For months I’ve anticipated the return of Alejandro González Iñárritu. and his teaming with Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emmanuel Lubezki, in his film Birdman from Fox Searchlight Pictures. From different Oscar pundits, including those of some of the AC staff, hesitation has settled in if this is a full on Oscar player or not. The trailer then premiered and my anticipation soared to new heights. Witnessing beautiful shots from “Chivo” himself and seeing Keaton look like he’s taking on a role that could be his career-defining performance. Following this, I traveled to a few sites, one of which was Guy Lodge at HitFix who spoke of a “rumor,” to see if I was sharing my excitement with anyone else. The rumor was the film would be a “one-take trick” and I immediately began to cheer. Not only were my favorite underrated actor and favorite cinematographer going to dance together on-screen, but it could be a continuous sequence to boot? I’m all in now if it’s true.
Then yesterday I’m searching the nooks of Twitter for anything news worthy and all of a sudden, I see this:
— The Film Stage (@TheFilmStage) June 20, 2014
— The Film Stage (@TheFilmStage) June 20, 2014
Confirmation comes now on this rumor and I’m thoroughly gitty. Since the expansion to ten nominees, and then switching to a sliding scale, Oscar is offering some eclectic and thought-provoking choices that are making the cut. As much as we like to complain that “Oscar does it wrong,” I feel we tend to see the glass as half empty than half full. Beginning in 2009, we got films like The Blind Side and District 9 into a Best Picture lineup, two nominees that wouldn’t have had a chance in a year of five. To a lesser extent, you can probably even throw James Cameron’s Avatar in the same boat. Who’s to say that Cameron wouldn’t have been the lone director.
In 2010, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, and Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone made the cut. Though nominated for Best Director, I don’t think Black Swan would have carried the same clout or steamrolling effect to the nomination if there weren’t ten slots. Science fiction doesn’t fair too well (at least until last year) so that would mean that Inception would have almost surely have sat out of the race. As the “lighter” nominee, Cholodenko’s film was given the opportunity to show off its chops in the race. Finally, Winter’s Bone was WAY too small and was probably the #10 when everything was said and done.
In 2011, there wasn’t a person on earth that thought that with a May release and a non-traditional narrative, that The Tree of Life would have survived an awards season where five films would be nominated for Best Picture. Patting myself slightly on the back, I was one of the few pundits that held on to Terrence Malick as a Director nominee in my predictions the entire year but even I was surprised that the film made the cut.
Finally in 2012 and 2013, Beasts of the Southern Wild by Benh Zeitlin and Her by Spike Jonze filled a non-traditional slot for a Best Picture nominee. Critics respected them and the Academy stuck with them until the end. Birdman looks to be one of the few films that can fit that bill this year.
There are films that fit the profile like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a 3-hour coming of age story that was shot over a twelve-year span. David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars is said to be weird enough to split critics and voters as Damien Chazzele’s Whiplash, which may skew younger but find a nitch within AMPAS. My in progress Oscar Prediction updates reflect some big things for Birdman including possible nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and the pole position in Original Screenplay. If it fits the bill like the other “weird” nominees that came before it, then it will lay low with a 3-5 nominee showing with one or two awards prime for the taking. Kris Tapley of HitFix shares the excitement of the film and talks about a possibility of Emmanuel Lubezki vs. Roger Deakins scenario playing out. Talk about “Sophie’s Choice.” As glad as I am that Lubezki FINALLY won his Academy Award for Gravity last year, a second win would only make up for either Children of Men or The Tree of Life losses, depending on how you see it. Birdman looks like an absolute dream. When Deakins gets his hands on Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, he’ll be looking to make up for many more losses throughout his career. Just pick one.
Though classified as a “black comedy” – some that have read the script say there’s heart in the story that’s undeniable. Emma Stone doesn’t play the love interest like some feared and based on one of the images, two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts looks to be the interest. Who knows if this is a big actor’s showcase where Keaton, Norton, Watts, and/or Stone can muster nominations. Either way, even if Oscar doesn’t go for it, I’m throughly excited to see it.
Birdman is scheduled to be released on October 17, 2014.