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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Review: Oscar-winning ‘Birdman’

Michael Keaton will power-walk in front of a bunch of people in white briefs. He’ll also fly over Manhattan in a trench coat – or does he take a taxi? And unless you’re paying close attention, you won’t be able to tell when the camera cuts away from following Keaton.

The film was directed by the same fellow responsible for “Biutiful” – that is, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu. “Birdman” is filmed with no intentional scene cuts (although there are a few carefully-crafted digital transitions, that you might notice if you know what to look for). The effect is a near-seamless point-of-view style of filming that makes the viewer feel like they are right there with the cast.

Keaton’s character in the film is Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who played a superhero in the 1990s – where “Birdman” gets its title. He is attempting to put on a Broadway play based on Raymond Carver’s “What we talk about when we talk about love” while working on his tenuous connections with his ex-wife and his drug-addicted daughter. Emma Stone plays the part of his daughter wonderfully, throwing all her natural sass into the role of expressing post-rehab edginess and daddy-issue rage. Edward Norton’s supporting role as the arrogant actor-artist is filled to hilarious effect—who knew he could be such an intentional ass?

“Birdman,” subtitled “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” opens with a title sequence built letter by letter on-screen, punctuated by jazz drums in a way that I felt might affect my heart rate. The percussion builds up and then diminishes to emphasize tension and makes damn sure you’re paying attention when you ought to be. The entire score, save the classical pieces played in the background, is composed of this stunning percussion work. The drummer responsible for this, Antonio Sanchez, nearly snagged an Oscar for Best Original Score, but the classical inbetweener pieces disqualified the soundtrack from the category of “truly original.” Regardless, Sanchez’s work aligns with Innaritu’s directing in ways that made me question my own heartbeat. It’s magnificent.

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The film won Best Picture at the Oscars for a reason. Even if it’s not your type of movie, it is, objectively speaking, worth at least the price of a movie ticket.

“Birdman” deserved the awards it won, and it’s tough to argue otherwise; it went places film doesn’t often go. It explored and charted themes such as grand delusion, fatherhood, sexuality and the hopelessness of being mortal. The film was breathtaking, smart, well-acted and well-directed.

There are moments peppered throughout I felt might be a little pretentious, as with any film or artistic work that tries to be great. The wonder of great directing and writing, though, is you never really know how much of that is the script and how much the actors bring to the table.

I was annoyed by the ambiguous ending—the only time I can say I was truly annoyed—because for all we know he actually died on that stage and everything after his “immersive acting” experience is fabrication, how he hoped things would play out in the end. It’s not meant to assuage any doubts or fears. It’s just a movie ending. But one thing is certain; “Birdman” will leave you reeling.

Can a truly good soundtrack be composed entirely of jazz percussion and snippets of classical pieces? Is there some pleasant amount of vertigo induced when the camera follows characters for a half hour at a time, up the stairs and down the block, and they never stop acting for an instant? Will you be emotionally drained after you finish watching this movie? Will you be pleased?

I’d bet yes.

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