Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Things To Do

Review: Part genius, part crazy, 'Birdman' soars (w/video)

A meteor's spectacular flameout opens Birdman or (the enigmatic subtitle, if you prefer). The space boulder has nothing on Riggan Thomson, whose movie career spiral after superhero stardom is a lot like Michael Keaton's, who is playing him here, in a stroke of meta genius.

What goes down must come up, right? For Riggan, a jury of two — himself and that taunting voice in his head — is still out. For Keaton, it's solidly affirmed by the performance of his career and perhaps this year, a naked portrait of ego, desperation and self-obsession.

Riggan is banking on an unlikely Broadway project, a lean adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story, hardly competition for the surrounding jukebox musicals, movie retreads and war horses. The only reason it's opening is because Riggan poured all his money into it.

A last-minute disaster brings on a temperamental replacement, a drama critic sharpens her pen and the stage is set for typical in-the-wings farce. But "typical" is the last word anyone will use to describe what director Alejandro G. Iñárritu does with that setup.

Birdman is an astonishing technical feat, unfolding with the illusion of a single, nearly 2-hour take, with Emmanuel Lubezki's camera prowling through St. James Theater crannies and Times Square crowds. A couple of edits for transition are obvious but the overall effect is magical.

Iñárritu envisioned this to get inside Riggan's head, to show his psychotic fantasies and perceptions of anyone he's depending on, which is everyone he meets. In his most pathetic moments it's that drama critic, who should be the least of his worries. In his most fantastic, it's Birdman himself, doubting every step of the way.

Riggan's mood swings and distractions encourage Keaton's full range as an actor, transitioning from smug-funny to glib-vicious to heartbreaking and back, often in a single exchange. The parallel of Keaton's Batman days and Riggan's fictional Birdman flicks gives the role a confessional feel though it surely isn't. Keaton exposes raw, razored contempt for celebrity and himself, or at least Riggan, for wanting it back.

Iñárritu and a trio of co-writers offer the expected backstage characters: Riggan's agent (Zach Galifianakis) who can't even pronounce Martin Scorsese's name, his star Lesley (Naomi Watts), nervous about her Broadway debut, and Mike (a superb Edward Norton), a genuine movie star stepping in and taking over. Riggan's ex-wife (Amy Ryan) and current lover (Andrea Riseborough) are there but like everyone in Birdman, the style and writing elevate the roles then the actors lift that.

None more so than Emma Stone, whose turn as Riggan's daughter, Sam, is the one-foot grounding Iñárritu's movie needs. Sam is today's version of the audience her father used to please, obsessed with social media he shuns, a sign of his obscurity. Stone and Keaton strike emotional tones that should play well in award show clips.

Everything about Birdman is a bold cinematic stretch, from its snare-jazz soundtrack to a climax regrettably stretched too far. The line between Iñárritu's genius and Riggan's madness gets crossed once too many, but no matter. Birdman has 99 virtues and ignorance isn't one.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Kim Walker-Smith talks postpartum depression, women in ministry and more

Kim Walker-Smith talks postpartum depression, women in ministry and more

Kim Walker-Smith, the lead singer for renowned worship band Jesus Culture, felt overwhelmed and dazed following the birth of her second son.She cried without knowing why. She mumbled her words. When her mother suggested postpartum depression as the c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

First look (with video): Universal’s new high-tech fountain shows ends the night at the theme park

Times Staff WriterVisitors to Universal Studios in Orlando on Monday night got to witness the premiere of the park’s new high-tech, fountain-heavy cinematic show to end the day in the park in what the show’s creator called "a true kiss goodnight." It...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

ST. PETERSBURG — Whatever else he learned at Cornell University and the Juilliard School, playwright Joshua Harmon surely learned family dynamics. His play, Bad Jews, bristles with wit and malevolence dished out by people for whom familiarity breeds ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports on TV/Radio for Tuesday, July 17

TODAYBaseballAll-Star Game8 p.m.Fox; 620-AMCycling, Tour de FranceStage 107:30 a.m.NBCSNLacrosseWorld Championship: Australia vs. Canada7:30 a.m.ESPNUWorld Championship: England vs. United States11 a.m.ESPNUNBA, summer leagueChampionship10 p.m.ESPN...
Updated: 11 hours ago
SoundBytes: Brian Setzer Orchestra, Behemoth, Koo Koo Kanga Roo and more

SoundBytes: Brian Setzer Orchestra, Behemoth, Koo Koo Kanga Roo and more

— After avoiding this marketplace for years, the Brian Setzer Orchestra will bring their wildly popular annual Christmas tour back to Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on Dec. 5. Tickets are $52.75 and up. Click here for details. (And for a review ...
Published: 07/16/18
Penn and Teller postpone Mahaffey Theater performance due to Teller’s back surgery

Penn and Teller postpone Mahaffey Theater performance due to Teller’s back surgery

Raymond Teller, half of the great magic and comedy duo Penn and Teller, tweeted last week that his recent back surgery "was an even bigger success than I'd expected."Good news for him! But it's still bad news for Tampa Bay fans.While Teller is recove...
Published: 07/16/18
1,100 cookie jars. 2000 Hummels. 23 chamber pots: This Tampa Bay couple collects... well, everything.

1,100 cookie jars. 2000 Hummels. 23 chamber pots: This Tampa Bay couple collects... well, everything.

TAMPA — To be a large, clumsy person in Mary and Dennis Schrader’s house is to feel fear.You tread lightly upstairs, but even so, every step in the room containing row after row of cookie jars brings the sound of ceramic lids rattling on their oh-so-...
Published: 07/16/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 17

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 17

James After 5: Art Speaks: The museum is open from 5 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday, featuring $5 admission. While there, tour the many exhibitions of Western and wildlife art, or find happy hour specials in the Canyon Cafe. 5 p.m., James Museum of Western ...
Published: 07/16/18
‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

HUDSON — If you’re into country, Honky Tonk Laundry, which opens July 21 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, might be the ticket. Written by Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes/Life Could Be a Dream?), this comedy musical features a two-woman cast ...
Published: 07/16/18

Pasco Events starting July 20

21 SaturdayMedicare 101: A SHINE volunteer will answer Medicare questions. 10 a.m. Free. Land O’ Lakes Library, 2818 Collier Parkway, Land O’ Lakes. (813) 929-1214. floridashine.org.22 SundayEssential Oils Workshop: Learn about essential oils and cr...
Published: 07/16/18