This morning came a surprise to the movie community. It was a moment that many consider to be the potential return of Michael Keaton. It involved fighting Edward Norton in his underwear and a whole lot of confusing imagery. However, there is one thing for sure. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman has struck a chord. Playing over an altered version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," the trailer plays as a highlights reel for one of the strangest superhero films of the year. Then again, the idea of Inarritu doing a superhero film was equally unexpected. However, it does raise some questions, notably if the two time Oscar-nominated director can make caped crusaders a viable option when it comes to Oscar nominations.
Birdman wouldn't be the first superhero film to be nominated at the Oscars. Outside of the expected technical categories, there has been one notable mention. Heath Ledger won posthumously a Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight. While it was a well deserved award, it also did seem to be one recalling a career taken too soon. Otherwise, the Academy has done little to recognize the comic book characters that top the box office and give us something to aspire to. There's been countless controversy over the Academy disliking Christopher Nolan even to the point that him getting snubbed from the Best Picture category with The Dark Knight lead to the sliding 5-10 scale. Even then, Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises failed to make the cut and even the highly acclaimed The Avengers didn't make a dent.
So what makes me think that Birdman could be a different story? For starters, consider the outline of this consideration narrative. While Keaton has been steadily working, he hasn't quite been the box office draw that he once was. In fact, if this film takes off, it could be seen as his comeback film. Matthew McConaughey recently won Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club in a similar narrative. Of course, he also played into the factor of playing an AIDS patient who lost a lot of wait. By comparison, Keaton isn't sacrificing anything, even if the trailer plays like a superhero version of Black Swan.
Go even further into the conversation. Inarritu has been an Oscar darling for years now. Since his debut with Amores Perros, he has received Oscar nominations for every one of his films. Babel earned him a Best Director nomination. With his previous film Biutiful, he managed to get Javier Bardem another Best Actor nomination. The director's work seems to click with the Academy and it does seem likely that going off of patterns that at very least, we may be seeing a nomination of some sort in the nearby future.
Here's the trailer:
It may be a teaser, but it does an effective job of getting the tone and vibe across. This looks to be a little more dramatic and psychological. We get a lot of shots of Keaton walking around with his serious face. There's meditation. There's even Norton fighting in his underwear and some monster destroying a building. But what does it all mean?
Here is the plot description according to IMDb:
"A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory."
This is the plot description that sold me blindly when I made a list of anticipated films back in January. It sounded a little nutty. As it stands, the trailer delivered everything I assumed it would be. However, based on the description, I do feel like this is going to be more unconventional than the teaser leads on. Considering the description, a lot of the scenes may end up simply being grandiose alterations of moments within the play and his real life. It seems psychological.
It is too early to fully determine if this is an immediate lock for any category. However, giving Inarritu's track record and Keaton's comeback story, this could be a surprise hit. Once people get over all of the jokes about Keaton playing Batman and Birdman sounding like many other pre-existing properties, it could be the surprise prestige film that could sneak into the nominations. At this moment, there isn't really a vibe that it could get into Best Picture, but I do feel like Best Actor could be in the cards. It is all a matter of how much Keaton mixes the ridiculous moments with the dramatic moments and if it produces something of higher quality.
Either way, the Birdman trailer has a lot going for it, and it definitely sells a film. I do worry that it is misrepresenting things a tad, but that is from innocent speculation. I know nothing else about this film other than I will likely be talking about it more as the months continue on. I don't believe that it will in any way be a major contender for the bigger categories, but Inarritu's perfect streak could easily continue. All that has to happen is something impressing us, which Keaton hasn't necessarily done in awhile.
Is Michael Keaton capable of a Best Actor nomination? Will Birdman get into the Best Picture conversation? Will superhero movies ever get respect at the Oscars beyond technical fields?