put Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to shame.

Also, for fans of Walk the Line, we see Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon reunited.

This morning… with her… having coffee…

Before I attempt to talk about the plot (which I really barely understood…), I’ll just go over some thoughts:

  • Do not see this movie with your family unless your family has a special bond that allows you to see a movie with a lot of nudity, sex, and excessive use of the phrase “pu**y eater”. (I mean it.)
  • There is also a lot of drug use in this movie. It’s important to the plot and the themes of the film, but not important enough to warrant how much it’s mentioned or shown in the film.
  • The movie is narrated by Sortilège, a chracter who is in the film as one of Doc’s friends but otherwise… serves no real on-screen purpose? Unless I’m missing something? I don’t know why there was a need for her to be this on-screen character who is a friend to Doc for about 5 minutes total of the film. She was a good narrator, don’t get me wrong, but having her be an on-screen character confused me a bit. I think it was meant to make her seem like part of the story, but she was maybe the only character who had just nothing to do with any of the interwoven storylines.
  • Owen Wilson always plays Owen Wilson. I would like to see him challenge himself as an actor to not play Owen Wilson.

Also, you will get certain cravings in this movie:

  • Pizza
  • Fudgesicle (which actually turns out to be a frozen chocolate-covered banana)
  • Frozen chocolate-covered banana
  • Pancakes

All in all, this movie wasn’t really for me. At all. I would compare it to Burn After Reading. If you liked that, you’ll likely enjoy this. It has a similarly nonsensical, all-over-the-place plot, and even a similar theme of paranoia. Not my cup of tea, as I said before.

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That being said, there were a few shining moments for me. Some very random moments that were just really funny, very randomly emotional moments. It wasn’t a complete waste on me, but I just walked out of the theater not sure how everything started, ended, or what was really going on in between. It felt like just as the weirdness had plateaued, something else crazy would happen. Again, I am sure this was intentional but it’s not something I personally enjoy in movies.

This trailer actually includes most of my favorite moments from the movie:

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