Film Crit Hulk Smash: Ignorance - The Expected Virtue Of BIRDMAN

The ouroboros of BIRDMAN's self-prophesied awards glory.

SO BIRDMAN JUST WON A BUNCH OF STUFF.

THERE ISN'T ANYTHING SO WRONG WITH THAT. AFTER ALL, IT'S HARD TO BE CYNICAL ABOUT THE TANGIBLY POSITIVE IDEA OF CINEMA BEING CELEBRATED. ESPECIALLY WHEN SAID CELEBRATION IS FOR A DEDICATED MEXICAN DIRECTOR WHO WON THREE OSCARS FOR HIS ORIGINAL CREATIVE VISION. SO PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THE LAST THING HULK WANTS TO DO IS BARF OUT SOMETHING THAT SEEMS LIKE REACTIONARY BULLPOOP AND THEN USE SAID BULLPOOP TO POUR ALL OVER THE PROVERBIAL PARADE. BUT AWARDS SEASON ALWAYS MAKES FOR A WEIRD DICHOTOMY IN THAT ANY FILM'S ROUSING SUCCESS TENDS TO INVITE WITH IT SOME FURTHER EXAMINATION. LOTS OF ATTENTION MEANS WE PULL OUT THE BIG MAGNIFYING GLASS AND FIND ALL THE IMPERFECTIONS THAT COME TO LIGHT, OFTEN IN A WAY THAT THE CURSORY FIRST RESPONSES PERHAPS DON'T ALLOW FOR. HULK MEAN, IT'S OBVIOUSLY ONE THING IF THE ARTIST WAS SOME NICE, PLEASANT LITTLE MOVIE THAT SURPRISED US; IT'S ANOTHER THING WHEN IT'S ESSENTIALLY CROWNED THE PINNACLE OF ART AND ACHIEVEMENT. THIS ALL HAS AN UNFORTUNATE HABIT OF CRESCENDOING INTO SOMETHING THAT IS BOTH WEIRDLY UNDERSTANDABLE AND YET INCREDIBLY TOXIC. BECAUSE WE TAKE THIS EXAMINATION AND GET CAUGHT UP IN THE FRUITLESS NATURE OF COMPARING FILMS TO OTHER FILMS, DECRYING VARIOUS LEVELS OF INJUSTICE, AND INESCAPABLY GETTING SWEPT UP IN THE CALLOUS IDEA OF "MEASURING ART" IN GENERAL.

BECAUSE THE PROBLEMS OF MEASURING ART ARE OBVIOUS.

AND WE CANNOT SEEM TO HELP BUT MEASURE IT. WHICH EXPLAINS THE OLD ADAGE WITH REGARDS TO THE ACADEMY AWARDS AND HOW "IT'S NOT BEST, IT'S MOST" - THAT IS TO SAY IT'S "MOST EDITING" (MOVIES LIKE THE BOURNE FILMS WITH A LOT OF RAPID CUTTING OR JUGGLING OF PLOT-LINES TEND TO EXCEL) OR "MOST COSTUME DESIGN" (PICK WHICHEVER WAS THE BEST PERIOD COSTUME DRAMA AND THAT USUALLY WINS). "MOST ACTING" (FILMS WHERE ACTORS TAKE ON DRASTIC PHYSICAL APPEARANCE, OR DISCERNIBLY CHANGE THEIR AFFECTATION, ALSO NOTE HOW CLIPS OF "SKILL" OFTEN INVOLVE HOW THEY YELL OR SCREAM A BUNCH). TRY AS WE MIGHT, WHEN IT COMES TO JUSTIFYING A FILM'S RELATIVE GOODNESS, WE CAN'T HELP BUT CLING TO THINGS WE CAN MEASURE WITH. IT ALL GOES BACK TO HULK'S OL' TANGIBLE DETAILS THEORY, AS IN THE THINGS WE MEASURE ARE THE THINGS OUR SKILL AS VIEWERS ALLOW US TO SEE - EVEN WITH "MOST PICTURE," THE FILMS THAT PUT A LOT OF "MOVIE" INTO THEMSELVES TEND TO WIN. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN EXACTLY? WELL, WE'RE TALKING BIG SWEEPING EPICS, POLITICALLY RELEVANT STORIES AND FILMS THAT VISCERALLY SHOW OFF THE BELLS AND WHISTLES OF WHAT CINEMA CAN DO (WHICH IS WHY A FILM LIKE BIRDMAN, WITH ITS VISUAL CONCEIT AND GRAND ARTISTIC INTENTION GETS THAT EXACT RESPONSE).

THE OBVIOUS PROBLEM IS HOW READILY THIS MAKES US MISS WHAT A MOVIE IS, SO TO SPEAK. AS IN HOW EASILY WE MISS THE EXPOSING OF THE VAGUE AND SILLY NOTION OF A MOVIE'S SOUL, WHICH OBVIOUSLY MATTERS MORE THAN ALL THAT OTHER STUFF. FOR THE SOUL OF A MOVIE IS THE REAL THING THAT MAKES US LOVE IT. PLEASE UNDERSTAND, IT'S NOT SO MUCH THAT WE CAN'T MEASURE AND COMPARE THE PROFOUND EFFECT THAT A FILM HAS ON US (BECAUSE WE CAN, AND IT'S ACTUALLY THE VERY POINT OF CRITICISM) - IT'S JUST THAT ALL OUR IDEAS FOR SURFACE MEASURING MAKE US CAST OFF OUR OWN MOVIE-GOING EXPERIENCES AS TRIVIAL AND THEN MAKE US ADVOCATE A LINE OF THINKING WHERE WE MORE READILY MISS THE SUBTLE EFFECT THAT MIGHT HAVE TAPPED INTO OUR SOULS, AND INSTEAD OPT FOR THE BELLS AND WHISTLES, RESULTING IN THE CELEBRATION OF FILMS THAT MAYBE FAILED TO PUT TOGETHER THE INTENDED THEMES INTO AN ACTUAL COHERENT STATEMENT, OR POSSIBLY ENDED UP ADVOCATING THAT WHICH IT MEANT NOT TO.

PUT IT THIS WAY: IF MAKING SURFACE JUDGMENTS ABOUT PEOPLE IS DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC FOR OBVIOUS REASONS, THEN WE DO AN EVEN WORSE JOB WITH CINEMA.

ALL THIS COMES TOGETHER TO GIVE YOU A PORTRAIT OF THE CURRENT DISCUSSION OF BIRDMAN. FOR IT IS A FILM WITH A LOT OF TANGIBLY GOOD SURFACE QUALITIES, AND YET IT HAS A DIVERGENT REACTION FROM SOME CRITICS AND AUDIENCES. AS SUCH, IT HAS CAUSED A LOT PRAISE, DESPAIR AND INFIGHTING IN EQUAL MEASURE. ADMITTEDLY, IT IS A FILM THAT HULK DID NOT LIKE ALL THAT MUCH AND EVEN FOUND TROUBLING, BUT JUST IN SUCH TRIFLING OR REDUCTIVE WAYS THAT IT REALLY DIDN'T SEEM RIPE FOR THE DEEP-TISSUE ANALYSIS OF A HULK ESSAY (WHICH TRY TO BE HELPFUL, AT LEAST). BUT THEN "THE SWELL" OF AWARDS SEASON CRESTED US RIGHT TO THIS CURRENT JUNCTURE.

SO PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT HULK COMES NOT TO BURY BIRDMAN, NOR TO WAX POETIC ABOUT ITS RELATIVE MERIT, NOR TO DISCUSS THE INANITY OF "OSCAR INJUSTICE." INSTEAD, HULK SIMPLY WISHES TO GET TO THE HEART OF THE FILM AND WHAT IT MEANS. AND IN THAT PROCESS, HULK HOPES TO HIGHLIGHT SOMETHING WEIRDLY PROPHETIC ABOUT THE FILM'S CENTRAL MESSAGE; ONE THAT PERHAPS COMES WITH AN EVEN SADDER REALIZATION:

THE BEST POSSIBLE VERSION OF THE FILM MIGHT ALSO BE THE MOST DISHEARTENING.

1. THE 2 BIRDMENZ

SO THERE SEEM TO BE TWO DISTINCT BIRDMAN EXPERIENCES THAT ONE CAN HAVE.

THE FIRST EXPERIENCE IS WHERE ONE TAKES IN ALL THE TANGIBLE JOYS THAT THE FILM HAS TO OFFER. WE ARE OBVIOUSLY TALKING ABOUT THE FILM'S APTITUDE FOR THE "PURE AESTHETICS" OF CINEMA (A TRICKY TERM IF THERE EVER WAS ONE). TO WIT, BIRDMAN IS FULL OF IMPECCABLY LIT FRAMES, CAMERA MOVES THAT GENTLY WAFT AND GLIDE THROUGHOUT A PATCHWORK OF CAREFULLY ORNATE BACKSTAGE SETS, ALL TO A SERENE, ALMOST PLACATING EFFECT. THESE SEAMLESS TRANSITIONS TAKE US THROUGH THESE "LAST DAYS" OF OUR EMBATTLED ACTOR AND SUBJECT, "RIGGAN," ALL SET TO A SOUNDSCAPE OF RHYTHMIC, VIBRANT, JAZZ-SOAKED PERCUSSION WHICH CLASHES WITH HIS RASPY-TONED VOICE-OVER. YUP, THIS IS VISCERAL FILMMAKING THROUGH AND THROUGH. BETTER YET IT IS FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH TALENTED A-LIST ACTORS THROWING THEIR BEST 99MPH FASTBALLS. NOT ONLY DOES THE FILM PUT MICHAEL KEATON'S OBVIOUS TALENTS BACK FRONT AND CENTER, BUT EDWARD NORTON'S PERFORMANCE ALONE IS WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION. THE MERITS OF THE FILM EVEN GO BEYOND THE QUALITY OF AESTHETICS AND PERFORMANCE, FOR EVEN THE NARRATIVE EXECUTION OF THE FILM'S DIEGESIS IS DRAMATICALLY CLEAR. MEANING YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT RIGGAN WANTS. YOU UNDERSTAND HIS FEARS, HIS NEEDS, AND THE OBSTACLES TOWARD GETTING THEM. THUS YOU UNDERSTAND HIS COMPLETE PSYCHE. SURE, IT HELPS THAT HE SPENDS MUCH OF THE RUNNING TIME TELLING ALL THIS DIRECTLY TO US, BUT HEY, AT LEAST THOSE TRAITS ARE ALL ALL EXERCISED IN A SERIES OF DRAMATIC CONFLICTS AND ARGUMENTS.

SO, YEAH. THESE ARE ALL TANGIBLE, OBVIOUS GOOD THINGS ABOUT THE FILM. QUALITIES SO GOOD THEY SHOULD CATAPULT THE FILM INTO DESERVING DISTINCTION AND ATTENTION. AND IN THAT SPIRIT, BIRDMAN SUCCEEDS AS A ROUSING EXHIBITION OF SKILL.

BUT IT ALSO LEAVES ONE LINGERING QUESTION: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ADD THESE TANGIBLE JOYS UP IN THE SEARCH OF A COHESIVE POINT?

WELL... YOU GET A POSSIBLY OFFENSIVE MESS.

EVEN WITH THE MUCH BALLYHOOED VISUAL AESTHETICS MENTIONED ABOVE, HULK WOULD ARGUE THEY DON'T COME TOGETHER IN A WAY THAT ACTUALLY BACKS UP THE CORE CONCEIT. HULK WILL TOUCH A BIT ON THESE PROBLEMATIC TONAL CHOICES LATER, BUT THE SHORT VERSION IS THAT HE'S EFFECTIVELY MAKING THE "WRONG" FILM FOR HIS SCRIPT AND GOALS. AND EVEN ON THE STRUCTURAL LEVEL, THE ONE-SHOT CINEMATOGRAPHY DEVICE, AN AMBITIOUS GESTURE THAT SOMETIMES WORKS BEAUTIFULLY, JUST ENDS UP ADDING A LOT OF UNNECESSARY SHOE-LEATHER TO THE PROCEEDINGS (THE COUNTERPOINT TO THIS APPROACH IS THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE SECRET GENIUS OF ALFONSO CUARON'S GRAVITY IS THAT HE KNEW PRECISELY WHEN TO MAKE THE CUTS). BUT EVEN IN IGNORING THE AESTHETICS AND ZOOMING IN ON THE NARRATIVE, YES, HULK CAN ADMIT THAT THE SINGULAR STORY BEATS THEMSELVES ARE WELL-ARTICULATED, BUT WHEN STRUNG TOGETHER THESE CONFLICTS DEVOLVE INTO NOT MUCH MORE THAN A SERIES OF SPEECHES ABOUT THE SAME REPEATING ISSUES.

BUT MUCH, MUCH MORE PROBLEMATIC THAN ANY OF THIS IS HOW THE NARRATIVE CRESCENDOS INTO A WORLDVIEW THAT HULK CAN'T HELP BUT FEEL IS... WELL... DEEPLY SOPHOMORIC.

OUCH.

OKAY, HULK KNOWS THAT SOUNDS LIKE A ROUGH, EQUALLY SOPHOMORIC CHARACTERIZATION, BUT HULK WILL DO HULK'S BEST TO EXPLAIN... BUT WHERE TO START?

2. "THE HOW"

OSTENSIBLY, BIRDMAN IS A FILM ABOUT ART AND THE ARTIST'S STRUGGLE TO MAKE IT.

OUR SUBJECT, RIGGAN, IS AN OLD, FADING MOVIE-STAR OF THE '90S WHO ONCE HEADLINED IN A BIG-BUDGET SUPERHERO FILM SERIES CALLED "BIRDMAN." (YOU KNOW... LIKE BATMAN!). NOW, YEARS LATER, HE'S RUNNING THROUGH HIS LEFT-OVER MONEY, SINKING MOST OF IT INTO A NEW BROADWAY STAGE SHOW BASED ON THE WORK OF RAYMOND CARVER, ALL WHILE JUGGLING PAYMENTS TO HIS EX-WIFE, DEALING WITH THE SUDDEN PREGNANCY OF HIS NEW GIRLFRIEND AND EVEN TRYING TO KEEP HIS DAUGHTER ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW (SHE'S HIS ASSISTANT). THE THEMES THAT THESE EVENTS GRAPPLE WITH ARE ACTUALLY A FAMILIAR STORY: THE ALLURE OF FAME, THE DESPERATE BID TO STAY RELEVANT, THE DESIRE TO MAKE GOOD ART WITHIN A SYSTEM, BALANCING PERSONAL LIFE AND CAREER, AND THE GENERAL INSIDIOUSNESS OF HOLLYWOOD. WE'VE SEEN ALL THESE THEMES EXPRESSED IN SOME OF THE TRUE CLASSICS OF CINEMA: SUNSET BOULEVARD, BARTON FINK, ALL ABOUT EVE, A STAR IS BORN AND UM, BOOGIE NIGHTS. BUT UNLIKE THOSE ENTRIES, THE AIM OF BIRDMAN IS TO MORE READILY DRIVE YOU RIGHT INTO THE MINDSET OF OUR STAR RIGGAN. TO SEE THE WORLD AS HE DOES. AND IN DOING SO, THE FILM AIMS TO HUMANIZE THE PLIGHT OF THE SO-CALLED "MID-LEVEL ARTIST." EVEN IF IT DOESN'T PULL A PUNCH IN DOING SO, IT TRULY AIMS TO SHOW LOVE AND COMPASSION FOR THE PEOPLE IN THAT POSITION.

WE KNOW THIS BECAUSE THE FILM TELLS US THIS. REALLY. VIRTUALLY ALL THE THEMES THAT HULK JUST WENT OVER ARE EXPRESSED THROUGH THE FILM'S VOICE-OVER AND THE AFOREMENTIONED DRAMATIC CONVERSATIONS. AS SUCH, BIRDMAN IS A FILM THAT MANY WOULD ACCUSE OF BEING AT FAULT FOR DISPLAYING "SUBTEXT AS TEXT," BUT HONESTLY THAT'S NOT A BIG DEAL FOR HULK. REALLY, THERE'S LOTS OF GOOD WORK THAT DOES THAT SO IT'S NOT A PROBLEM IN AND OF ITSELF. NO, HULK'S PROBLEM ACTUALLY GOES MUCH DEEPER THAN THAT. HULK'S PROBLEM IS THAT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE MOVIE ITSELF - THAT IS TO SAY THE CONSTRUCTION OF SCENES, THE AVOCATION OF THE CHARACTER THOUGHTS, THE UNIVERSE WITHIN THE FILM'S RESPONSE AND THE CONTEXT CLUES OF HOW THE CINEMA ACTUALLY FEELS ABOUT ALL THIS - THEN YOU REALIZE THE STATED TEXT IS NOT ACTUALLY THE SUBTEXT OF THE FILM AT ALL.

IT WILL SEEM RATHER CONVOLUTED TO EXPLAIN, BUT THE FILM IS EFFECTIVELY "LYING" THROUGHOUT ITS RUNTIME - AND AS A RESULT IT EXISTS AS DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC EXPRESSION THAT DOESN'T KNOW WHEN IT'S TRYING TO BE SCATHING, SUPPORTIVE, SATIRICAL OR EARNEST. THIS ISN'T TO SAY THE FILM IS MERELY AMBIGUOUS - THAT WOULD BE FINE - HULK IS INSTEAD SAYING THE FILM IS AT WAR WITH ITSELF. ALL BECAUSE IT HAS A SUBTEXT ARGUING AGAINST ITSELF WHEN IT DOESN'T MEAN TO, AND ONE ADVOCATING ITSELF WHEN IT DOESN'T MEAN TO EITHER.

IF YOU WERE TO COMPARE IT TO SOCIAL INTERACTION, HULK WILL HAPPILY LISTEN TO SOMEONE HULK MERELY DISAGREES WITH IF THEY SEEM TO REALLY UNDERSTAND THE SCOPE AND PRATFALLS OF WHAT THEY ARE SAYING , BUT LISTENING TO SOMEONE WHO IS CLEARLY JUST LYING TO THEMSELVES? ... OOF... WHEN IT COMES TO THE "SOUL" OF A FILM, THAT'S JUST SOMETHING HULK CAN'T ABIDE.

AGAIN. HULK IS MERELY TRYING TO SET THIS UP BEFORE WE GO DEEP-TISSUE ANALYSIS, BUT IT'S REALLY, REALLY TRICKY TO FRAME AN ARGUMENT THIS ETHEREAL.

SO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE WE GO...

* * *

THERE'S ANOTHER OLD ADAGE WITH REGARDS TO ART THAT "It's not what it's about, it's how it's about it," (WHICH IS REALLY JUST A GENERALIZED STREAMLINING OF A FAMOUS QUOTE FROM THE GREAT ROGER EBERT). THE ONLY REAL PROBLEM WITH THIS ADAGE IS THAT IT SEEMS TO BE ONE OF THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD QUOTES IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THE LARGER CRITICAL DISCUSSION. BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE TAKE THE QUOTE TO LITERALLY MEAN YOU CAN'T ARGUE THE MERITS OF A FILM'S MESSAGE (AKA "THE WHAT") BUT ONLY JUDGE WHETHER OR NOT IT ARTICULATED ITS MESSAGE WELL (AKA THE HOW"). MEANING YOU CAN'T JUDGE A FILM ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU AGREE WITH IT, JUST ON HOW WELL IT DOES WHAT IT'S TRYING TO DO.

SO YEAH, THAT'S A BUNCH OF HOOEY.

OF COURSE YOU CAN CRITICIZE A FILM FOR WHAT IT'S SAYING. IN FACT, IT'S SORT OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF CRITICISM. FOR IN ART, WE ARE ALWAYS IN EFFECT ASKING, "DOES THIS STRIKE US AS TRUE?" THE GREAT IRONY OF THIS MISUNDERSTANDING IS THAT THE OLD ADAGE IS ACTUALLY TRYING TO EXPLAIN HOW TO INTERPRET "THE WHAT" BY EXPLAINING THE FIRST STEP IN UNDERSTANDING HOW FILM MESSAGING WORKS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

LET'S PUT THE ADAGE LIKE THIS: SAY YOU JUST WATCHED A FILM ABOUT A MASS MURDERER WHO, IN THE END OF THE FILM, MANAGES TO GET AWAY FROM THE COPS UNSCATHED AND SMILES AS HE HEADS OFF INTO THE HORIZON. QUITE OBVIOUSLY, THE FILM IS NOT ENDORSING THE IDEA THAT MURDERERS SHOULD GET AWAY FROM THE COPS. NO, OF COURSE NOT. THE "HOW" IS DOING THAT, I.E. WHATEVER THE FILM IS REALLY SAYING WOULD BE LOCATED IN WHATEVER SERIES OF CONTEXT CLUES, NARRATIVE CONSTRUCTS AND THE CINEMATIC "VOICE" THAT SURROUNDS THE EVENTS THEMSELVES.

MEANING, IT'S NOT WHAT IT'S ABOUT, IT'S HOW IT'S ABOUT IT.

AND WHEN YOU TAKE THE "HOW IT'S ABOUT" DIRECTLY TO BIRDMAN, THAT IS TO SAY ONCE YOU'VE CONSIDERED THE SWELLING MASS OF POINTS AND CHARACTERIZATIONS BEING MADE IN EVERY SCENE - AND PUT THEM TOGETHER ON A SEMIOTIC LEVEL TO MAKE A COHERENT VIEWPOINT OF THE ARTIST'S VISION, WELL, IT DOESN'T ACTUALLY BACK UP THE IDEA THAT THIS FILM IS A LOVE-LETTER TO THE ARTISTIC PROCESS, NOR EVEN HAS LOVE FOR THE FLAWED HUMAN BEINGS THAT POPULATE ITS STORY. INSTEAD, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT WHAT YOU GET IS SOMETHING INCREDIBLY IGNORANT OF HOW THESE FLAWS EVEN MANIFEST, WHETHER OR NOT THOSE OBSTACLES ARE EVEN LEGITIMATE, AND THAT ACTUALLY RESENTS EACH AND EVERY PERSON WITHIN THE FILM.

YIKES... HULK KNOWS THIS IS A RATHER STRIDENT THING TO SAY, BUT HULK WILL EXPLAIN THIS DEDUCTION IN DEPTH, STARTING WITH THE MOST OBVIOUS...

3. VISAGE AND DICKISHNESS

YOU PROBABLY NOTICED THAT BIRDMAN HAS A VERY SPECIFIC CINEMATIC APPROACH IN WHICH WE NEVER REALLY LEAVE RIGGAN'S BRAIN, NOR REALLY DEVIATE FROM HIS EXPERIENCE (EXCEPT IN CHOICE MOMENTS). THIS MEANS THE FILM IS ESSENTIALLY TRAPPED IN A FORM OF "SELF-EXPRESSION." COOL? COOL.

NOW, THERE ARE OBVIOUS GOOD THINGS THAT COME FROM THIS APPROACH. WE GET TO CLEARLY SEE WHAT RIGGAN WANTS. WE GET TO SEE WHAT HE THINKS OF EVERYONE AROUND HIM. WE GET TO SEE THE MANIFESTATIONS OF HIS DEEPEST FEARS WITH HOW THE BIRDMAN CHARACTER SPEAKS TO HIM, DRONING ON AN ON ABOUT HIM BEING A PUSSY AND NEEDING TO SACK UP AND RELEASE HIS INNER BIRDMAN/STAR AND STOP IT WITH ALL THE FROU FROU ART SHIT. THE CHARACTER OF BIRDMAN IS SO OBVIOUSLY A SATIRICAL EXTREME - THE EXPRESSION OF A GONZO "SHOULDER DEVIL" WHISPERING A LOT OF BULLPOOP ADVICE. AND EVEN WHILE SOMETIMES GRATING AND ON THE NOSE, IT IS ONE OF THE MOST CLEAR INTENTIONS OF THE MOVIE. MEANING IT IS A FAIR EXPRESSION AND A SUREFIRE WAY TO BRING YOU INTO THE CHARACTER'S BRAIN. THROUGH THEIR INTERACTION, WE KNOW WHAT RIGGAN THINKS OF BIRDMAN.

SO HERE'S HULK'S QUESTION: WHAT DOES THE MOVIE THINK ABOUT THIS PREOCCUPATION?

AT THE MOST BASIC LEVEL, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WOULD ARGUE THIS IS NOT IMPORTANT. THEY WOULD ARGUE THAT YOU ONLY NEED TO SEE THE CHARACTER'S PERSPECTIVE AND IT'S ONLY THE FILM'S JOB TO BE AN HONEST EXPRESSION OF THAT. BUT NOT ONLY DOES HULK DISAGREE WITH THAT STATEMENT, BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE IT'S ALSO AN IMPOSSIBLE THING TO DO. BECAUSE NO MATTER WHAT WE INTEND, WE CREATE SEMIOTIC MESSAGES OF INTENT AROUND OUR SUBJECTS (THIS IS WHY HULK CAN WRITE THOUSANDS OF WORDS ABOUT THE SEMIOTICS OF RACIST / SEXIST TRANSFORMERS MOVIES). AS ARTISTS, WE CONSTANTLY CREATE MESSAGES OF WHAT WE THINK, EVEN IF THE CLARITY OF THAT MESSAGE IS AMBIVALENCE ITSELF. MEANING THERE'S ESSENTIALLY NO WAY NOT TO TIP YOUR HAND. CINEMA EXPRESSES A VIEWPOINT, AND IF YOU DON'T CREATE THE RIGHT KIND OF DISTANCE AND CONTEXTUALIZATION, IT WILL INHERENTLY BECOME AN EXPRESSION OF WHAT THE ARTIST THINKS. HULK WOULD EVEN GO SO FAR IS THAT IT IS AN ARTIST'S RESPONSIBILITY TO HONE THE MESSAGES OF THEIR FILMS. AND AGAIN, IT'S NOT THE "WHAT" THAT IS BEING EXPRESSED, BUT "THE HOW" WHICH REVEALS THE NATURE OF THE WHOLE SHEBANG.

SO TO ASK THE QUESTION A DIFFERENT WAY: WE UNDERSTAND WHAT RIGGAN / THE FILM / INARRITU THINK OF BIRDMAN, BUT WHAT DOES IT THINK OF RIGGAN, THE MAIN SUBJECT?

WELL, BY NEVER DEVIATING FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF RIGGAN, WE NEVER REALLY GET THE DISTANCE TO CONTEXTUALIZE HIS ACTIONS. AS SUCH, EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM INESCAPABLY COMES ACROSS IS A KIND OF ENDORSEMENT. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS WORKS BEAUTIFULLY WHEN RIGGAN IS DELIVERING A SOULFUL MONOLOGUE ABOUT HIS REGRETS, BUT WHEN WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE OUTSIDE OF WHAT HE THINKS / HIS RAGING DIATRIBES, IT MANIFESTS IN A REALLY TROUBLING DYNAMIC. SO SCENES WITH A CLEAR SATIRICAL INTENTION ON THE PAGE PLAY CINEMATICALLY AS THE EXACT OPPOSITE (THEIR TWITTER DISCUSSIONS SHOULD COULD ACROSS AS SILLY, CINEMATICALLY SPEAKING). AND VICE-VERSA, SCENES THAT ARE MEANT TO PLAY STRAIGHT COME OUT AS MAKING FUN OF THE CHARACTER'S IDIOCY. HONESTLY, THE CINEMATIC CONTEXT CLUES ARE SO FREAKING ALL OVER THE PLACE THAT HULK COULDN'T MAKE HEADS OR TAILS OF THE AUTHOR'S INTENTION WITH ANY OF IT, WHICH JUST LEADS HULK TO THINK THAT MAYBE EXPRESSION WASN'T EVEN THOUGHT OF. HULK HONESTLY WORRIES THAT IT WAS JUST SO BUSY JUST STAYING WITHIN RIGGAN'S PERSPECTIVE AND STICKING TO THE MISGUIDED "ONE SHOT" CONCEIT THAT THOSE TWO INTENTIONS OVERRODE THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES OF ALL.

AND THE REAL PROBLEM WITH THIS "NOT KNOWING" THING IS THAT IT DRIVES US RIGHT INTO THE HEART OF THE CHIEF CHARACTER CONSTRUCT.

WE UNDERSTAND WHAT RIGGAN WANTS, YES, AND SO DOES HE - BUT WHAT WE THE AUDIENCE ARE PRIVY TO AS HUMAN BEINGS ARE THE THINGS HE NEEDS TO TRANSCEND THOSE WANTS AND GET WHAT HE NEEDS. HE NEEDS TO COME DOWN TO EARTH, ACCEPT AND UNDERSTAND THE PEOPLE IN HIS LIFE, NOT BE PREOCCUPIED WITH THE OBSESSIONS AND TRAPPINGS OF FAME. RIGGAN SIMPLY NEEDS TO DISENTANGLE HIMSELF FROM THE VACUOUS THINGS HE'S WORSHIPING, RIGHT?

BUT HULK SWEARS TO YOU, AS MUCH AS WE INSTINCTIVELY UNDERSTAND THIS AND PRESUME THE MOVIE DOES TOO, THE FILM DOESN'T ACTUALLY MAKE ANY CASE FOR THIS UNDERSTANDING. SURE, HE'S WISTFUL, BUT THROUGH A LOT OF ANALYSIS THAT IS TO COME, HULK WILL HOPEFULLY SHOW THAT THE DEEP, INEXORABLE PROBLEM IS THAT THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT MOVIE WORSHIPS TOO. MEANING THEIR AIMS ARE IDENTICAL, AT LEAST ON THE SEMIOTIC LEVEL - AND THUS IT CREATES A VISION OF A WORLD WHERE ALL THESE SHALLOW OBSTACLES FOR A SHALLOW PERSON MANIFEST WITH AN UGLY HATRED OF EVERYONE AND THE WORLD ITSELF.

THE FILM IS ABOUT A MISANTHROPE, AND YET IT ENDS UP CREATING A FILM AROUND IT THAT IS ALSO A JUDGMENTAL MISANTHROPE. AND LIKE ALL MISANTHROPES, THE FILM SEEMS TO HATE ITSELF MOST OF ALL, AND THUS LASHES OUTWARD.

BUT WAIT... IS HULK SAYING INARRITU IS A MISANTHROPE?

WE'LL GET TO THAT. BUT FOR NOW, LET'S JUST SAY THAT THE FILM ENDS UP PAINTING A PICTURE OF STORYTELLING, ART AND HOLLYWOOD THAT HULK NOT ONLY FINDS TO BE DEEPLY UNTRUE, BUT IT EVEN EXHIBITS A STRANGELY HYPOCRITICAL, REDUCTIVE AND MEAN-SPIRITED ASSUMPTION OF THOSE SUBJECTS. AND UNLIKE, SAY, BARTON FINK WHICH IS INTERESTED IN THE SAME EXACT DARK, MEAN VIEWPOINT (IT HAS AN EVEN DARKER TAKE ACTUALLY), IT STILL HAS THE HUMANE UNDERSTANDING TO EXHIBIT THAT VIEWPOINT WITH AN INCREDULOUS SENSE OF LAUGHTER AND A CLEAR, UNMISTAKABLE CINEMATIC WINK. BUT IF YOU TAKE BIRDMAN'S VIEWPOINT OF ART AND COMBINE IT WITH ITS CONFUSED CINEMATIC EXPRESSION, AND THEN THROW IT IN WITH SOME TANGIBLE SENTIMENTS LIKE: A SEEMINGLY-VERY-OLD PERSON'S VIEW OF WHAT MILLENIALS ARE LIKE, A CRIPPLING FEAR OF MODERNITY, AND A DAFT EAR FOR THE ZEITGEIST, THEN YOU GET A FILM THAT TRIES EVER SO HARD TO DIG DEEP, YET ONLY SCRATCHES THE SURFACE. LIKE THE MAIN CHARACTER HIMSELF, THE FILM'S NARRATIVE'S "MESSAGE" FEELS LIKE A PERSON OBSESSED WITH THE RELATIVE SIGNPOSTS AND SHINY EXTERIORS OF ALL THESE TROUBLING THINGS, ULTIMATELY MISSING OUT ON WHAT'S IMPORTANT UNDERNEATH (AGAIN, JUST LIKE THE CHARACTER). AS SUCH, FOR A FILM THAT IS OSTENSIBLY ABOUT COMPASSION FOR THE ARTISTIC PLIGHT OF HUMAN BEINGS...

IT JUST FEELS LIKE IT HATES AND RESENTS THEM FOR NOT LETTING IT ACHIEVE GREAT ART.

***

PLEASE NOTE: HULK FEELS LIKE A DICK AFTER WRITING ALL THAT.

SERIOUSLY, HULK DOES. AND FOR GOOD REASON TOO. WHILE HULK'S CRITICISMS OF THE FILM ARE PROBABLY FAIR, THEY ARE ALSO PRETTY BORING AND JUDGMENTAL. THEY MIGHT EVEN BE AS EQUALLY JUDGMENTAL AS THE FILM'S. AND THIS IS HONESTLY WHY HULK HAS SO MANY PROBLEMS EVEN TALKING ABOUT IT. THERE'S NO REAL WAY TO TRANSCEND THE LIMITATION OF "THE CEILING" OF THIS PARTICULAR CONVERSATION. IT CAN NEVER BE MORE THAN "I have a great opinion!" / "UH, SORRY, HULK DOESN'T THINK YOU DO?" WHICH IS ULTIMATELY INANE. HULK TRIES TO MAKE HULK ESSAYS NUTRITIONAL AND STUFF, BUT FAIR WARNING: THIS ONE MAY END UP BEING A BIT OF A HOSTESS CUPCAKE.

RENDERING IT ALL THE MORE SILLY IS THAT THE FILM HAS A PLETHORA OF OSCARS AND LOVE AND SUPPORT TO HULK'S... UH... RAMBLING ARGUMENT? AND CHANCES ARE THAT HULK'S NEGATIVE EVALUATION OF THE FILM'S MESSAGING AND LACK OF INSIGHT IS ALREADY MAKING SOME READERS FEEL A BIT PROVOKED. THESE PEOPLE COULD EVEN BE FRIENDS. COLLEAGUES. PEOPLE WHO WORKED ON IT, OR EVEN CERTIFIED FILM GENIUSES WHOM HULK ADORES. AND WITH THE STATED OPINIONS ABOVE, HULK HAS PROBABLY JUST INSULTED YOU / THEM. THIS HAPPENS BECAUSE THERE IS AN INESCAPABLE TENDENCY TO THINK THAT WHAT HULK IS SAYING IS ABOUT THE FILM IS SOMETHING HULK IS SAYING ABOUT YOU BY PROXY.

THIS ISN'T TRUE, OF COURSE. BUT IT NONETHELESS TENDS TO INCUR A RATHER ACCUSATORY AND PROBLEMATIC CONVERSATION.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT NONE OF THIS MEANS HULK WILL SIMPLY THROW HULK'S HANDS UP AND GIVE UP. IT IS JUST NECESSARY TO RECOGNIZE THE OBVIOUS LIMITATION, WHICH IS JUST AN OBSTACLE TO OUR HOPEFUL CATHARSIS. HULK KNOWS IT WOULD BE EASY TO STEP BACK FROM A JUDGMENTAL CHARACTERIZATION OF THE FILM IN THE NAME OF GOOD-NATURED REFLEXIVITY (SOMETHING AKIN TO "LET'S AGREE TO DISAGREE!"), BUT UNDERSTANDING WHEN AND HOW TO MAKE THESE KIND OF JUDGEMENT CALLS WITH "MOVIE MORALITY" FEELS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS KNOWING WHEN YOU'RE OVERUSING THAT SAME JUDGMENTAL CRITICISM. IT IS WITH THIS UNDERSTANDING THAT THE INTENTION OF THIS INTERACTION SHOULD BECOME CLEAR: HULK SIMPLY IS GOING TO TRY AND GET YOU TO CHANGE YOUR MIND. AND FROM YOUR END, AS THE FAN OF THE FILM, HULK ISN'T LOOKING TO DISCUSS THE MERIT OF YOUR RIGHT TO LIKE IT, BECAUSE OF COURSE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIKE IT. INSTEAD, HULK IS LOOKING FOR THAT ELUSIVE, ERUDITE EXPLANATION OF BIRDMAN THAT WILL KNOCKS HULK'S SOCKS OFF AND CHANGE HULK'S MIND.

IT IS THAT DISTINCTION OF THIS CONVERSATIONAL INTENTION THAT IS EVERYTHING TO THE MODERN DIALOGUE.

BUT EVEN THEN, HULK'S CRITICISM OF BIRDMAN IS DOUBLE-PROBLEMATIC BECAUSE HULK'S DISLIKE OF THE FILM'S WORLDVIEW HAS NO OBVIOUS TIES TO HUMANE AND ETHICAL MATTERS LIKE SOCIAL INJUSTICE (BESIDES, HULK IS PRETTY SURE THAT HULK'S POLITICS GENERALLY LINE UP WITH INARRITU'S). MEANING THE REAL OBSTACLE WITH THIS PARTICULAR CONVERSATION IS THAT FOR ALL THE HOOPLAH AND INDIGNATION, WE ARE ESSENTIALLY JUST HAVING A DUMB CONVERSATION ABOUT "A FILM THAT IS ABOUT ART" AND HULK'S ALL LIKE "HEY, ART, ARTISTRY, AND THE INDUSTRY ARE WAY DIFFERENT THAN THAT! THIS PRESENTS IT AS A PRETENTIOUS STRUGGLE!" AND THE OBVIOUS WAY TO RESPOND TO THAT IS BY SAYING:

"Um, Hulk, that's equally pretentious and, seriously, who gives a fuck?"

THAT'S THE WHOLE PROBLEM. HULK DOESN'T ACTUALLY GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THIS CONVERSATION. REALLY. HULK SWEARS TO YOU (IT'S WHY HULK DIDN'T WRITE ABOUT THE FILM FOR MONTHS). BUT IN THE END, THE PROBLEM MIGHT JUST BE THAT BIRDMAN REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GIVES A FUCK ABOUT IT. AND THROUGH HOLLYWOOD'S RINGING ENDORSEMENT OF THE FILM, IT SEEMS THAT IT REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GIVES A FUCK ABOUT THAT ARGUMENT TOO.

SO HERE WE ARE: TRAPPED IN A DISCUSSION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT IT'S VALID TO GIVE A FUCK, IN THE WAY THIS FILM GIVES A FUCK, ABOUT THE THINGS IT GIVES A FUCK ABOUT.

THAT SOUND YOU HEAR IS THE WORLD'S TINIEST HURRAY.

4. THE SUPERHERO SHUFFLE

SARCASM ASIDE, LET'S ZOOM IN AND MAKE THIS WHOLE ETHEREAL CONVERSATION ABOUT JUDGMENT A BIT MORE CLEAR. FIRST BY TAKING A LOOK AT THE FILM'S (SEEMINGLY TANGENTIAL) STANCE ON SUPERHEROES. NOW, HULK COULD START BREAKING DOWN AND INTERPRETING THE FILM'S STANCE ON A SEMIOTIC LEVEL, BUT HONESTLY THAT WOULD BE A WASTE OF TIME, BUT ONLY BECAUSE INARRITU DOES US THE SOLID OF MAKING HIS STANCE REALLY DAMN CLEAR IN A RECENT INTERVIEW OVER AT DEADLINE. SO HULK'S JUST GOING TO USE QUOTES FROM THAT IF THAT'S ALL RIGHT:

INARRITU: "I think there’s nothing wrong with being fixated on superheroes when you are 7 years old, but I think there’s a disease in not growing up."

SAY WHAT YOU WANT OF IT, BUT HULK'S IMMEDIATELY STRUCK BY THE SEE-SAWING CONCERN FOR HUMANITY WITHIN THE STATEMENT ITSELF. AND BELIEVE IT OR NOT, BUT HULK ACTUALLY AGREES IN ONE WAY: THERE'S ABSOLUTELY A VALID CONVERSATION TO BE HAD WITH THE INFANTILIZING NATURE OF HOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINMENT (AND HULK LITERALLY DOES IT ALL THE TIME, PARTICULARLY WITH CERTAIN MICHAEL BAY EFFORTS, ETC.), BUT TO THROW THAT CONCERN INTO A CATCH-ALL WITH EVERY SUPERHERO FILM - AND THEN COUPLE IT WITH THE CLEARLY JUDGMENTAL "WHEN YOU ARE 7" COMMENT, CAN'T HELP BUT COME ACROSS AS INCREDIBLY REDUCTIVE AND UNHELPFUL. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT SEEMS TO BE SO CASUALLY EQUATING MERE FANDOM / LIKEABILITY WITH A WORD SO PARTICULAR AS FIXATION. BECAUSE THOSE ARE CLEARLY TWO DIFFERENT THINGS.

HE CONTINUES: "I sometimes enjoy them because they are basic and simple and go well with popcorn. The problem is that sometimes they purport to be profound, based on some Greek mythological kind of thing. And they are honestly very right wing. I always see them as killing people because they do not believe in what you believe, or they are not being who you want them to be. I hate that, and don’t respond to those characters. They have been poison, this cultural genocide, because the audience is so overexposed to plot and explosions and shit that doesn’t mean nothing about the experience of being human."

OKAY... IT'S HARD TO TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE THE STATEMENT IS FILLED WITH SO MUCH WHIPLASH OF "SYMPATHETIC INTENT" AND THEN SCRAWLING DISDAIN. AGAIN IT IS THE SEE-SAW OF RESERVATION FOLLOWED BY CAUSTIC LOBBED GRENADES. ONE MOMENT HE ARGUES THESE FILMS ARE SIMPLE, GO WELL WITH POPCORN, AND ARE SOMETIMES ENJOYABLE - THE NEXT MOMENT THEY ARE POISON AND CULTURAL GENOCIDE. THIS IS NOT A CASE OF SOMEONE MIXING THEIR METAPHORS. THIS IS SEETHING VEHEMENCE UNDER THE GUISE OF NICETIES. AND IT'S THE "SOMETIMES ENJOY" COMMENT THAT REVEALS THE CLEAR ATTITUDE OF A PERSON WHO IS NOT EVEN REALLY ENGAGING THE POSSIBILITY OF FINDING A KIND OF PROFUNDITY. AND AS A RESULT HE JUST SHUFFLES THEM ALONG INTO MORE REDUCTIVE STATEMENTS.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT HULK GETS THE OBVIOUS IRONY AT PLAY IN HULK TRYING TO ARGUE ALL THIS. BECAUSE HULK IS LITERALLY A FILM CRITIC OPERATING IN THE VOCAL STYLES OF A COMIC BOOK ICON. BUT HULK SWEARS THIS ISN'T SOME WEIRD DEFENSIVE THING. IT'S MORE THAT HULK CAN SPEAK TO THE OBVIOUSNESS THAT SUPERHERO FILMS ARE NOT SOME UBIQUITOUS POISON THAT ANYONE OVER THE AGE OF 7 WOULD BE A FOOL TO ENJOY. BUT SO MUCH SHOULD BE SELF-EVIDENT.

EVEN THEN, HULK REALIZES THIS SAME ARGUMENT CAN GO IN A VICIOUS-YET-STILL-VALID CIRCLE. BECAUSE WHERE AMERICA HONESTLY TENDS TO HAVE MORE GENERAL FAITH IN GOVERNMENT AND LEADERSHIP, INARRITU'S WORLDVIEW SUDDENLY GAINS OUTSTANDING, CLEAR RESONANCE IN THE WAY HE CAN CLEARLY ARTICULATE THE HORRIFIC PROBLEMS GOING ON WITH MEXICO'S MORE FASCISTIC DEMONSTRATIONS OF VIOLENCE. PUT SIMPLY: HE COMES FROM A WORLD WHERE SUCH KINDS OF KILLING ARE PAINTED IN A RATHER MORE STARK SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIGHT AND JUSTIFIABLY SO. WHICH NOT ONLY TURNS HIS WORDS INTO A VALID REACTION TO THE STATE OF AFFAIRS, BUT PERHAPS HIGHLIGHTS THE BITTER IRONY OF OUR MISPLACED FAITH IN THE AFOREMENTIONED NOBLE RICH HERO WHO WILL SAVE US. THEY SEEM LIKE DREAMS OF A WORLD THAT ISN'T REAL. THEREFORE, HE'S IDENTIFYING A CLEAR LIE OF SUPERHEROISM IN HOW IT HELPS PROPAGATE A CORRUPT SYSTEM.

HERE'S THE THING: HULK ACTUALLY AGREES WITH HIM, YET AGAIN.

THAT IS ABSOLUTELY THE NUMBER ONE PRESSING CONCERN EVERY TIME HULK SITS DOWN TO WATCH A SUPERHERO MOVIE: IS THIS GOING TO BE FASCISTIC BIT OF SOCIETAL REVENGE PORN? BUT WHILE HULK THINKS THAT THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE #1 MOST VALID SOCIAL CONCERN, THE PROBLEM IS THAT'S NOT ACTUALLY REPRESENTATIVE OF WHAT'S ACTUALLY GOING ON IN MOST SUPERHERO FILMS. IN FACT, HE'S PRETTY MUCH JUST ARTICULATING SOME OF HULK'S PROBLEMS WITH CERTAIN VERSIONS OF BATMAN OR IRON MAN, WHICH HULK WILL NOW USE AS AN EXCUSE TO LINK TO THE BEST CARTOON EVER APROPOS OF NOTHING:

BUT THIS HIGHLIGHTS A KEY REALIZATION ABOUT HOW HE'S ENGAGING THE CRITICISM: HE'S THROWING THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER.

TO GIVE AN EXTREME COMPARISON, WHEN AYN RAND WAS COMING OUT OF SOVIET RUSSIA SHE WAS ACTUALLY DEAD ON ABOUT VOICING CRITICISMS OF COMMUNISM'S UNIQUE BRAND OF TOTALITARIANISM, BUT THE PROBLEM IS SHE TOOK HER INDIVIDUALIST COUNTERPOINT TO COMMUNISM TO ITS FURTHEST AND MOST DANGEROUS END, RIGHT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SPECTRUM: THE COMPLETE FREEDOM OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO DO WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANT, FOR GOOD OR ILL. WHILE THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT COMPARABLE IN MORALITY NOR SCALE, INARRITU IS STILL GOING TO THE FURTHEST POSSIBLE REACTION. MEANING YES, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY A NUANCED ARGUMENT TO BE MADE ABOUT THE FASCIST NATURE OF SUPERHEROES...

THE THING IS THAT MOST OF THE FILMS THAT DO THIS THE BEST ARE ACTUAL SUPERHERO FILMS.

NOT JUST WITH THE MODERN INVERSIONS OF TROPES LIKE WATCHMEN AND OTHER BITS OF DIRECT META-COMMENTARY, BUT THE IDEA IS EVEN CENTRAL TO MOST OF THE GOLDEN AGE APPROACH TO HEROISM AT ITS VERY CORE. JUST LOOK AT THE MODELS: PETER PARKER WEBS PEOPLE AND LEAVES THEM TO BE ARRESTED. HE PAYS THE PRICE FOR THIS HEROISM IN COUNTLESS WAYS AND NEVER MAKES MONEY FOR DOING SO. LIKEWISE, SUPERMAN IS DEFINED BY HIS SAVING PEOPLE, AND ALWAYS AT HIS MOST COMPELLING WHEN HE CAN'T PUNCH ANYTHING AND THUS HAS TO BEG FOR EMPATHY. YES, THESE STORIES ARE "DREAMS," IDEALS OF WHAT WE MIGHT BE INSTEAD OF WHO WE ARE - BUT ALLOW HULK TO ARGUE THAT THAT IS THE COMPLETE FUCKING POINT. ESPECIALLY BECAUSE THESE CLASSIC STORIES AND CHARACTERS (OFT POOR) ENGAGE THE NUANCED ARGUMENT OF HEROISM / CLASS / SOCIETY THE FIRST DAMN CHANCE THEY GET, IN HOPES THAT THEY WILL TEACH US TO TRANSCEND IT... THAT'S LITERALLY THE POINT OF THEM.

AND INSTEAD OF BIRDMAN PRESENTING A NUANCED ARGUMENT, WE GET A SENTIMENT THAT THESE FILMS "ARE OBVIOUSLY BAD, SO LET'S MAKE FUN OF EVERYONE WHO INDULGES THEM AS WE ASPIRE TO MAKE REAL ART!"

WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH JUST AN UGLY, FLIPPANT HOLIER-THAN-THOU ATTITUDE THAT DOESN'T EVEN ENGAGE THE REAL ISSUE. AND IT LEADS US A WHOLE SERIES OF CHEEKY SCENES LIKE WHERE RIGGAN NAMES CHECKS A LIST OF GREAT ACTORS TO GET FOR THE SHOW, BUT THEY ALL HAPPENED TO DO SUPERHERO MOVIES. INARRITU EXPLAINS THIS JOKE BY SAYING "It invited parody because it’s become like, a bunch of whores. We are all that way." AND YET HE EXPRESSLY GOES ON TO PROFESS CONSTANTLY THROUGHOUT THE INTERVIEW THAT HE COULD NEVER DO ANYTHING LIKE THAT, SAYING HE COULD NEVER MAKE A SUPERHERO FILM, EVEN SAYING: "I could not conceive doing a film just for the money. For me, it would be hell." SO WHETHER OR NOT HE MEANS TO DO IT, HE MAKES INCLUSIVE STATEMENTS THAT AREN'T ACTUALLY INCLUSIVE, THAT END UP JUST CREATING SYSTEMIC PARAMETERS THAT HIGHLIGHT HOW EVERYONE BUT HIM IS A BUNCH OF WHORES.

THIS SHOULD BE CLEAR, BUT THE PROBLEM IS THAT INARRITU IS ALSO LAYERING THESE COMMENTS IN OTHER RATIONAL ARGUMENTS. HE RIGHTFULLY CRITICIZES SUPERHERO FILMS BECAUSE THEY MAKE IT HARDER TO MAKE EXPENSIVE R-RATED ART MOVIES AND SUCH, BUT THE MANNER OF SUCH IS ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT CAN'T HELP BUT STILL COME OFF AS JUDGMENTAL AND REDUCTIVE. FOR ONE, FILM HISTORY IS FULL OF THIS EXACT DYNAMIC, WHETHER IT WAS '90S DISASTER PORN, SEEDY '80S BUDDY COP COMEDIES, '70S SPACE OPERAS, '50S WESTERNS, OR '30S GANGSTER FILMS. THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN THE STRUGGLE TO GET SOMETHING ASPIRATIONAL MADE OUTSIDE OF THE EN VOGUE GENRE. BUT TO LAY THAT CONCERN AT THE FEET OF POPULISM ITSELF? SAME WITH THE OBVIOUS ECONOMIC NEED FOR STUDIOS TO MAKE FILMS FOR 800 MILLION INSTEAD OF 80 MILLION? IT SEEMS LIKE A WEIRD, UN-WINNABLE ARGUMENT TO EVEN EVER PURSUE, LET ALONE LASH OUT AT AS ANYONE'S FAULT. AGAIN, PEOPLE LIKE POPULAR GENRES. AND THEY ESPECIALLY LIKE THE GOOD STUFF WITHIN THOSE GENRES. IT'S NOT POISON. AND ALL THE THINGS HE REALLY SEEMS TO BE WORRIED ABOUT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CONFINES OF GENRE, NOR HIGH-BROW OR LOW-BROW ART. REALLY, NONE OF HIS CONCERNS EVEN SEEM TO BE ENGAGING THE ACTUAL PROBLEM HERE: WHICH IS THAT HE FEELS THERE ARE OBSTACLES AND IS BLAMING EVERYTHING AROUND THEM JUST FOR THEM BEING THERE.

WHICH JUST GOES RIGHT ALONG WITH A MOVIE (THAT WOULD BE BIRDMAN) THAT KEEPS POSTULATING (BOTH INADVERTENTLY AND ON PURPOSE) THAT THE AUDIENCE / CRITICS / SYSTEM ARE THE OBSTACLE TO MAKING REAL ART. AND THAT SEEMS TO THINK WE'RE A BUNCH OF IDIOTS CAUSE WE'RE ON TWITTER. OR OBSESSED WITH "GOING VIRAL." OR SOMETHING. IT DOESN'T REALLY SEEM TO UNDERSTAND TWITTER, ACTUALLY. IT JUST KNOWS THAT IT HATES IT. JUST LIKE IT HATES SELFISH ACTORS, AS MUCH AS IT SEEMS TO LIKE AND DEPENDENT ON THEIR ABILITIES. SAME WITH ATTENTION-SEEKING PRODUCERS. AND SNOTTY AGENDA-DRIVEN FILM CRITICS. AND PRETTY MUCH ALL PEOPLE. THE FILM LAYS A SCREED DOWN ON ALL OF THIS, WHILE CLEARLY NOT "SEEING THE OTHER SIDE," BUT SIMPLY RESENTING THEIR POWER.

WHICH BRINGS US TO THE NEXT BIG QUESTION: HOW COULD A FILM THAT IS OSTENSIBLY AIMED AT BEING "FUN" AND A SATIRE, COME ACROSS AS SINCERELY HATING EVERYTHING WITHOUT A HINT OF EMPATHETIC HUMANITY, NOR INCLUSIVE LAUGHS?

5. THE CINEMATIC WINK

THIS QUESTION ABOVE TAPS DIRECTLY INTO THE DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC NATURE OF THE FILM'S APPROACH. HULK TOUCHED ON IT A BIT BEFORE - NOW WE'RE READY TO GO AT THE DEVICE IN EARNEST.

BECAUSE THE FILM CAN CLAIM IT'S A SATIRE, BUT SATIRE IS A STRAIGHTFORWARD TEXT PRESENTED WITH A CINEMATIC WINK. AND BIRDMAN, FOR ALL THE PRAISE, IS ACTUALLY JUST AN ON-THE-NOSE SATIRICAL TEXT PRESENTED WITH STRAIGHTFORWARD SOULFULNESS. WHICH IS A DEEPLY, DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC APPROACH FOR SATIRE. BY REMOVING THE WINK, YOU ARE ACTUALLY REMOVING THE INCLUSIVE, UNDERSTANDING HUMANITY FROM THE TELLING ITSELF. TO COMPARE: IT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PERSON RAISING THEIR GLASS AT A COCKTAIL PARTY AND MAKING A WITTY REMARK ABOUT HOW WE'RE ALL DOOMED AND THE PERSON WHO CORNERS YOU AT A COCKTAIL PARTY TO LECTURE YOU ABOUT HOW WE ALL ARE DOOMED AND WHY YOU NEED TO HAVE DIFFERENT, LESS-POPULAR INTERESTS AND HOW THEIR WORLDVIEW IS TOTALLY ABOVE ALL THAT (READ: INSUFFERABLE). BUT THE SATIRE-AS-SOULFUL THING SHOULD BE COMPLETELY UNSURPRISING TO US, TOO, BECAUSE REGARDLESS OF WHAT KIND OF FILM INARRITU HAS EVER MADE, HIS DEFAULT SETTING HAS BEEN "BEAUTIFUL AND SOULFUL."

WHICH IS TOTALLY GREAT WITH SINGULAR MOMENTS THAT NEED TO READ AS SUCH. AND TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT THERE ARE MOMENTS IN THE FILM THAT ARE CAPABLE OF MAKING HULK WEEP WITH THE BEST OF THEM. ESPECIALLY RIGGAN'S LAST CONVERSATION WITH HIS WIFE BEFORE THE FINAL PERFORMANCE (NOTE THESE ARE LARGELY MOMENTS OF SYMPATHY, NOT EMPATHY). BUT THE DEFAULT SETTING OBVIOUSLY LEADS TO MANY TROUBLING MOMENTS TOO. BY COUPLING A SATIRICAL LOOK AT HOLLYWOOD WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY GOING INSIDE THE HEAD OF A PSYCHOTIC BREAKDOWN, OUR ANCHOR GETS LOST IN THE AUDACIOUSNESS OF OUR SUBJECT'S SERIOUSNESS (AGAIN, COMPARE TO THE TACTIC OF BARTON FINK, WHICH IS LITERALLY TRYING TO DO THE SAME EXACT THING WITH JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WINK AND DISTANCE). AND WITH THE BEAUTIFUL AND SOULFUL DEFAULT SETTING, HOW ELSE SHOULD WE TAKE THE FILM'S EXHAUSTIVE MONOLOGUES ABOUT THE PLAGUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA? HOW DO WE TAKE THE CRASSNESS OF CERTAIN JOKES, WHICH UNDERLIE NO REAL TIMING OR CONTEXT AND JUST COME ACROSS AS PEOPLE GENUINELY BEING CRASS TO ONE ANOTHER? HOW DO WE TAKE THE FACT THAT THE ONLY SCENE WITH TWO WOMEN ENDS WITH THEM MAKING OUT? OR IS THAT A JOKE ITSELF? WHAT CLUES ARE WE GIVEN TO THAT? AGAIN THE QUESTION IS HOW DO WE KNOW? HOW DO WE TAKE A KARMICALLY BITTER ENDING OF A MAN WHO GETS "EVERYTHING WE WANTED" TO NO DEEPER AVAIL, THUS SEEMINGLY RESULTING IN A BEAUTIFUL, MEANINGFUL SUICIDE... OR, UH, SOMETHING? IF THERE IS NO WINK, NO DELIGHT IN THE PREPOSTEROUS NATURE OF ALL THIS (WHICH IT CLEARLY IS), IF THESE EVENTS READ AS THE DEEPLY SINCERE DREAM-LIKE EXPRESSION OF A MEDIOCRE ARTIST STRUGGLING TO BE RELEVANT, THEN THE FILM CAN'T HELP BUT BECOME THE VERY THING IT IS TRYING TO SATIRIZE.

WHICH THEN INADVERTENTLY (OR ADVERTENTLY) TURNS INARRITU INTO RIGGAN.

TO USE HIS OWN WORDS: "For me, this film has been a good dose of therapy. I recognize that I can be a tortured self-absorbed stupid guy, who sometimes gets it right. Hopefully, when people see this film and think about it a little bit, I hope they can see themselves. There’s nobody who doesn’t tear themselves down like that character does."

HULK KNOWS HE INTENDS IT AS THE SELF-EFFACING COMMENT OF AN ARTIST WILLING TO ACKNOWLEDGE HOW HIS OWN DARKER PROBLEMS MAKE HIM PART OF THE HUMAN RACE, BUT IT SO READILY DROPS HIS PSYCHE INTO THE LARGER CONFLICTED, MUDDLED MESS OF THE MAIN CHARACTER AND HIS PROBLEMATIC WORLDVIEW THAT HULK ILLUSTRATED EARLIER. RIGGAN LASHES OUT AT THE OBSTACLES, BUT THE FILM ITSELF HAS NOTHING OUTSIDE OF THAT. IT HONESTLY THINKS THEY ARE OBSTACLES TOO. SO WE HAVE LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO SEE THE VERY HOLLOWNESS HE CRITICIZES AS EVIDENCE OF THE VERY HOLLOWNESS INARRITU FEARS EXISTS IN HIMSELF. HE IS DEPENDING ON FALSE COMPLICITY OF A MISANTHROPIC INTENTION.

THIS IS WHERE IT ALL GOES TO SHIT.

BECAUSE AT THE SAME TIME, HE CAN TURN IT AROUND DISAVOW ANY OF IT BECAUSE IT'S SO OBVIOUSLY "ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE." HE'S RIGGAN AND NOT RIGGAN, DEPENDING ON WHEN IT'S EASY. JUST AS HE ASSIGNS RIGGAN AND THE BIRDMAN CHARACTERS AS BEING SO RIDICULOUSLY CLOSE TO KEATON'S OWN STORY, BUT IN REALITY KEATON IS ALSO ABSOLUTELY NOT THAT GUY AND ACTUALLY PRETTY AT PEACE WITH ALL THAT STUFF.

SO WHY IS THE FILM TAKING THIS APPROACH, EXACTLY? HULK HONESTLY CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHY THE FILM SKEWS SO BIOLOGICALLY CLOSE TO SOMEONE THAT ISN'T AN ACTUAL EXPRESSION OF THE APPARENT SUBJECT'S DILEMMAS, EXCEPT TO SAY OF COURSE IT DOES. BECAUSE IN THE END, IT CAN'T HELP BUT COME OFF AS WHAT HULK FEARS THE MOST: A BLIND PROJECTION. AN ASSUMPTION. AN UGLY PORTRAIT OF SOMETHING THAT MIGHT NOT EVEN EXIST, AND YET DRIPPING WITH THE OBVIOUS ANXIETY THAT IT MIGHT. AND WHERE THIS PATHOS ALL GOES TO A TOWERING CRESCENDO IS, OF COURSE, RIGHT NEAR THE END...

BECAUSE THE THING THAT MAKES HULK GENUINELY LAUGH IN THAT LARGER, NEEDED COEN-ESQUE SENSE, THAT IS TO SAY WHAT MAKES HULK THE PERSON AT THE COCKTAIL PARTY WHO CHEERFULLY RAISES THEIR GLASS ABOUT HOW WE ARE ALL DOOMED...

... IS HOW PROPHETIC BIRDMAN IS OF ITS OWN SUCCESS.

6. THE DARKEST CHARACTERIZATION

JUST BEFORE THE FILM'S ENDING, RIGGAN HAS A CONFRONTATION WITH A THEATER CRITIC WHO IS "THE ONLY OPINION THAT MATTERS" OR SOMETHING, AND HAVING BEEN WORRIED ABOUT HER REVIEW THE ENTIRE RUNNING TIME, SHE INFORMS HIM THAT SHE IS GOING TO PAN HIS SHOW EVEN THOUGH SHE HASN'T SEEN IT YET. SHE TELLS HIM SHE WILL DO THAT BECAUSE HE IS A FILM ACTOR DOING A VANITY PROJECT ON BROADWAY, AND THUS USING UP THEATER SPACE THAT COULD BE USED FOR A REAL PLAY. AT FIRST HULK THOUGHT THIS WAS SO RIDICULOUS THAT IT WAS AN OBVIOUS JOKE BUT THEN WE GET INTO THAT WHOLE SATIRE / NOT A SATIRE THING, AND THEN IT ALL DEVOLVES INTO THIS TRITE CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW CRITICS ARE BLIND IDIOTS STICKING TO THEIR AGENDAS AND ACTORS / ARTISTS, LIKE, PUT THEMSELVES OUT THERE AND SUCH AND THAT'S ACTUALLY SOMETHING OF VALUE! THE WHOLE THING IS CLEARLY PETTY, BUT AGAIN, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS MOVIE IS ALL BEAUTIFUL AND SOULFUL, SO WE INFER THEY ALL MEAN IT.

THEN AS THE END COMES, RIGGAN, WHO HAS CLEARLY BEEN DEALING WITH HIS SUICIDAL TENDENCIES BY FOCUSING ON ALL THIS NAKEDLY SHALLOW AND EXISTENTIAL SHOWBIZ STUFF, MARCHES ON STAGE AND REPLACES A PROP GUN WITH A REAL GUN AND SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE HEAD. WE CUT TO BLACK AND HE AWAKENS IN A HOSPITAL ROOM HAVING APPARENTLY JUST SHOT OFF HIS NOSE (!?) AND HIS LAWYER / BEST FRIEND JAKE TELLS HIM THAT HE ENDED UP GETTING A GREAT REVIEW FROM THE TIMES BECAUSE HE SPILLED REAL BLOOD ON THE STAGE AND CREATED A KIND OF METHOD ACTING CALLED "SUPER REALISM." (THIS IS FOLLOWED UP BY A SCENE WHERE RIGGAN TAKES OFF THE BANDAGE AND NOW HAS A BIRD-LIKE NOSE TO "BECOME BIRDMAN," WHICH DOESN'T ACTUALLY FIT THE METAPHOR THEY'VE BEEN BUILDING, BUT WHATEVER, BECAUSE HE THEN KILLS HIMSELF / FLIES LIKE A BIRD / SOMETHING SOULFUL WE DON'T ACTUALLY SEE, WE JUST KNOW WE SHOULD BE IN AWE OF IT... YOU KNOW... WHATEVER IT WAS).

HULK'S NOT EVEN GOING TO TALK ABOUT THAT ENDING PARENTHETICAL BECAUSE GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

INSTEAD, HULK'S MORE INTERESTED IN THE EARLIER PART. BECAUSE THE RESULT OF THAT SUCCESS OF THE PLAY, ON A TEXTURAL LEVEL, READS TWO EQUALLY MURKY WAYS. THE FIRST WAY SHOWS HOW THIS IS MEANT TO REEK OF ALL THE BITTER IRONY ABOUT HOW CRITICS ARE ESSENTIALLY FOOLISH TRAMPS WHO WILL GET SUCKERED BY NAKEDLY IMPOTENT SHOCK ART DISPLAYS (NOTE HOW THIS IS LIKE HULK'S IDEA OF THE TANGIBLE DETAIL APPROACH OF CRITICAL MEASUREMENT, LIKE THE WAY PEOPLE WIN ACTING AWARDS FOR GOING THE EXTRA MILE OF CHANGING THEIR APPEARANCE, GAINING / LOSING WEIGHT ETC). THE ACTOR SHOOTS HIMSELF ON STAGE SO OF COURSE "THE BEST CRITIC IN THE WORLD" EATS IT UP WITH A FUCKING SPOON. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THAT ACT ITSELF COULD BE MAKING A DECENT ARGUMENT THAT GOOD ART IS BUILT ON ACTUAL SACRIFICE, RIGHT? AFTER ALL, IT'S A CLEAR, NICE METAPHOR. BUT AGAIN, THAT ALL CLEARLY GETS LOST IN THE ENDING PARENTHETICAL THAT FOLLOWS. HE INSTANTLY DOESN'T CARE AND JUST MOVES ON. AND IF THAT'S THE POINT, IT ACTUALLY DOESN'T REGISTER. AND THAT "NOT REGISTERING" ISN'T EVEN A CINEMATICALLY EMPHASIZED POINT SOOOOOOOOOO. UM.

WHATEVER. HERE'S THE REAL LINGERING QUESTION: WHY WOULD CRITICS ENDORSE THIS?

IF THE FILM IS CLEARLY ADVOCATING THAT CRITICS ARE A BUNCH OF AGENDA-DRIVEN DUNDERHEADS WHO FALL FOR THE BEST EXAMPLE OF TANGIBLE-DETAILS-SOAKED ART, THEN CRITICS EITHER DIDN'T GET THAT, OR JUST FELT THEY ARE IN ON THE JOKE AND WENT ALONG WITH THE CHARACTERIZATION TO FEEL LIKE THEY ARE IN ON THE JOKE?

THAT MAY SOUND STUPID BUT HULK ACTUALLY SEES THIS A LOT IN THE ARTS INDUSTRY. IT IS THE LOVING EMBRACE OF THE WORST FAULTS IN THE NAME OF BEING A GOOD SPORT, BUT IT ACTUALLY JUST EXACERBATES THE "BAD SPORTNESS" OF IT ALL. LIKE WITH THE BLIND ACCEPTING OF THE NOTION THAT "YEAH, HOLLYWOOD IS CATTY, AREN'T WE A BUNCH OF DICKS!" AND THEN JUST USING THAT AS NOTHING MORE THAN AN EXCUSE TO DO SOMETHING CATTY. JUST LIKE THE SCORES OF AGENTS WHO WOULD USE THE "FUN" NATURE OF THE ASSISTANT ABUSE ON ENTOURAGE TO DOUBLE THEIR ASSISTANT ABUSE EFFORTS BECAUSE "THIS IS OKAY." HULK SWEARS TO YOU. THIS WAS A THING.

AND PLEASE NOTE: EVERY FUNCTIONAL AND UBER-SUCCESSFUL PLACE HULK HAS EVER WORKED IN HOLLYWOOD HAS ABHORRED THIS THINKING. AND IT'S NO ACCIDENT THAT THESE WERE PLACES WITH PEOPLE WHO WERE AT THE TOP OF THE GAME, WITH AMAZING CAREERS, AND WERE IMPOSSIBLY KIND. BUT THAT'S THE NATURE OF DIGNITY. MEANWHILE? THE ABUSERS HAVE ALWAYS BURNED OUT.

THAT ALL MIGHT SEEM LIKE A TANGENT, BUT IT'S NOT. IT SPEAKS TO THE WEIRD ASSUMPTIVE NATURE WITH THE LIES WE PROPAGATE AT THE HEART OF AN INDUSTRY. HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT BIRDMAN NOT ONLY PROPAGATES THESE LIES AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS, BUT EVEN HELPS FOSTER THAT CULTURE OF SEETHING, FROTHING MISUNDERSTANDING OF HATRED THAT TRICKS PEOPLE INTO THINKING IT'S INCLUSIVE (ALL ULTIMATELY TO THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE). A WAY OF HOLLYWOOD MAKING FUN OF ITS WORST SELF. BUT AGAIN, IT ONLY SERVES TO PROPAGATE THE WORST SELF AND MAKE OUTSIDERS BELIEVE THE "LIE" ABOUT HOW IT REALLY WORKS IN THE FIRST PLACE... YOU KNOW, PERHAPS BIRDMAN RESONATES BECAUSE IT HATES HOLLYWOOD AS MUCH AS PEOPLE WHO FEEL THEY HAVE (UNJUSTLY) BEEN BURNED BY HOLLYWOOD (READ: THE LEFT-OVER AND AGED ACADEMY). AND WHAT'S MOST FUNNY IS THAT, PERHAPS INADVERTENTLY, THE FILM SEEMS TO BE OUTRIGHT DEPICTING THIS.

IT IS SHOWING US THAT IGNORANCE IS ABSOLUTELY THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF ART.

THIS IS WHERE HULK REMINDS YOU THAT AFTER USING THE QUOTE IN THE FILM CRITIC'S REVIEW OF THE STAGE PLAY SAYING THAT IGNORANCE IS THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE - THE FILM ITSELF IS ACTUALLY CALLED BIRDMAN: OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) - SO IT DOES ALL THE EQUATING FOR US. HULK IS NOT LYING TO YOU: THE FILM IS DOING THE SAME EXACT THING AS THE PLAY. WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO THE WHOLE IDEA HULK PROMISED IN THE INTRO: IF INARRITU IS COMPLETELY AWARE OF ALL THIS, THEN THE META INTENTION OF BIRDMAN MIGHT BE GENIUS:

HE IS GOING TO MAKE A TANGIBLE-DETAIL-SOAKED MESS OF SOMETHING THAT EQUATES TO NOT MUCH MORE THAN AN IGNORANT TANTRUM AND WE, THE AUDIENCE, ARE GOING TO EAT IT RIGHT THE FUCK UP... THE FILM LITERALLY CALLS THE SHOT.

WHICH TURNS IT INTO THE DARKEST CHARACTERIZATION OF ART THAT HULK CAN THINK OF.

BECAUSE EITHER INARRITU IS PEDDLING THIS GARBAGE, JUDGMENTAL VIEW OF ART AS PROFUNDITY - ORRRR HE IS COMPLETELY AWARE ENOUGH THAT THIS APPROACH IS PRECISELY THE KIND OF "ART" THAT CAN RESOUND THE BEST WITH THE GULLIBLE MASSES - MEANING WHEN IT IS AT ITS MOST-HOLLOW-YET-TANGIBLE. YOU CAN JUST SHOVEL A SERIES OF MEANINGLESS METAPHORS TOGETHER, IMBUE IT WITH ENOUGH OF YOUR OWN GENUINE INTERNAL ANGST, ADORN IT WITH ALL THE NECESSARY BELLS AND WHISTLES, AND GIVE IT THE CONNOTATION OF HOPE / SOULFULNESS / DESPAIR / AND THE AIR OF INTELLIGENCE. AND WE WILL PRAISE IT TO HIGH HEAVEN.

THIS IS LITERALLY WHAT THE FILM ARGUES AND YET YOU'LL NOTE THAT THIS IS THE EXACT CRITICISM PEOPLE SEEM TO BE MAKING WITH REGARDS TO HOW BIRDMAN SWEPT AWARD SEASON WITH A HOLLOW-BUT-BEAUTIFUL MOVIE. EVERY ONE IS DOING THIS UNIRONICALLY FOR A FILM THAT SHOWS HOW MUCH WE WILL EAT UP A-HOLLOW-BUT-BEAUTIFUL PLAY! THINK OF HOW OFTEN THEY TALK ABOUT THIS WITH REGARD TO THE PLAY WITHIN THE MOVIE. THINK OF THE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE ORNATE SCENE DECORATION. THE WAY THEY TALK ABOUT WHAT'S "REAL" ON STAGE, THE WAY THEY CAN FIND MOMENTS OF TRUTH, THE WAY THEY CAN'T SEEM TO CONSTRUCT SOMETHING REAL IN A WAY THAT IS OBVIOUSLY JUST AWASH IN RIGGAN'S EGO. HULK SWEARS, IT IS NOT JUST SHOWCASING ALL OF THE PEAKS AND VALLEYS OF THE MOVIE ITSELF (AGAIN, IT'S NOT A SATIRE), SO IT'S EFFECTIVELY BETTING ON HOW WE WILL TAKE IT IN, TOO. MEANING IT'S A MOVIE THAT HATES THE AUDIENCE, UNLESS YOU HATE AUDIENCES RIGHT ALONG WITH IT.

WHICH MEANS THE BEST POSSIBLE VERSION OF THE FILM IS THE ONE THAT IS BASICALLY TROLLING US.

WHICH MIGHT BE OKAY IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES? AGAIN, IF HULK FELT THIS WAS MORE CLEARLY PART OF THE SEMIOTIC INTENTION OF INARRITU THAT WOULD BE ONE THING, BUT HE'S TOO CLOSE TO ALL THIS - TOO LINED UP WITH RIGGAN - TOO MUCH AN EXAMPLE OF THE WHOLE PROBLEMATIC DYNAMIC HIMSELF.

SO IN THE END, WE WATCHED A FILM THAT PRETTY MUCH DESPISES EVERYTHING, AND BY DESPISING EVERYTHING, IT GETS THE VERY ADORATION IT EITHER CYNICALLY OR NAIVELY HOPES IT WILL GET. THE END RESULT OF THIS AS A VIEWER? IF YOU ARE SWAYED BY ANY OF IT? WELL, IT'S A VACANT VEHICLE FOR PEOPLE TO FEEL ABOVE EVERYONE, EVEN ITS MAIN CHARACTER, WHILE GETTING TO INDULGE IN THE WORST ASPECTS OF THE CHARACTER TOO. BUT LIKE RIGGAN, INARRITU MIGHT HAVE JUST MADE A RIDICULOUS STATEMENT ABOUT HIS OWN HORRIFIC ID, A PROVERBIAL FACE-SHOOTING, AND BEEN REWARDED FOR SUCH AUDACITY, ALL BECAUSE IT MAYBE KNOWS THERE IS NOTHING MORE THAT WE LOVE TO LOVE.

THROUGH THE PROPHETIC VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE, BIRDMAN CLIMBS BEYOND ART / ARTIST AND INTO THE RAGING ID OF AWARD SEASON ITSELF - THERE IT NESTS IN AN OUROBOROTICAL FASHION: ITS DARK GENIUS, WHETHER INTENTIONAL OR UNINTENTIONAL, IS PERHAPS UNASSAILABLE - BECAUSE IT ULTIMATELY MAKES THE JOKE ON US.

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