26 February, 2015
Birdman is probably the best film I saw in the last year, and I saw some good ones. Yet I worry that it won the Oscar.
I can't argue that it's not a good film, that the writing, acting, camera work, directing and so on aren't fantastic. Even the soundtrack is fresh and original. Yes, on the surface it's another "look at this old successful white dude having a hard time: let's all feel sorry for him", but it runs deeper than that. Getting past Keaton's character and looking at the film as a whole, here's a story of a group of people all suffering from imposter syndrome, all clearly capable individuals who are held back as much by their success and ability than by their flaws. The more clearly it's pointed out to them that they might actually be okay at life, the more convinced they become that they're not.
They crave and court attention, but the more they get the stronger their demons become.
Winning the Oscar is going to expose this film to a huge audience, and I suspect many are going to watch it and wonder what the fuss is all about. A sizeable chunk will get angry at the film for thinking it's something special, for showing off and wasting their time. Angry for it assuming that all it has to do is show up and we'll all love it.
We're too cynical to enjoy this film as much as an Oscar winner than we are to love it as an unsung gem.
And now I think about it, the Oscar win and inevitable ensuing "who does this film think it is?" backlash is such a perfect punchline to the film's whole message that maybe it needed to win. Maybe it needed to make us all angry at it.
Maybe the golden statue is the real final act. The Oscar bait that actually won despite also being quite a good film. Yet another imposter, wondering how much they have to do before someone is honest enough to tell them the truth: that really they do suck, and they should go back to the rock they crawled out from under.
Maybe the Oscar is a demon, or maybe the film can finally figure out how to steal its wings.