Tag Archives: Alejandro González Iñárritu

My Oscar Predictions 2016

The ad above pretty much sums up the schizophrenic nature of the Academy Awards, which airs live on ABC this Sunday. It’s a spot that wants to be young and cool, with a smart-mouthed Chris Rock. That stands in contrast with the nominations this year that largely snubbed worthy performances by African-American actors. We’re used to that (remember the Selma controversy last year?), but the nominations sparked a fierce debate that made the Academy, under Cheryl Boone Isaacs, change rules in order to create greater diversity among academy members. The new rules faced heavy resistance from many members who will not get to vote in the future, even though they are exactly the kind of member the Academy would like to promote – women and minorities.

In other words, not a simple discussion. Time will tell what the new rules will do for the Oscars. Meantime, we need to make predictions. First of all, allow me to rank the Best Picture nominees according to my humble taste:

8) Bridge of Spies

7) Brooklyn

6) The Big Short

5) Mad Max: Fury Road

4) Spotlight

3) The Martian

2) Room

1) The Revenant

And now the nominations:

* Live Action Short – Ave Maria. A film about Israeli settlers who end up stranded in the West Bank and get help from nuns; in other words, a meeting between religions.

Animated Short – Sanjay’s Super Team. If Disney or Pixar are nominated, bet on that film. This one was made by Pixar animator Sanjay Patel and was inspired by his childhood in India.

Documentary Short – Body Team 12. The film follows Red Cross workers as they collect bodies during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that began in 2013.

Sound Editing Mad Max: Fury Road.

Sound Mixing – Mad Max: Fury Road. The film dominates both sound categories because of how brilliantly sounds were created for the action and how they were mixed with Junkie XL’s music score.

Makeup and Hairstyling – Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t only about audio. Part of what makes the film visually dazzling is how the look of its characters were designed. 

Visual Effects – This is a tough category. Mad Max: Fury Road or Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the latter will take the Oscar, even if the former currently enjoys better odds. 

Song – “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren from The Hunting Ground

Original Score – Ennio Morricone has been nominated for many Oscars, and it looks certain that The Hateful Eight will finally give him one for an individual score; he has previously been awarded an honorary Oscar.

Production Design – Mad Max: Fury Road.

Costume Design – This one can definitely go either way, but I’m guessing Cinderella. Close competitors are Carol and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Foreign Language Film – Hungary’s Holocaust drama Son of Saul

Documentary Feature – Amy, the story of Amy Winehouse.

Animated Feature – Inside Out.

Film Editing – Margaret Sixel’s editing is a key component that propels Mad Max: Fury Road forward.

Cinematography – It may seem incredible, but Emmanuel Lubezki looks certain to pick up his third Oscar in a row for his amazing work on The Revenant.

Adapted Screenplay – The Big Short. There’s no question that Charles Randolph and Adam McKay deserve Oscars for having turned Michael Lewis’s book into an entertaining and relatable script.

Original Screenplay – Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight.

* Supporting Actor – By no means an obvious category. Yes, Sylvester Stallone will likely win for Creed, and that’s what I’m betting, but Mark Rylance could still pull off a surprise with Bridge of Spies.

Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl.

Actress – Brie Larson, Room

Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant. Not even a charging bear could stop him.

Director – It’s not impossible that George Miller will put up a fight for Mad Max: Fury Road, but it’s more likely that Alejandro González Iñárritu wins his second Oscar in a row for The Revenant.

Picture – This should be a battle between the two masterpieces of the category, Room and The Revenant. Experts and bookies view it more as a fight between the latter and The Big Short. The winner? The Revenant.

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The Revenant: Back from the Dead


therevenantThe movie business is full of strange rumors, exaggerations and lies. As a journalist it is sometimes difficult to navigate around them, especially when they seem highly likely to be true. However, one of the things said about The Revenant after the release of a trailer showing a bear attacking the lead character was not hard to dismiss as pure fiction. No, Leonardo DiCaprio was not subjected to a “bear rape”. And it’s kind of weird that a rumor like that would have to start in the first place, because it’s not like The Revenant needs it to boost interest. It is a spectacular cinematic experience by itself, an amazing achievement from a director who wowed critics and audiences only a year earlier with the Oscar-winning Birdman.

In 1823, a group of trappers are hunting in the wilderness of the Dakota Territory when they are attacked by the Arikara tribe. Out of an expedition of 40-50 men, less than a dozen escape under the command of Major Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). Among them is Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a hunter with extensive knowledge of the area and Native Americans; his teenage son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), whose mother was Native American, is also part of the expedition. Another survivor, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), does not believe that Glass knows what he’s doing and becomes increasingly hostile as the expedition tries to make it to safety. During a rest stop, Glass accidentally confronts a grizzly bear with cubs and is very badly mauled. The others stitch up his wounds to the best of their ability and start carrying him on a stretcher. As the weather gets worse, the expedition realize that they need to make difficult decisions…

Many liberties taken
The story of Hugh Glass has been told since the 1820s and it is a remarkable heroic feat – after being left for dead by two trappers, he crawled back to civilization, 200 miles, in spite of his life-threatening wounds, defying snow and every danger that nature poses. A book by Michael Punke chronicles this story, and the film was partly inspired by it, although many liberties have been taken, especially in the portrait of certain people who existed in real life as well. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ambition from the start was to get as close to Glass’s misery in the wilderness as possible, and everybody involved agreed to make that journey with him. For DiCaprio it meant subjecting himself to painful experiences as most of the film has him lying in snow or freezing water; as a vegetarian, eating raw, bleeding meat was possibly even worse. For cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the realistic ambition meant shooting the film with only natural light in almost every scene. It is thanks to the actor’s dedication and convincing approach that we believe in Glass’s transformation into a “revenant”, a spectre coming back for revenge; Lubezki’s ever moving camera captures every nuance in the wintry landscape on an epic scale. This is a majestic film, with a few unbelievable shots and a degree of tension that remains edge-of-your-seat throughout. Much has been made of that bear attack, but it is absolutely terrifying and ingeniously performed by everyone involved, from DiCaprio to effects animators. Also memorably harsh and grand is the music score (Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first for a Hollywood movie in many years) and Hardy, who brings depth to his villainous character.

Some critics have stated that they find the film too much of an endurance test, but I love this kind of relentless wilderness drama. The Revenant may not quite have the complexity of Into the Wild (2007) story-wise, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a revenge saga equally elevated to this level of artistic mastery.

The Revenant 2015-U.S. 156 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Steve Golin, David Kanter, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon, James W. Skotchdopole. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Screenplay: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Book: Michael Punke. Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki. Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto. Editing: Stephen Mirrione. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Hugh Glass), Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald), Domhnall Gleeson (Andrew Henry), Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson… Lukas Haas.

Trivia: Sean Penn and Christian Bale were allegedly considered for roles. The story was also told in Man in the Wilderness (1971).

Oscars: Best Director, Actor (DiCaprio), Cinematography. Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Drama), Director, Actor (DiCaprio). BAFTA: Best Film, Director, Actor (DiCaprio), Cinematography, Sound.

Last word: “Every single department was taken care of by a specialist of stunts, security, blah, blah. It was even too much security by my standards in Mexico! I was working with the rules of the union, and with super-professional people – every shot that was dangerous, we rehearsed for weeks or months. What I’m saying is, every step was super-challenging, it was stressful, the standards I set the film to were absolutely high. When that stress is not for you, I respect that. The ones who stayed, which is 99.9%, we hold a friendship and camaraderie. Were we laughing all day? No! We were working like hell to make it happen! It was like Shackleton, when he went to the pole, he said [to his companions], ‘You probably will not return.’ [I said:] ‘These are gonna be the conditions, this is how we’re gonna shoot it.’ No one was hiding the truth.” (Iñárritu, The Guardian)

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They Will Win Oscars This Sunday

Red carpets are being rolled out, female stars are deciding which fashion giants to promote, and big Oscar statues outside the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles are getting their last golden polish. The 87th Academy Awards will take place this Sunday and I feel confident that host Neil Patrick Harris will do an excellent job. After all, he’s been elevating Tony and Emmy shows for years now. Still not convinced? Just take a look above at how effortlessly he played around with the whole awards show thing together with Hugh Jackman at the 2011 Tonys.

The time has come for Oscar predictions, and it’s not a job for cowards. Several of this year’s categories are tricky. Let’s go through all of them, one by one.

* Live Action Short – The Phone Call. Starring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent; watch the trailer above.

Animated Short – Feast. This Disney production might be in better luck than last year’s Get a Horse!, which failed to win the Oscar.

Documentary Short – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. Watch the trailer for this HBO film above.

Sound Editing – American Sniper.

Sound Mixing – Whiplash. In the sound categories, the race is down to these two films. Really, it’s anyone’s guess how the Oscars might be divided between them since there are so few who understand the difference between the categories. The Dolby blog explains it – the art of sound editing is creating the sounds; the art of sound mixing is taking those sounds and the music and make all of it gel as a whole.

Makeup and Hairstyling – Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in Foxcatcher will have to forgive us, but the Oscar looks likely to go to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Visual Effects – Definitely belongs to Interstellar, which made us believe that we were traveling far away from Earth.

Song – “Glory” by Common and John Legend in Selma.

* Original Score – The Theory of Everything might win, but I’m definitely rooting for The Imitation Game; Alexandre Desplat’s score is the best of the bunch.

Production Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Costume Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Foreign Language Film – Ida. Far from a safe bet, and I was wrong when I predicted it for the Golden Globes; Leviathan and Wild Tales are fierce competitors.

Documentary FeatureCitizenfour, Laura Poitras’s film about Edward Snowden, looks likely to win.

Animated Feature – How to Train Your Dragon 2.

* Film Editing – This is a tough one. Yes, Sandra Adair of Boyhood deserves recognition for creating a rhythm and balance out of 12 years worth of material, but it could be argued that Tom Scott’s work on Whiplash is what really made that movie. So I’m going with Scott.

Cinematography – The work on Ida is amazing, but I’m betting that Emmanuel Lubezki will collect his second Oscar in a row for Birdman (after Gravity).

Adapted Screenplay – A very tough category. Damien Chazelle could and should win for adapting his own short film for Whiplash, but he faces competition from Graham Moore for The Imitation Game.

Original Screenplay – Wes Anderson looks more than likely to win for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

* Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons for Whiplash.

Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette for Boyhood.

* Actress – Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Actor – This has suddenly become a very difficult category. I believe now that Eddie Redmayne will win for The Theory of Everything, but it pisses me off. This is exactly the kind of performance that always wins the Oscar. Michael Keaton created a rich, full character out of the script for Birdman and his achievement is great; he’s the one who deserves to win.

Director – Another very hard category to predict now. Richard Linklater looked like a shoo-in for Boyhood a month ago; now he’s facing fierce competition from Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman. In the end I believe that Linklater will win and he deserves it; this 12-year-long odyssey has been masterfully engineered by him. 

Picture – The fun thing about the Oscars this year is that we have no clue which film will win the top prize. It’s either Boyhood or Birdman. The former looked certain to win for several months, but the race is so tight now. I’m still going to go with Boyhood.

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Winners of the 2015 Golden Globes

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are returning this Sunday for their third hosting stint at the Golden Globe awards. Thank God for that; recently, this show has been more reliable than the Oscars. In the promo above, the hosts promise not to keep it fresh their third time ’round. Sounds very reasonable in this case.

Time to make predictions.


In the Drama categories, everybody believes in Boyhood as a winner, with Richard Linklater likely to pick up an award for Best Director (he will face competition from Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman, though). Julianne Moore will win for Alzheimer drama Still Alice and Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything (even though I would prefer to see Benedict Cumberbatch win for The Imitation Game). J.K. Simmons is a shoo-in in the Supporting Actor race for Whiplash; Patricia Arquette looks likely to win for her beautiful supporting performance in BoyhoodBirdman will possibly win Best Score, although I would prefer to see Alexandre Desplat pick up an award for The Imitation GameThe Grand Budapest Hotel is in a good position to win Best Screenplay.

In the Comedy/Musical categories, Birdman will win Best Motion Picture (but I would prefer The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Michael Keaton will pick up a Best Actor award for that film. In the Best Actress category, it’s a dead heat between Emily Blunt in Into the Woods and Amy Adams in Big Eyes; Blunt may have the upper hand. 

Best Animated Feature is likely to go The Lego Movie‘s way. The Polish drama Ida is the frontrunner in the Foreign Language Film race. The Best Song category belongs to “Glory”, a John Legend and Common collaboration, from Selma.


It seems to be a race between the second season of House of Cards and newcomer The Affair, but the Golden Globes gets a kick out of shaking things up a bit, so I believe in the latter for Best Drama Series. Viola Davis will win for How to Get Away with Murder. The Best Actor race stands between three guys – Dominic West in The Affair, Clive Owen in The Knick and Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. The last one seems to have the upper hand.

In the Comedy category, everybody seems to believe that Orange is the New Black will win for its second season. But it wasn’t a great season and this is the Golden Globes and I believe Transparent will win. Jeffrey Tambor will pick up a Golden Globe for that show and the Actress category seems to belong to Gina Rodriguez for Jane the Virgin. In the Best Supporting Actress race, it’s down to either Uzo Aduba in Orange is the New Black or Kathy Bates in American Horror Story

The TV movies and miniseries category is hard. Will True Detective or Fargo, two anthology series, pick up the main award? True Detective seems to be a frontrunner, but I would personally pick Fargo. Any other year, Olive Kitteridge would be the obvious winner. Still, Frances McDormand will win Best Actress for that miniseries. Bill Murray is a heavy contender for Olive Kitteridge in the Best Supporting Actor race, but he was onscreen for like ten minutes. I would prefer to see Matt Bomer win for The Normal Heart, and he’s also Murray’s hottest competitor for the award. Matthew McConaughey will continue his streak from last year and win for True Detective

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Trespassing Bergman

trespassingbergmanEdited together (with partly new material) from a documentary series, this film examines (in chronological order) the career and films of Ingmar Bergman through the eyes of numerous prominent filmmakers and actors who have been more or less touched by the Master’s work. Some of them also visit the stark island in Sweden where Bergman spent most of his life, often in isolation. Watching them behave like starstruck tourists in awe of “the great genius” is amusing. It becomes more profound as they get into the actual films and their meaning. Packed with great clips from Bergman movies, and colorful comments (especially from eternal provocateur Lars von Trier), the film may be primarily for cineastes, but the themes are obviously universal.

2014-Sweden. 107 min. Color. Produced by Linda Costigan, Fatima Varhos. Directed by Jane Magnusson, Hynek Pallas. Featuring Michael Haneke, Martin Scorsese, Lars von Trier, Robert De Niro, John Landis, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Ang Lee, Isabella Rossellini, Wes Anderson, Harriet Andersson, Zhang Yimou, Woody Allen, Laura Dern, Francis Ford Coppola, Takeshi Kitano, Wes Craven, Alexander Payne, Holly Hunter, Ridley Scott, Thomas Vinterberg, Claire Denis, Daniel Espinosa, Tomas Alfredson, Mona Malm, Pernilla August.

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The Greatest Hits of 2015

It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2015 for ya.


* Blackhat – Michael Mann’s first directorial outing since Public Enemies (2009) is a cyber thriller starring Chris Hemsworth. Its January release makes it hard to really get excited about it. 

* Escobar: Paradise Lost – Notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar reaches the big screen in the shape of Benicio Del Toro. Josh Hutcherson plays the innocent young man who becomes a witness to Escobar’s life of crime. 

* Still Alice – There have been several Alzheimer dramas before (most notably Away From Her (2007)), but this one boasts an already heavily lauded performance by Julianne Moore.

* Mortdecai – David Koepp is an unreliable director, but this art-heist comedy might be worth a look. A true star vehicle for Johnny Depp, who needs a hit.


* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski siblings deliver another sci-fi movie, this time starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. The stars will help, but it’s doubtful that audiences will be much attracted to the film.

* Kingsman: The Secret Service – An action thriller from Matthew Vaughn that follows a veteran secret agent taking on a protégé. Starring Colin Firth and Michael Caine. 

* Fifty Shades of Grey – No one expects this adaptation of the hugely successful novel to be any good; the only question is how naughty will it be? And will audiences line up to find out? Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are in the leads.


* Cinderella – Kenneth Branagh directs this movie that seems to follow in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent. Lily James plays Cinderella in the live-action version. 

* Insurgent – The sequel to Divergent (2014). It’s hard to separate this series from the Hunger Games movies and all the other dystopian youth thrillers. But the first film was a huge hit. 

* Serena – Susanne Bier’s first American film since Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) is a Depression-era drama about a love affair between a girl and a millionaire. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are likely to bring star power.


* Furious 7 – There’s an anxiety to make this movie worth the effort, considering it’s Paul Walker’s last. It will no doubt be interesting to see how well the filmmakers have worked around his absence. It certainly looks wild.

* Child 44 – Daniel Espinosa directs this adaptation of an excellent hard-boiled bestseller, a serial-killer thriller set in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman are headlining.


* Avengers: Age of Ultron – Summer puts in a higher gear with this sequel that reunites some of our favorite superheroes.  I hope Joss Whedon lives up to the original, and I look forward to watching James Spader as the villain.

* Mad Max: Fury Road – Perhaps few expected George Miller’s belated sequel to the 1980s franchise to be noteworthy, but the trailers that have been released so far indicate a furious thrill ride. Tom Hardy is in the lead. 

* Tomorrowland – A new Brad Bird movie is always worth a look. This sci-fi adventure, that was co-authored by Damon Lindelof and stars George Clooney, looks very intriguing.


* Jurassic World – It’s been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park movie and that time difference is illustrated in the story of this sequel. Now it’s a fully operational theme park, and very busy. I’m sure everything will go wrong. 

* Inside Out – The new Pixar movie is a weird concept. We follow the emotions inside a little girl, all represented by quirky characters. Co-directed by Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter.

* Ricki and the Flash – Meryl Streep plays an aging rock star who’s trying to reconnect with her kids. May sound unremarkable, but Jonathan Demme is directing and Streep is probably a hoot to watch. And there’s Kevin Kline.


* Terminator Genisys – Terminator Salvation (2007) failed to jump-start this franchise, but here comes a movie that seems to be everything – a sequel, a remake and a prequel all at once. And Arnold Schwarzenegger returns. Has to be seen. 

* Ant-Man – Can’t say I’m excited about this latest superhero project, but perhaps a sense of humor will boost it, as in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy. The cast has Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.


* The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Guy Ritchie directs this adaptation of the 1960s spy series. I guess Warner is hoping for their own Mission: Impossible franchise. Stars Henry Cavill and Hugh Grant.

* Straight Outta Compton – The story of the legendary hiphop group N.W.A. reaches the big screen. Director F. Gary Gray’s first film in six years. Paul Giamatti is in the cast.


* Everest – A star-studded thriller about a Mount Everest expedition that is hit by a snowstorm. Starring Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright and Josh Brolin.

* Black Mass – Infamous Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger is the subject of this film that focuses on his rise. Johnny Depp plays Bulger and the cast also has Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Joel Edgerton.


* The Walk – Did you see the documentary Man on Wire (2008)? Well, here comes Robert Zemeckis’s fictionalized version, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The teaser is eye-popping, and I believe this is an occasion where the 3D will truly serve a purpose.

* The Jungle Book – Hard to tell what Jon Favreau might make of this adaptation, but it seems inspired by the Disney version as much as Rudyard Kipling. Bill Murray and Christopher Walken will provide the voices of Baloo and King Louie.

* Crimson Peak – Guillermo del Toro directs this ghost movie starring Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain. Early footage was a hit at Comic-Con last summer.


* Spectre – The 24th James Bond movie promises to reintroduce both SPECTRE and Blofeld. Daniel Craig returns and Christoph Waltz plays the villain. Sam Mendes is back in the directing chair after the success of Skyfall (2012). 

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – The book certainly did not need to be divided into two separate movies, but here’s the final film in this franchise.

* Midnight Special – Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols returns with a film about a man who goes on the lam with his son after discovering that the boy has special powers. Stars Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon.


* Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The most heavily anticipated movie of the year. The teaser trailer got everybody curious and J.J. Abrams’s take on this franchise certainly looks exciting. Now we’re waiting for a first look of the old stars…

* Mission: Impossible 5 – Both the plot and, likely, the title are unknown at this time. But Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and the other familiar faces from this franchise are returning. Christopher McQuarrie, who made Jack Reacher, is helming.

* Joy – David O. Russell is back with another vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a Long Island single mom who becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are also in the cast.

* The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu directs this drama about a frontiersman who sets out for revenge in the 1820s. Stars Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Birdman: A Box-Office Lion in Winter


birdmanDirector Alejandro González Iñárritu reportedly sat down with the legendary Mike Nichols for dinner to discuss his next project, a comedy that would be shot as one long take. Nichols warned him not to go ahead with this idea since editing has always been a key ingredient in how you make comedy work in movies; giving the whole thing the appearance of being shot in one take limits your chances of working miracles in post-production. Iñárritu chose to do it anyway – but became more aware of the challenges of making Birdman fly.

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) used to be a big action-movie star, but after three “Birdman” movies where he played a winged superhero, his star began to fade. Now Riggan is mounting a comeback, having picked Broadway as his new venue. He’s staging a production of a Raymond Carver short story, but one of the actors simply isn’t very good. When he’s suddenly struck by a spotlight, Riggan needs to find a replacement and gets it in the shape of celebrated actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) – who immediately clashes with Riggan. In Mike’s world, everything on the stage has to be one hundred per cent authentic, from the emotions to whether his character should be drinking water or real gin on stage. As Riggan struggles with his personal demons and Mike’s ego, the newcomer takes a liking to Riggan’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone)…

A knowing satire
We expect certain things from Iñárritu – his work is often labyrinthine, socially conscious, made in earnest with dark streaks. This film shows just how brilliant he is as a filmmaker; the guy even knows how to stage a knowing satire involving the world of acting and the theater. Filmed at the prestigious St. James Theatre on Broadway, the movie takes us on a fascinating, whirlwind look at life behind the scenes, as cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera forcefully pushes us down cramped corridors and crowded spaces where actors and stagehands mingle. Both Keaton and Norton’s characters immediately take the center stage and they are fascinating – the former boldly mirroring his own career, in decline after the Batman movies, the latter irresistibly provocative as the actor who is all about Truth on stage but full of shit as soon as he’s off it. They’re very ably matched by Stone in her greatest performance so far, as the daughter who’s done the expected Hollywood drug addict routine and is now recovering, still hurting from Riggan’s absence during her childhood. The only thing that doesn’t ring true about the characters is a legendary theater critic (very well played by Lindsay Duncan) who is impossibly unprofessional… but still vital to the story of Riggan’s unwieldy balancing act near the abyss. Throughout the film, we are treated to imaginary scenes and elements, figments of Riggan’s mind, leftovers from his “Birdman” years. Not only are they entertaining to behold, but they also symbolize the actor’s insecurity and childish loss of prestige. They also play an important part in that final scene that fuses reality with fantasy in what I suppose is a very hopeful way.

There’s a mad energy, a flow, to the whole project, boosted not least by Mexican jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez’s fiercely driven music score. The filmmakers find a way to make us feel like this really was shot as one long take, but there are quieter moments that somehow don’t break the illusion. Funny, crazy and dark – it’s all true for the film, and Keaton’s performance. It’s hard to forget the sight of him actually doing a version of the nightmare we’ve all had – being left stranded in only tighty whities on Times Square.

Birdman 2014-U.S. 119 min. Color. Produced by Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo. Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki. Music: Antonio Sanchez. Editing: Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione. Cast: Michael Keaton (Riggan Thomson), Edward Norton (Mike Shiner), Emma Stone (Sam Thomson), Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis… Amy Ryan.

Trivia: Full title onscreen: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography. Golden Globes: Best Actor (Keaton), Screenplay. BAFTA: Best Cinematography.

Quote: “The last time I flew here from LA, George Clooney was sitting two seats in front of me. With those cuff links, and that… ridiculous chin. We ended up flying through this really bad storm. The plane started to rattle and shake, and everyone on board was crying, and praying. And I just sat there. Sat there thinking that when Sam opened that paper it was going to be Clooney’s face on the front page. Not mine. Did you know that Farrah Fawcett died on the same day as Michael Jackson?” (Keaton)

Last word: “I turned 50 last year and I have learned a lot going through my personal process. I learned there are ways to approach life. You can never change the events, but you can change the way you approach them. The only thing that is important to me is to be honest to my circumstance and context. What this film talks about, I have been through. I have seen and experienced all of it; it’s what I have been living through the last years of my life. Instead of approaching it tragically, I wanted to try another mode. Not to reconcile past events, but actually to survive them. Doing this, I personally experienced a kind of reconciliation with life itself and faced things I don’t like about myself, things which used to make me bitter.” (Iñárritu, Deadline)

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biutifulUxbal (Javier Bardem) is raising two kids in Barcelona while also dealing with their bipolar mom (Maricel Álvarez), fixing work for illegal immigrants, and coming to grips with the fact that he’s dying of prostate cancer. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s first Spanish-speaking film since Amores Perros (2000) takes some time before we get fully engaged in Uxbal’s life and struggle. This is a relentlessly dark journey, but there’s poetry in the cinematography and Uxbal’s closeness to death. A touching humanity is balanced with a heartbreaking lack of it; a rewarding experience if you have the patience to stick with it. Another bonus is Bardem’s exceptional performance.

2010-Spain-Mexico. 148 min. Color. Produced by Fernando Bovaira, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Nicolás Giacobone. Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto. Music: Gustavo Santaollala. Cast: Javier Bardem (Uxbal), Maricel Álvarez (Marambra), Hanaa Bouchaib (Ana), Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernández, Cheikh Ndiaye. 

Trivia: Co-produced by Guillermo del Toro.

Cannes: Best Actor (Bardem).

Last word: “I tried to make the film through the point of view of one single character, which was Uxbal. But, honestly, I just want to splash some other elements or planets that would be orbiting around this sun. Very clearly, I tried not to lose the dramatic tension or the journey of this guy who is trying to put things together before he leaves. All those things included the extreme compassion, forgiveness and the moral decisions that he has to make, and all the things that he got back, as he’s losing his life. He got a lot of spiritual and moral things, while he’s physically fighting the war. That was the game that I was playing with.” (Iñárritu, Collider)

4 kopia



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Top 5 Naomi Watts Roles

Naomi Watts turned 45 years old yesterday, which is as good a reason as any to list her top five movie roles. Her upcoming biopic Diana is not included here. This is not only because I have yet to see the movie, but also because it has received bad early word of mouth and is unlikely to be listed among her greatest work in the future. Still, there’s no doubt that Watts is a talented, prominent movie star and we’ll get to see a lot more of her in the future. 

  1. The Impossible (2012) – Watts plays a British mother caught up in the 2004 tsunami. Her character may end up in a hospital bed after a while, but her struggle before that is grippingly portrayed by Watts. 
  2. 21 Grams (2003) – One of director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s labyrinthine dramas features Watts as a recovering drug addict who returns to her bad old habits.
  3. Mother and Child (2010) – Watts plays a rather cold, career-oriented business lawyer who has to make a life-altering decision. As in 21 Grams and The Impossible, the actress is at her best when her characters are challenged with a huge crisis, defying the audience’s perception that a woman this beautiful can’t really be troubled.
  4. Mulholland Dr. (2001) – One of David Lynch’s best movies became Watts’s breakthrough; she plays an aspiring actress who walks into a twisted nightmare.
  5. King Kong (2005) – In Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic 1930s monster movie, Watts basically pulls off the same feat as in Mulholland Dr., taking an essentially thankless and potentially boring role and making us in the audience genuinely care for her.

In the clip above, Watts is interviewed by Peter Travers about The Impossible.

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