Shear Brilliance of Birdman’s Cinematography

Last night I had the pleasure to watch Birdman, and wow what a film!

Everything was superb from acting to writing to everything. But what was a clear standout for me was the cinematography. Rather the shear brilliance of Birdman’s cinematography. The one-long-take look of the film was indeed a pleasant surprise. I first noticed this long take when the film started, with Regan (Micheal Keaton) walking out of his room to the rehearsals of his play, then coming back to his room, followed by press interviews followed by everything else. I was patiently waiting for the long take to end, so that I could go back and watch it again. Little did I know that this long take would end with the film.

Flawless, ingenious and creative are some of the words that come to my mind when I think of this astounding feat. With camera following the characters from one room to the other than following another character out of the room to some place else. Going from indoors to out on the streets to the bar then back to indoors to the theater. Not only does it feel surreal, you feel what any character is feeling as the camera follows behind their feet. This made the characters more relate-able and eventually the impact of the movie is so powerful as you feel you are part of the film and the world created by it. One of the more memorable sequences is Keaton walking across Times Square in his underwear, you can feel the awkwardness as the camera follows him from the back alleys of the theater through the square and back into the theater from its main entrance. Whats even more impressive is that it was shot in 30 days.

After watching the film, I did some research on the cinematography of the film and wasn’t surprised when I came across articles like “Here’s How Ridiculously Difficult It Was To Film ‘Birdman’ In 30 Days” or “Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki details the ‘dance’ of filming ‘Birdman’.”  Here the Oscar winner talks about how some of the scenes 7 to 10 mins long were shot more than 20 times to get them right. Let alone the obvious pressure that the cast and crew felt during these scenes. One hitch up would lead them to re shot the entire sequence again. Not to mention the lighting of every scene required different attention. Now that’s commitment.

Glimpses of his technique can be scene in last year’s ‘Gravity,’ more specifically in the opening scene. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Lubezki have created here is an invisible character in the film and through that character’s eyes we see the film. That character is us, the audience. Needless to say Lubezki’s Oscar win won’t come as a surprise.

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Aren’t we all saints? St. Vincent Movie Review

Spoilers Ahead. 

St. Vincent, stars not one but 3 Oscar nominees, needlessly to say that expectations are quite high. Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, it deals with an unlikely bond between a young boy, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and his anti-social, unfriendly neighbor Vincent (Bill Murray) after he moves to a new home with his mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy). Series of events leads to Vincent having to baby-sit Oliver after school, simultaneously and coincidentally Oliver has to prepare a saints among us presentation. While all this is happening, Maggie is going through a divorce and a custody battle with her ex-husband, during which Vincent’s pregnant, stripper girlfriend, Daka (Naomi Watts) enters. While the premise is interesting, the film isn’t.

Going by the logic shown in the film, it would appear that almost all of us are saints in one way or the other. Don’t we all do what’s right, look after our partners or occasionally do someone random a favor? Well that’s exactly what Vincent does, yet is proclaimed a ‘Saint.’ Oliver chose Vincent as his saint for his school presentation, even though he takes him to horse racing where gets the 13-year-old to bet money, after which he makes him lie about winning to avoid paying money to his debtors and takes him to bar quite a few times. Oliver then be-friends Daka, who Vincent refers to as his ‘Lady of the night.’ Only good thing that comes out of that is the Oliver starts to see the saintly qualities hidden in Vincent, like him taking care of his sick wife for 8 years or teaching him to fight and break noses. These ‘saintly’ qualities pale in comparison to not so saintly things Vincent does.

We can argue against all the qualities that Oliver uses to describe Vincent as a saint in his presentation. At one point, Oliver says that Vincent took him in when he didn’t have too. Well, Vincent gets money in return for ‘taking him in,’ so why wouldn’t he. Sure, he’s been to the war that would make him, a war veteran, not a saint. In the end I was left wondering what Melfi thinks a saint actually is, does a saint bash on religion? Does he talk to a 13 year of about strippers, sex, profanity and ‘lady of the light’? Does a saint gets his pregnant girlfriend to sell prescription medicines that he stole from the hospital? At point in the film he lashes out at Oliver, telling him to stop living his life through him, that comes after Oliver and his mother took care of him while he was in the hospital. If you ask me, his hard working mother Maggie is a bigger saint that Vincent ever could hope to be.

Brilliant performances by all the actors are let down by not so good script. Melissa McCarthy is a standout for me, especially in the scene with the Oliver’s principal and teacher.  Her changes of expressions from awkward laughter to crying are seamless and leave a long-lasting impact on you. Naomi Watts is unrecognizable in the prostitute attire and a thick accent, which she pulls off with a lot of charisma. Finally Bill Murray is great as not-so-likable neighbor, for me though he is not likable at all, which says a lot about his natural performance as Vincent, he becomes and lives his on-screen persona. His Golden Globe nomination is well deserved. Debutante Jaeden Lieberher is likable as Oliver, watch out for this kid.

What bugs me even more is that this film had a lot of potential. Seeing saint-hood qualities in worst of people is an intriguing theme, yet for me it did not come across. Wish Vincent came across as more of an enriched man than he did. I wanted to see what Oliver sees in him, but I couldn’t. I’ll think twice before watching this saint on-screen. After all he does gets his stripper girlfriend pregnant while still being married to his sick wife. If that’s not enough film stars off with Vincent having sex with Daka. I’ll leave it at that.

My rating, Two Stars.

Image derived from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2170593/

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For the love of movies

I love films, I always have.

Having seen countless films, I felt a need to let my opinion out there for everyone to read. Nothing makes me more happy than having watched a good film. I feel like giggling like a little girl, want to get on the roof and scream and shout and let everyone know what I have just witnessed. Nothing gets me down as much when my expectations of a film are not met. For films, are a means of escape, indulge and to lose yourself in the world created by artists, both on and off screen. There are so many aspects through which you can critically analyse a movie, be it pre-production elements or post, but for me only one thing and only one thing matters and that is how it makes you feel. Feeling is something that can not be taught and feeling is something that people relate to. It is this that makes us unique. Movies evoke different feelings and feelings makes us.

I love films, I always will.

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