tell me a story

of beginnings and ends

filled with earnest hope


Look Closely: Why I had faith in Birdman

I am not an actor.

I am not a director or a screenplay writer.

I am not a producer and I do not have any form of expertise that should make you listen to me on the subject of film, really. I say this not to discredit myself, however, because what I am is something beautiful. What I am is a reader. A person who loves story and spends most of her days lost within them. And for this reason I am also a person who seeks out excellent stories in every form of entertainment and so I am a lover of movies. My earliest childhood memory is of sitting in a theater watching Aladdin steal a loaf of bread and being chased by the palace guards! Movies briefly transport their viewers to another world, and the best movies also tell excellent stories. They leave their viewers changed in ways similar to that of a great book.

It should come as little surprise then that I also like the Academy Awards. I find most awards shows to be a bit too subjective for me. The Grammys undoubtedly would introduce me to fantastic music, but music taste is so varied that even if I appreciate a song for its musical merit I might not go back and listen to it again. I’ll stick with Mumford and Sons and be happy. With movies, however, I have never known a great film to not leave a strong impression on a viewer—even if it is a negative one! Every year I have attempted to watch at least a few of the best picture nominations and settle on the one that I like best. If I am wrong, I will seek out the best picture winner and I am rarely disappointed. I might not love the film. It doesn’t always go down on my list of favorites, but I have never disliked or regretted watching it.

This year I decided to be as unbiased as I possibly could be. I printed out the ballot for this year’s Academy Awards and I made it my goal to watch them all. If this had been any other year I probably would have only seen The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. The others would have slipped passed me and I would have watched the awards confidently expecting a win from either of them. Isn’t that the normal way of things? I have to say that I hope to repeat this goal—though it’s a bit pricey!—next year because I was pleasantly surprised by the movies that I watched! American Sniper left me a bit somber. PTSD is a very real struggle and I think it is easily overlooked and downplayed. Selma inspired my desire for change—Gryffindors love a good cause to fight for! Whiplash left me uneasy, but for all of the best reasons. I was glued to the screen! What a fantastic story. Boyhood made me nostalgic. The Theory of Everything showed me so much about the nature of love, and The Imitation Game both broke my heart and inspired my spirit. I will not say that I adored every film. There were a few that after watching them I thought, “This was okay.” After Birdman, however, my thought was, “Well this is going to win.” It was not my hands down favorite film—that was The Imitation Game, but I am very biased. The reason I thought Birdman would win was because it played out like a well written short story—fittingly so. Think about your life as a film. Trying to fit the entirety of a person’s life into a few hours can be beautifully done, but it will, in my opinion, lack the complexity of a film written with a particular message in mind. Why? Because ironically enough life is far too complex to fit into such a small box. Movies like The Imitation Game try to cover the wide berth of a human life. They cover so much of what happens in a few years and when you think about your life for a single year it would be filled with so many little nuances that are important. They shape you. They make you who you are, and if you made a film of them it has the potential to be beautiful. Would you call it cohesive, though? Would you call it even remotely concise? I would not, and I think that matters a bit in a film. Most of the nominated movies this year focused on extraordinary people. They made for beautiful films that drove home important messages of acceptance and standing for what one believes in, and I think that is wonderful. I hope we always have movies with such strong messages. The difference with Birdman was simply that it held true to its messages, presented them in a beautifully cohesive way, and though it left a bit of ambiguity in its wake even that was far less broad than what is left when tackling the unanswered questions of a person’s life. For this reason alone I was confident that Birdman would win