Yesterday the weather in Austin was like the movie Bladerunner. After being sequestered in my house all day, I started getting stir crazy. I finally decided I had to get out for awhile and I went to see the movie Birdman. The movie stars Michael Keaton and it is as fantastic as all of the reviews say it is. It is one of those rare movies that is full of ideas, completely original, and is extremely accessible. The human drama of it and the pacing are enough to keep one involved in every moment of the movie, even if one didn’t get off on all of the multiple levels of ideas and meaning in every scene. It is extremely funny, sometimes sad, and often poignant. The movie itself is largely about the human ego. It follows Keaton as a washed up actor trying to make a comeback, as actors, and artists in general, are a great subject to be able to examine the ego with.
One of the key lines in the film is about how Keaton is confusing admiration for love, which is something that so many people get confused on. People often confuse being appreciated for something they do, whether that is art they make, being good at their job, being a great athlete, whatever, with being loved for who they are as a person. Being appreciated for something you do is a superficial kind of love where people are only approving of one aspect of your life, that has nothing to do in the overall picture of who you are as a person. Whereas, if someone loves you they accept you for who you are, warts and all. As soon as you stop being good at what you are doing, appreciation can fade, whereas love should continue. I think that is why so many people in the entertainment industry, or in the public eye in general, have egos that have run amuck. It is also why so many are needy emotionally. Being appreciated is a thing that has to be constant to fulfill. If you have even just a couple people that really love you, you know that it is fulfilling in a way that all of the appreciation in the world can never equal.
The subtile of the movie is The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. I had a really strange experience on the way into the movies. This movie was in South Austin, the height of hipsterdom. While I was walking out of the parking garage there was a couple that looked like they were in 70’s costumes. Every article of clothing they wore was straight out of that decade, even if they were in times with current fashion. Then next to me sat a rocker looking couple where the guy had long blonde hair and a bandana, like Bret Michaels, but more hip. It was like I was at a costume party at the movies, but these weren’t costumes, just people dressing to some kind of strange fashion ideal. But fashion is a construct created by society and has nothing to do with if someone is a good person or not. All of a sudden the movie title and subtitle came up and it all made sense. Although you can still play with fashion if you are aware it is all a game, how much easier is it to take yourself seriously in one of those get ups if you are ignorant of the construct?
Also, isn’t it morally easier for someone to sellout, if they never had integrity in the first place. Although there are some people that definitely “sellout”, I would imagine that many people in the public eye are ignorant of the ethical quandaries that, say, endorsing some product bring up. If you buy into the larger economic system, or are even completely unaware of what is going on, isn’t it so much easier to go along with the program? In modern society ignorance is a virtue to some degree.
Anyway, those were just two of the ideas that the movie gave me. It really has so much going on, on so many levels, in not only the ideas that it contains, but also in the way that it is constructed as a movie. It is a fantastic viewing experience that I think most people would like, even if they aren’t consciously aware of all the ideas the movie is bringing up. It is entertainment in the best sense, in that it completely sweeps you into its world, holds your attention, yet it also somehow does the trick of making you think at the same time. And I should mention again that it is often funny as hell!