Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jazz & Candy


The percussion-filled score for Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was written by jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez and its sleek cacophony is a perfect companion to this dark dramedy starring Michael Keaton.  Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, an aging actor whose main claim to fame was a movie superhero called Birdman.  The film follows Riggan as he tries to resurrect his acting career by staging a Broadway play he has written and is directing.  Riggan, however, has a loose relationship with reality and is plagued by his Birdman alter ego.  Riggan's connection to reality becomes more tenuous the closer he gets to the opening night of his play.  What I have described thus far is an accurate description of the movie.  But, at its core, Birdman is really about the fear and anxiety that go hand-in-hand with trying to do something that makes us relevant as human beings.  Who hasn't wrestled with the voices in their head and the unsteady footsteps that accompany the fear of failure?  Birdman writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu does a nice job of juxtaposing the vagaries of the theatre and acting worlds with the magical realism that is the onscreen manifestation of Riggan's psyche.  Keaton is a force as are his co-stars Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifinakis (who plays the most normal person in the film).  Just like an astute jazz performance, Birdman is both frenetic and familiar in its pace, leaving you scattered but whole.


I think Gone Girl is probably the best film I've seen this year.  And I'm going to give all credit to the writer here--Gillian Flynn who wrote the book on which the movie is based and wrote the screenplay.  No, I have not yet read the book and so I went in with no knowledge of the story, no preconceptions, and no expectations.  I had only seen the trailers.  I can only  liken the experience of watching Gone Girl to a dark piece of gooey chocolate filled luscious goodness.  Before it hits your tongue, you're in a good place, but when you've taken a bite you might have reached Nirvana.  Gone Girl is just dark twisty good fun.  And the best part is that it ends in a place you might not want to be, but you sure had a hell of a time getting there.  The basic premise is that Nick Dunne's wife Amy has "gone" missing and no one knows why or what has happened to her.  Nick (Ben Affleck), at first a sympathetic character, soon becomes a suspect and the twists and turns ratchet up from there.  I'm not a super fan of Affleck's acting (I think he is a much better director), but I thought he did a pretty decent job here.  Rosamund Pike's embodiment of Amy really carried much of the movie.  But again, I think it's the writing, more so than the acting and directing (sorry David Fincher), that makes Gone Girl so good.  Nothing is better than a juicy story with mystery, blood, and intrigue.  Even Tyler Perry as Nick's slick lawyer couldn't muck it up.  Whether you've read the book or not, you're in for a sinfully delightful good time.  Get gone.

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