Film Brief: Spotlight

Spotlight - poster

The Rotten Tomatoes consensus:

Spotlight gracefully handles the lurid details of its fact-based story while resisting the temptation to lionize its heroes, resulting in a drama that honors the audience as well as its real-life subjects.

Film critics are journalists, and as such tend to be biased toward stories about journalists.  I concur with the Tomatoes consensus, but I wasn’t enthralled to the extent many critics were — this is not the best film of the year by a long shot.  Spotlight is very good, but it won’t pass the five-year’s test.  Or put it another way: recommended, definitely — but in no way must-see.  8/10

Spotlight - text block

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Birdman, in the Flesh

Birdman - posterI liked Birdman, but not the way critics did.  It features a tour de force both in its performances and production, a film executed in whirlwind non-stop frenetic fashion that will hold you from start to finish.  It deserves high accolades for its successes.  But I found the story too monotone, or put another way Birdman has trouble breaking free of its self-imposed Alcatraz.  So for all its virtues, my mantra is: story matters.  It matters more than anything else, and when it is constricted so is the end result.

Part of my problem with this movie also lies in its marketing and primary trailer, which I think misrepresent the film as more of a superhero tale, and less one of the mad scramble of a man on the edge, fighting for survival while exorcising his demons.  Both Crazy Heart and The Wrestler better illustrated this dynamic.

But the movie-making virtuosity of Birdman is astonishing.  It’s one of those rare films I wouldn’t mind watching again someday, just to study the technique.  And one last note: I recommend Birdman, but it’s not for everybody — a good number of people will be flatly turned off.  7/10

Comparison Notes: Synecdoche, New YorkBoyhood

Birdman - text blockIf you watch the trailer, you’ll want to see Birdman.  Below is a more representative sampling.

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton on Charlie Rose

The early returns on Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman are in, and it is hitting universal praise.  I’ll be seeing it soon enough and will report on it then; in the meantime, the director and veteran actors Michael Keaton and Edward Norton appeared on Charlie Rose.  And check out the Charlie Rose website for other interviews with luminaries inside entertainment and out — there is no better talk show.  If you bear with an annoying 30-second ad, you will be treated with an alternate trailer at the beginning of the segment.