Birdman soars at Venice Film Festival; Oscar Buzz High

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Michael Keaton is Birdman
Michael Keaton is Birdman
Venice has done it again. Last year, Gravity blasted the lid off the festival as the opener and today Birdman, a film that’s got a fair bit in common with that one, bowed to one of the best receptions I have ever experienced on the Lido. (It’s even trending at No. 4 on Italian Twitter.) Applause, laughter and strong emotion emanated from attendees in the refurbed Sala Darsena this morning during the first press screening. Making my way out afterwards, I heard “bellissimo” uttered at least a dozen times. - Nancy Tartaglione, Deadline Hollywood

Fans who have anticipated this films release (such as myself) can breathe a sigh of relief. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) premiered yesterday as the opening film of the 71st Venice International Film Festival to overwhelmingly rave reviews. Venice, along with Cannes, and Toronto Film Festivals, usually set the stage for the upcoming awards season to take shape, and it seems that Birdman will be a major player come Oscar time.

Michael Keaton & Edward Norton in Birdman
Michael Keaton & Edward Norton in Birdman

Michael Keaton is probably a lock for a Best Actor nomination now, his performance was highly praised by critics, as was Edward Norton's. However, the biggest buzz coming from the festival is not necessarily the acting, but the way in which the film has been shot by director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who won an Oscar last year for Gravity. Throughout almost the entire length of the film it appears as though this is one continuous take. This is a tricky concept that can be ridiculed as too experimental or gimmicky, but apparently Iñárritu and Lubezki have managed to pull this off in a manner that's new and exciting.

Iñárritu & Lubezki on the set of Birdman
Iñárritu & Lubezki on the set of Birdman

Right now Birdman has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes , based on 9 reviews. Now, while sometimes early Rotten Tomato ratings can be misleading, like the time 300 was at 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with 25 reviews, only to end up achieving a mediocre 60 percent rating, I expect Birdman will likely stay in the 80's to high 90's (there are and will be, like always, some dissenting opinions)

Here's a sample of some of the more glowing reviews so far:

A triumph on every creative level, from casting to execution ... - Peter Debruge, Variety
Birdman flies very, very high. - Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
Both Hollywood and Broadway take their lumps in "Birdman," a compelling tale that's a backstage drama, a character piece, a stab at magical realism, and much more. - Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
Michael Keaton soars in this savagely funny, strangely sweet, sad and utterly brilliant New York-set comedy from Alejandro González Iñárritu. - Cath Clarke, Time Out
Hubristic, humble, heartfelt and hotheaded, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" is phenomenal. - Jessica Klang, The Playlist
There are streaks of 42nd Street, The Producers and Sunset Boulevard here, but otherwise, Birdman isn't much like anything else at all. Think Black Swan directed by Mel Brooks and you're in the vicinity, but only just. - Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph
A technical tour de force, a beautifully performed and smartly scripted black comedy that will leave its audience keen to head back for more ... - Mark Adams, Screen International

Now that it's pretty safe to say that Birdman is a critical success, I think the film could receive Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing. Along with the other technical categories, and perhaps even more categories as the awards season progresses.

I was already sold on this film when I saw who was making it, Michael Keaton, and the amazing trailers. But now I think I'm going to head down to the movie theater and start waiting in line.

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Brian FinamoreArticle by Brian Finamorecontributor