I watched Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Alejandro González Iñárritu) for the second time a couple of weeks ago, and this time sat only a few rows from the screen, which was a great way to watch this in-your-face picture. But I also experienced something I didn’t see first time around. Despite still thinking Birdman is one of the best American films this year I discovered something about it revealing. That’s that the actors in fact were “acting.” Maybe this "discovery" can be found in a lot of films watched a second or third time. After all, we already knew the general story so maybe our antennas are subconsciously tuned to discover new things on the screen. But, yup, these actors were definitely acting. I could picture them having memorized the lines and shouting them out numerous times before their final takes. Whether it be Riggan (Michael Keaton’s) confrontations with his producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) (pictured), his daughter Sam’s (Emma Stone) romantic cat-and-mouse maneuverings with famed stage actor Mike (Edward Norton) on the St. James Theatre’s outdoor ledge, or several critical scenes of dialogue, it’s like the veneer fell away and I could picture the actors simply mouthing their lines after all their memorization. That’s not taking away from the picture’s emotion, riveting pace, great camera shots, and overall direction. But, alas, I couldn’t escape the feeling I was witnessing “acting” after all.
Disappointed that the New York Film Critics Circle awards – the first of the awards season (yawn) - chose as its best film (and director) Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. I didn’t have great expectations for this film, shot over 12 years, about an everyday American kid growing up. But I was in Halifax at the time and it was the only film available in the city’s only half-hearted art house. So a group of us slogged through almost three hours of exactly what I was fearing. Sure the acting by people like Ellar Coltrane (the boy) and mom and dad (Patricia Arquette – who’s especially good – and Ethan Hawke) was realistic enough. But this is a humdrum story about an any boy anywhere.
Lucky filmgoers at this fall’s Windsor International Film Festival had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. The movie is much anticipated with hype just now being drummed up in places like Toronto and Montreal. The picture opens Christmas Day. So Windsorites can play film snobs and say “we’ve seen it already!” Come to think if it we can occasionally do that with films that have already screened in Detroit before they hit the art house circuit in Toronto.