We finally saw "Birdman" on Saturday night through the magic of OnDemand. It was interesting, and it certainly was different, filmed in a unique manner, and the performances by the actors were quite good, but Best Picture? I'm not so sure.
Of course, as I mentioned in a post the other day, I had only seen two other of the Best Picture nominees, "Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game", so who am I to offer a judgement of the relative merits of "Birdman" compared to the other seven nominees, but here's one yardstick that I use in judging a movie: How likely am I to watch this movie over and over again as the years roll by? Using that standard, I can honestly say that I will probably watch "The Imitation Game" several times as we go forward, but I am not sure if I will ever go out of my way to see "Birdman" again. Once was enough.
(Interestingly enough, I made a Facebook post on Saturday night expressing these sentiments about "Birdman", and it generated a moderate number of comments, about 75% of them leaning towards my point of view, for whatever that might be worth.)
The Oscar winning director of this movie, Alejandro Inarritu, in accepting his award, said, and I am paraphrasing here, that the test of time will be the ultimate judge of what the Best Movie of 2014 really was, but for this moment in time, it's "Birdman", so congratulations to all concerned.
A note on that "test of time" notion. The Best Pictures of 1995 and 1997 were "Forrest Gump" and "The English Patient". In those years, two of the movies that "lost" the Oscar were "Shawshank Redemption" in 1995 and "Fargo" in 1997. Of those four movies, which two would you rather watch if given the choice today?
As for the Oscar show itself....
- I thought Neil Patrick Harris did a good job as host. After the opening number, the host's job is to just keep things moving and introduce the next presenters. I thought his opening number was quite good, and he did as much as can be expected in his role as traffic cop in keeping the show moving.
- Even thought I didn't see their performances - yet - I was glad to see Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K Simmons take home the Oscar.
- I am sure that Eddie Redmayne was deserving of his Best Actor Oscar, but I was sorry to see that Pittsburgh guy Michael Keaton did not get the nod. One question to which we may never know the answer - if he had won, would Keaton have taken the gum out of his mouth that he was chewing all evening when he made his acceptance speech?
- How awesome was Lady Gaga in that "Sound of Music" tribute? People have long said that Lady Gaga is not a gimmick, but a serious musical talent, and she proved it last night. Tremendous performance.
- And having Julie Andrews come out right after that number was terrific, perhaps the best moment of the night.
- How about John Travolta? He was good sport in taking a beating for his mispronunciation of Idina Menzel's name last year, but WHAT HAS HE DONE TO HIMSELF? Another Hollywood poster boy for Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong.
- The Neil Patrick Harris "Oscar Predictions in a Locked Briefcase" gimmick went on way too long, perhaps, but, tell me, how exactly did they do that?
I will conclude with another comment on "Birdman". One thing I did like about it was seeing the divide that exists between Broadway and Hollywood, and the perception among actors and critics as to which is the "more important" art form. In one scene, the New York Times critic contemptuously tells Riggan Thomson (Keaton) that "you're not an actor; you're a celebrity". Great line, but not a new one. In the fabulous 1982 movie "My Favorite Year" screen star Alan Swan, played by Peter O'Toole, has an anxiety attack when he realizes that he will be appearing on LIVE television. In the course of his panic he screams out, "I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star." One of the great lines in movie that as full of them.