Having been a fan of director, Alejandro González Iñárritu's other films (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful), I knew something of the critical reception to his movies. Overall, he received excellent reviews; although it was apparent that some reviewers weren't entirely sure how to classify his films.
His movies have always been dark. In Amores Perros and Biutiful especially, he portrays levels of poverty and lifestyles that most of the upper class Hollywood reviewers couldn't conceive of understanding. Iñárritu skewers the viewer's comfort level by refusing to give neat endings wrapped in Hollywood glitter. This has resulted in reviews that warn viewers to "take their Prozac" before seeing his movies. One reviewer wanted to know when Iñárritu intended to "lighten up."
The overall attitude from this league of reviewers was that no one wanted to watch movies that made them uncomfortable. Essentially, these reviewers were saying:
Young Birdman: ... Give the people what they want... old-fashioned apocalyptic porn. Birdman: The Phoenix Rises. Pimple-faced gamers creaming in their pants. A billion worldwide, guaranteed. You are larger than life, man. You save people from their boring, miserable lives. You make them jump, laugh, shit their pants. All you have to do is...
[Riggan snaps fingers, and explosions occur, shooting starts, soldiers get shot, choppers fly and shoot, one gets shot down]
Young Birdman: That's what I'm talking about. Bones rattling! Big, loud, fast! Look at these people, at their eyes... they're sparkling. They love this shit. They love blood. They love action. Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit.
[Birdman shoots a laser at a giant mechanical bird above the building, it screeches]
Young Birdman: Yes. And the next time you screech...
Young Birdman: ... it'll explode into millions of eardrums. You'll glimmer on thousands of screens around the globe. Another blockbuster. You are a god.
And this was the scene playing in my head when Iñárritu lifted his Oscar and gave his acceptance speech for Best Director for Birdman. He lightened up. With his keen eye, he showed us how each artist bleeds in her or his own way as s/he delivers entertainment to a demanding public. He gave us a glimpse of the reviewers and their biases. He turned the lens of his camera away from poverty and showed us the hypocrisy that lives in Hollywood and New York, and in each of us--the viewing public.
Birdman is truly an excellent film on so many levels. I thought about reviewing it, then realized I'd talk about the intricacies embedded in the dialogue forever. Like all of Iñárritu's films, Birdman is best understood on an individual level. The more you know about the entertainment business, the more meaning the movie will have for you.
I only wish Michael Keaton had won an Oscar for Best Actor. He gave a brilliant, nuanced performance, but it's like Iñárritu said in his acceptance speech: “For someone to win, someone has to lose. But the paradox is that true art, true individual expression […] can’t be compared.”