Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Deconstructing Birdman: Part 3: Magical Realism

(Image taken from: www.eonline.com)

Okay, so now that I've covered the sub-header, as well as the imagery of Icarus in the beginning, it's now time to tackle something that is at the very heart of the movie--Magical realism. A lot of people are going to watch the film and say, "He's not really levitating in the beginning. He's just imagining it," or, "He's not really flying above the city. See. He stepped out of a taxi cab. It's just his delirium." But come on, man. That's a surface level interpretation of the film (And besides, it doesn't make sense when you consider the ending). So no, I think there is something bigger at stake here. Something much more mystical. You have to remember the director/writers who made this movie. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is Mexican. So what, you're probably saying. Well, I think it's more than just a guess that he's familiar with the works of writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, who both employed magical realism in their stories. And Birdman is full of magical realism. From the levitating to the drummer of the soundtrack playing in the movie itself. There's something grand going on here. You just have to believe.

Follow me for a moment.

What I think Inarritu was really attempting to do (And you may or may not think he was successful), was in his own meta way, show that in a movie, anything is possible. This goes back to the conceit I mentioned earlier in the sub-header section about the audience's ignorance being virtuous when watching a movie. Again, when we watch a movie, we buy into its own sense of reality. But the question is why? Why do we do this? Is it a willingness to escape from our everyday lives, or something else much more magical? Perhaps, we want to believe that magic actually does exist in this world, which is why we're willing to suspend belief when we see things on the screen. This might be one of the reasons why the ending of the film is so confounding to so many people. It had many wondering, so wait, did he really just fly away?

I'm not going to answer that question yet, but I will ask you this question--why couldn't he have? Just because we are led to believe that every "magical" element in the movie is symptomatic of his schizophrenia, that doesn't mean it actually is. Because, again, in a movie, anything is possible. And I think Inarritu was toying with that idea. So much so in fact, that like the ending of the book, Big Fish (SPOILER ALERT) in which the father actually turns into a fish, in fiction, anything can happen, and you just have to accept it. So I think the magical realism in this film is an example of that. It's a big piece of the puzzle that is Birdman, and one that explains the ending a whole lot more if you're willing to accept it.

Next, I'll cover the role actors in the movie. Please stop by again!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Deconstructing Birdman: Part 2: The Fall of Icarus

(Image taken from: shoton35.wordpress.com)

Yay! Birdman won Best Picture. I feel kind of weird about that. A film that I thought was my favorite of the year has never won Best Picture before. I wonder what all this means...Well, anyway, time to continue the discussion! Just yesterday, I covered what the sub-header of the film could possibly mean. You can find that here. And today, I'm going to cover the allusion to Icarus that appears in the film. Let's get started! (Remember. Everything I have to say is pure interpretation).

There are usually two interpretations of the Icarus story. One, is the mythological one that a person should not fly too close to the sun since they shouldn't be like the gods. We are human beings, and should be content with being as such. Don't break the mold. Stay on the land. That sort of thing.

And then, you have the more modern interpretation--even if you get burned and fall to your death, at least you shot for greatness. You went for it. You tried! You might have failed, sure, but what is life without trying to soar toward your dreams? Well, in Birdman's case, I think that a little of both interpretations might be at play here. In the beginning of the film, following the intro, the first sight we see is of a ball of light falling from the sky. At first, we're not entirely sure what we're seeing. It's only through watching the film that we get a sense that the visual was meant to be Icarus. And Icarus has already flown too close to the sun. He's already falling right at the beginning. This puts us in a prime location in Riggan Thompson's life. As Birdman, he both literally and figuratively soared, and now, as he prepares to put on this play that seems to be a disaster, he's falling to his death, both literally and metaphorically. Simple enough.

But then, we have the other interpretation. The one where we shouldn't be like the gods, and I think that's the more interesting aspect of the film. Birdman, the character that now exists in Riggan's head, is pushing him. He is pushing him to take his place as a godlike figure, now that superhero films are all the rage (Remember, when Birdman/Batman--Because the comparison can't be avoided--came out, superhero flicks were more a joke than anything else). Riggan "handed over his keys to the kingdom" as the voice in his head says, and it's now his time to reclaim that spot. Be like the gods. Fly close to the sun. Take what's yours. Because on the big screen, these actors ARE like gods. We suspend belief (If the movie is good enough) and accept that they can run at supernatural speeds and move mountains. They can even fly! And it's that aspect that Riggan can't let go of. But it's also the aspect that he needs to let go of in order to move on with his life (and he eventually does let go of it when he finds the godlike figure, Birdman, sitting on the toilet--like a regular human being!--at the end). In the last scene of the movie, Riggan Thomas truly DOES fly, but I'll get to the conclusion of the film at a later time. In Birdman, Icarus falls, but he can also be redeemed and rise again. Entirely off-screen, of course.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Deconstructing Birdman: Part 1: The Sub-header

(Image taken from: www.impawards.com)

Tonight's the night. Will Birdman win Best Picture? We'll know in a few hours. But I want to begin a series on my blog deconstructing the many, many layers of the film. More so than any other movie I can think of, Birdman is a film that deserves to be picked apart piece-by-piece. It's for this reason that I think a lot of people didn't enjoy it--They're not really sure what to make of it. Over the next few days, I'm going to try to break down the film so that those who hated it might appreciate it a little more. There's a lot to talk about so let's get started. And we'll begin with something that you see before you even WATCH the movie. The sub-header. (Note: Everything I'm about to say is PURE interpretation).

1. Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

There's a lot of ways to look at this sub-header (And it is there, so you can't just ignore it). One way to look at it is to focus on Michael Keaton's character, Riggan Thompson, in general. In many ways, Riggan seems ignorant to the fact that he's a washed up joke. I mean, he knows he is, which is part of the reason why he's having a breakdown, but his character seems pretty ignorant throughout the film about the fact that people are only coming to see him on Broadway because he's a celebrity. But what is virtuous about being Ignorant? Doesn't this ignorance only hurt Riggan in the long run when he finally comes to the conclusion that people are just laughing at him (Most notably in the scene when he walks through Times Square in his underwear and the clip goes viral)? Well, yes and no.

One could argue that his ignorance is what saves him throughout the film, especially when he ends up shooting himself and merely blowing off his nose (We'll get to that ending at a later date).

But I actually think that ignorance runs even deeper than the surface level. I think, in many ways, that the ignorance both the audience and the actors themselves indulge in is what brings about such virtue. And the virtue exists because we, as an audience (and the actors, too) are willing to accept anything in movies. We're willing to buy in to the "reality" of a story, which is why the ending of the film doesn't work for so many people. But again, I'll get to that at a later date. As viewers, we allow ourselves to be ignorant to the story in order to enjoy it. The moment we start picking away at its plot and guessing how it will end, is the moment it loses its merit and fun for us. We are no longer engrossed in its reality. We are just watching a "movie". The same goes for the actors. Yes, actors know how a film or story ends because they read the script. They are privy to something that the audience is not (Well, prior to the internet age anyway, when even fans can sniff out the scripts and read them). But they are ignorant to the final product, which really saves their performance since it doesn't allow them to know what the film will look like when it's all said and done. They buy in to their own reality as the film is being made, and thus, become engulfed by the role (I promise not to make all of this too pretentious).

In that way, ignorance is unexpectedly a virtue for both the audience (to enjoy the film or art), and to the actor (to give a believable performance).

Next up, I'm going to discuss allusions to Icarus falling. Hope to see you again!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: The Secret Seekers Society and Solomon's Seal

Secret Seekers Society and Solomon's Seal (Secret Secrets, #2)Secret Seekers Society and Solomon's Seal by J.L. Hickey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you liked the first book, then you will invariably like this book, too. There is even more of a sense of wonder as the universe that J.L. Hickey introduced in the first book has expanded about tenfold. This is both a good and a bad thing (But I'll get to the bad later). In the first book, a beast was unleashed on the campus grounds and two siblings and their friends had to put a stop to it. Like Harry Potter, the students were the heroes and they ultimately saved the day. I greatly liked that about the first book. The problem felt immediate and pressing, and the siblings had to deal with it. That worked. The thing is, in this book, in expanding the universe, there seems to be a bit more filler. This time around, instead of a rampaging beast, we have a more paranormal approach as a wraith has been unleashed on the school grounds and that is causing a great bit of commotion. The thing is, this wraith doesn't really come into fruition until about 60% of the way through, which means that the book seems to meander a bit until we get to the actual meat of the story.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Hickey does a pretty good job in keeping the reader invested in the characters (Especially a newcomer named Remy, who becomes a major figure toward the end). But for me, I was more interested in the actual ghost aspect than the interactions between the characters. That said, if you found the characters to be the most interesting part of the first book, then you can add one more star to my review, because they are definitely more fleshed out in this book. For me, though, the world itself is more interesting, and I feel that that world could have used a bigger push than is granted in this story (Though, I did like the back story thrown in there. It worked).

Overall, if you liked the first book, then you will enjoy this one. Though, I'm not sure if you will enjoy it as much.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Three Reasons That I'm Now Totally Pissed About this Spider-Man Marvel/Sony Deal

(Image taken from: moviepilot.com)

Oh, man. You should have talked to me two days ago. I was glowing when I heard the news that Sony would finally let Spider-Man play nice in the Marvel/Disney cinematic universe. Glowing! But after some recent developments, that glow has faded to a point that you could now say I'm in a pretty dark place. Why, you ask (I'm just assuming you're asking)? Well, read below and I'll tell you.

3. Spider-Man is Still Owned By Sony

Has Sony made any good Spider-Man movies? Yes. The first Spider-Man 2, directed by Sam Raimi, was amazing (Pun intended), as was the first Amazing Spider-Man movie by Marc Webb, which is my favorite SM film to date. But then, you have all the other Spider-Man movies, and you quickly realize that Sony doesn't have the best track record. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was one of the worst movies of last year, bar none. But my main concern is that I really wanted Marvel to take the reins of Spider-Man, who is arguably my favorite Marvel character ever (After Moon Knight). Sure, Sony might make a good Spider-Man movie here or there, but Marvel is on a roll with their properties. And I was really looking forward to what Marvel/Disney could do with Spider-Man, since they can apparently do no wrong. Now, we'll just have to settle for him in Captain American 3: Civil War. Oh, and about that...

(Image taken from: www.comicvine.com)

2. Spider-Man is Going to Be a Teenager Again

Oh, my Goooood. WHY are we going BACKWARD again? We already KNOW the story of Spider-Man. We've been given his origin story TWICE already. And while this new Spider-Man movie we're getting (after Civil War) might not really be an origin story, it's still taking the character back to a time that we've already seen him in. Instead of progressing from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with Peter Parker embarking on adulthood, we're back to a young Peter Parker again. Why? And with the Civil War story arc, where does that leave us? Are you telling me that we're supposed to care what some KID thinks about working for or against the government when it comes to having super powers? I mean, since Spider-Man is making his first Marvel/Disney appearance in Captain America 3: Civil War, then that means that the spotlight will be taken away from Captain America and Iron Man's story, in favor of introducing the brand new Spidey, who's a kid and not even experienced enough to have much of a say at being a superhero. Also, who CARES if he reveals his identity if he hasn't already been introduced before? This is starting to sound like a mess, just like Batman vs. Superman. And then, what about Black Panther? On to reason number 1.

(Image taken from: moviepilot.com)

1. Black Panther Might Be Put on the Backburner

The biggest casualty of this news is probably Black Panther, who was supposed to be introduced in Civil War. Now, there's nothing saying that he might not still be introduced, but this Spider-Man announcement has pushed all of the Marvel movies back, including Black Panther, who was rumored to fill in for Spider-Man, who is such an integral part of the Civil War story arc. Now, Black Panther is getting pushed aside a whole year to make way for Spider-Man, and it really sucks. Here, we had a relatively C-list Marvel character who could have seriously benefited from the Civil War push, but now, he's going to have to stand on his own. I'm not saying the character won't be able to do it, but still. It's a shitty move. And for what? To throw in some young punk Spider-Man?

I don't know. Maybe I'm making more of this than I should, but I just wish they would have stuck with an adult Peter Parker and Marvel had full rights to the character, rather than partial, but oh, well. Marvel/Disney has been killing it lately, and I hope this is no different. I'll try my best to be a true believer. I will. I gotta believe.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Why Kids These Days Have Terrible Taste in Music

(Image taken from Buzzfeed.com)

This past weekend, I wasn't surprised to find Kanye West making a fool of himself and talking smack about some other musician at the Grammy's. This is starting to become standard practice from Kanye. So that's not a big deal. But what IS a big deal, and a colossal one at that, is what occurred afterward. People all over Twitter, befuddled that Beyonce didn't win album of the year, wondered something that totally floors me--Who the hell is Beck?

I'm sorry. Come again. What did you just say? Who the hell is Beck? WHO THE HELL IS BECK? I don't know, only one of the most innovative and exciting musicians in the past two decades or so. Longer than that even. Who the hell is Beck? Are you kidding me? Good grief!

(image taken from: boingboing.net)

Here are some classics from the man:

I mean, when I heard youngsters not knowing who Paul McCartney was when he did that song with Kanye, I flipped a shit. But after a few moments, I calmed myself and really thought about it. I'm sure kids these days have heard of The Beatles before, as how couldn't they? They're still a huge force in the industry, even after splitting up several decades ago. But youngsters probably never took the time to truly investigate who they were and actually listen to their music. And the same could probably be said of Beck, with the biggest issue being that youngsters don't really go to CD shops or record stores anymore. By downloading what's hot at the moment, this has seriously hampered them from actually exploring what music has to offer. Now, more than ever before, record companies are spoon-feeding young listeners their music, even more so than the radio used to day when I was a kid. So in essence, you really can't blame kids these days for not knowing who Beck or Paul McCartney are. If it's not popular RIGHT THIS INSTANT, young people are probably going to ignore it.

So the next time you get pissed off at these nitwits on Twitter who don't know who Paul McCartney or Beck, don't blame them. Blame streaming music and YouTube. You can't blame the kids for Sam Goody closing up shop for good.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen HereIt Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like Sinclair Lewis. I do. This is the fifth book I've read of his (The others being his most famous, Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, and Elmer Gantry), but I do NOT like this book. It has none of the charm or satirical wit of his other well-regarded novels. And even though talking heads love to bring up this book whenever they feel that the government is encroaching too much on our rights, I feel like this book is the most out of touch out of all the ones I've read of his. Can it happen here? The answer is no. No, it can't.

Written during the Great Depression, I really could see the kind of fear that would inspire this kind of book. America was just getting to know Hitler, and the idea of an America run like Nazi Germany (with concentration camps and everything), might have seemed like a real possibility. But today, knowing where we stand in the world, it really does look like Sinclair Lewis bet on black, when he should have bet on red. It's not his fault, but the book, in my eyes, doesn't work because of it.

There's also the fact that I don't care about a single one of the characters. Especially not the protagonist, Doremus Jessup, who really doesn't do anything of great value to earn my respect, even though he's meant to.

A lot of names get tossed around and I get the feeling that the message is what was respected back in its time rather than the actual story, which falls flat--especially in the ending, which is super abrupt. In the end, It Can't Happen Here is a disappointment, and probably the last book I'll ever read by Sinclair Lewis. I don't recommend it. Like, at all.

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